The 1928 Flag of South Africa has come to globally represent a symbol of white supremacy, exclusion and hatred and is considered by most South Africans as a source of trauma and terror. The Nelson Mandela Foundation decided to apply to the Equality Court for gratuitous displays of the flag to be declared hate speech because of the mandate Nelson Mandela gave us, namely to contribute to a just society through dialogue on critical social issues. And today we have done just that. We have started a conversation about what matters to South Africans, how to remember the past and what the past means for us today.
Our nation needs an opportunity to heal from the wounds of the past. To heal means to recognise what has happened, to not shy away from history, but to look at history and call it by its name. This means looking at our history and calling Apartheid a crime against humanity and a gross human rights violation. Without recognizing what has happened, we will forever be haunted by our history.
Gratuitous displays of the old flag express a desire for black people to be relegated to labour reserves, a pining for the killing, the torture, the abductions, a melancholia for the discrimination, the death squads, the curfews and the horrific atrocities committed under the flag.
South Africans today enjoy a robust and independent judicial system which we have observed today. We believe in democracy and the rule of law.
Therefore we followed the judicial process to pursue justice. The court heard our submissions and applied its mind to all the facts, and has agreed with our submissions. This means that gratuitous displays of the old flag constitute hate speech. However, this does not apply to appropriate displays, for instance in academic contexts, in museums and in works of art.
All South Africans have a reason to be relieved and to celebrate today’s judgment as it affirms our rights to not suffer hate speech, our rights to dignity and our rights to a meaningful freedom of speech.