Although the old South African flag carried negative connotations, it was still allowed to be displayed post-1994 as South Africa was a new democracy and so the flag was protected by the Constitution under the expression of freedom of speech. But this did not sit well with black South Africans embracing their new-found freedom, nor with white South Africans who gladly looked to the future of an all-new, inclusive South Africa.
In August 2019, Judge Phineas Mojapelo of the Equality Court passed a ruling that the apartheid-era flag would be banned and that any display of said flag (outside of art, academia or journalism) would be considered a crime. This motion was initiated by the Nelson Mandela Foundation Trust and backed by the South African Human Rights Commission and Johannesburg Pride.
Judge Mojapelo’s decision ruled that the “gratuitous” display of the pre-apartheid flag, which was largely a symbol of white-supremacist rule in South Africa, amounted to racial discrimination, hate speech and harassment under the Equality Act.
AfriForum, with a mandate to protect the heritage of the white South African, opposed the motion. Judge Mojapelo stood steadfast in his decision stating that “to those who did not suffer and who benefited under the pre-democracy rule,” the old flag is a symbol of heritage. To the “victims and those genuinely opposed to the apartheid rule” the flag is a reminder of an era of government-sponsored racism that took generations to overturn.
The decision stood but the issue reached far beyond cloth and ink and encouraged new conversations about who we are and what is really important to the people of South Africa today.
In the United States, whether an American citizen likes Trump and his Republican government or not, the US Flag is an expressive symbol of liberty, of solidarity, of pride for the country in which they live – not of the political party to which they are aligned. Sure, the Star Spangled Banner has been used in many political protests, in fact, the US Supreme Court has even confirmed the right for citizens to burn the flag as an act of free speech, but it is not used as a symbol of anti-American sentiment. The flag is rather a reminder of the history and the sacrifice that was once made in pursuit of the American dream. It’s a powerful tool.
President Barack Obama said: “I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together – black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, young, old; gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities – all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love.”
So what does our South African flag mean to us?
For far too many of us our flag symbolises broken promises, corruption and hoplessness. On a more base level, it symbolises no electricity, pot-holed roads, crime, poverty and unemployment. South Africans do not fly our flag with pride.
Our flag is lost.
A national flag should be a universally recognised symbol that echos the history of our nation, and encompass the hopes and dreams of all our people. It should represent everything we hold close to our hearts: our rights, security, happiness, friends, family, neighbours and homes.
When we look upon our flag we should behold the hope of our nation and we should strive, every single day, to voice our desire for South Africa through our multi-coloured cloth. Our flag belongs to the people!
So we ask the following questions…
– Why is the South African flag not being raised at every single school in our land as a symbol of gratitude for education and hope for our children?
– Why is the South African flag not flying high outside every government building as a symbol to our government workers to be honest and to do a good job for our people and our country?
– Why is the South African flag not being raised outside every business in South Africa (small, medium and large) to remind business leaders and their teams that we are building an efficient and profitable South Africa together?
– Why is the South African flag not being flown outside the homes of every South African who is against crime, who seeks a safe, warm and happy environment for our families?
The Afropolitan #raisetheflag Challenge
In an attempt to restore our South African flag as a powerful symbol of hope, and to inspire all South Africans to never lose confidence in the potential of South Africa, the Afropolitan magazine challenges all South Africans to take stock of your lives, your environments, your networks, and to find a way to incorporate the flag. This will be your stand against all that is wrong, corrupt and broken and to strive for South Africa to do better and to be better!
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
Author: Donna Verrydt