Home Opinion and Features Old flag flies in the face of nation-building

Old flag flies in the face of nation-building

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There is no question that the old flag represents the brutality of apartheid and a past we should not be embracing in public or in our private spaces

File picture: Jennifer Bruce

SOUTH Africa is once again embroiled in the debate about the display of the country’s apartheid-era flag.

On Monday, the Nelson Mandela Foundation asked the Equality Court to declare “gratuitous and unwarranted” displays of the old flag as hate speech.

The foundation’s representative, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, submitted that the display of the flag was hurtful because it had the capacity to offend, degrade and dehumanise as it was a symbol of a crime against humanity.

The SA Human Rights Commission’s Wim Trengove SC told the court that racists displayed the apartheid flag because they yearned for apartheid South Africa, which they used to celebrate.

For their part, lobby group AfriForum said in court papers opposing the foundation’s application that a wide-reaching ban of the old apartheid flag would be an unconstitutional infringement of the right to freedom of expression.

AfriForum’s deputy chief executive Ernst Roets told reporters at the court that the display of the flag should not be banned by law, but would be condemned if done in public, and that his group was committed to upholding freedom of expression.

There is no question that the old flag represents the brutality of apartheid and a past we should not be embracing in public or in our private spaces.

It is one of the main symbols of a system that was declared a crime against humanity by the UN.

It follows, therefore, that the display of the flag is a celebration of a crime against humanity!

The flagrant abuse of freedom of expression by AfriForum to argue for a display of a symbol of a crime against humanity exposes the right-wing group’s indifference to the suffering and brutality that black people endured during the apartheid period and colonialism.

AfriForum’s argument and attitude on this matter – and many others – is an affront to our efforts at building a non-racial society, united in our diversity.

It is, to say the least, tragic that as a nation we are engaged in a discussion that seeks to make sense of the difference between freedom of expression and the display of a symbol of a crime against humanity.