JOHANNESBURG, March 1 – The Nelson Mandela Foundation has approached the Equality Court seeking an order declaring that the public display of South Africa’s apartheid era flag constitutes unfair discrimination, hate speech and harassment.
The court application was lodged on Wednesday.
”The decision to launch this application comes after years of watching public displays of the old flag and hoping that such behaviour would stop. These displays demonstrably compound the pain experienced by millions of black South Africans who suffered under apartheid and continue to struggle under its legacy,” the NMF said in a statement.
”The old flag is undeniably a part of our history, but it belongs in museums, documentaries and cathartic creative works.”
The NMF said it had numerous discussions with civil organisations such as AfriForum following the ”Black Monday” march by the farming community last year, protesting against farm murders. The old flag was displayed at several demonstrations that took place across the country.
”After extensive consultation and reflection following ”Black Monday,”, the foundation posed the question: ”Is it time to criminalise displays of the old flag?”
Through public debates with AfriForum, one of the leading figures in the “Black Monday” demonstrations, it became apparent that some South Africans do not fully appreciate that apartheid was a crime against humanity (as the United Nations declared in 1973), and that gratuitous displays of apartheid symbols, such as the old flag, are a celebration of that crime and a humiliation of its victims.”
”During these debates AfriForum conceded that displaying the old flag was ”unwise” as it ”offends some people”, but argued that it should nevertheless not be ”unlawful” as it was a part of history and ”you cannot ban history.”
The foundation said it was not seeking the criminalisation of the flag, but wants to use the law to discourage public usage.
”The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act passed in 2000, empowers the Equality Court to fashion appropriate remedies for behaviour that undermines equality and human dignity, such as apologies, community service, and sensitivity training,” said the NMF.
The flag was the national symbol of South Africa between 1928 and 1994, after which it was replaced by a new one as the country entered a democratic dispensation. Some sections of the white right-wing community use it as a symbol of patrimony.