Non-profit organisation the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) will argue that “gratuitous displays” of the apartheid-era South African flag should be legally considered hate speech in the Equality Court on Monday.
Minority rights lobby group AfriForum will oppose the foundation’s application, arguing that only words, not symbols and images, constitute hate speech according to the Equality Court’s definition.
AfriForum will also argue that the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution would be violated by attempts to ban the flag.
NMF spokesperson Luzuko Koti said in a statement: “For the foundation, it is time to acknowledge that the old flag is a symbol of what was a crime against humanity and that its gratuitous public display celebrates that crime and humiliates everyone who fought against it, especially black South Africans.”
“It is important that the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (‘Equality Act’) be used as an instrument to discourage such behaviour,” he continued.
The foundation’s application will be supported by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) as well as LGBTQ+ community organisation Johannesburg Pride.
AfriForum, meanwhile, say in court papers that they “have no particular love for the flag or what it represents”, adding that it is “exceptionally rare” for anyone to bring the old flag to one of their events and that when this does happen they “ask them to put it away”.
The organisation also conceded that there are circumstances in which displaying the flag could be seen as hateful but argued that this would not be true of the cases in which NMF are arguing it should be prohibited.
The organisation’s deputy CEO Ernst Roets details his reasons for AfriForum’s fight for the flag not to be banned in a YouTube video, and speaks to a “few free speech proponents”.