/ 10 September 2019

Should we really celebrate the equality court ruling on the apartheid flag?

The apartheid flag and all other symbols of apartheid and colonialism should not only be declared to be hate speech
The apartheid flag and all other symbols of apartheid and colonialism should not only be declared to be hate speech



Black people have been under extreme oppression to a point that they respond to a small step forward as if it is utter victory. Do we really have to celebrate the equality court recent ruling which declared displaying the “Oranje, Blanje, Blou” union flag of 1928 (the apartheid flag) as an instance of hate speech? Is the celebration of such, not precisely the same as celebrating the South African rainbow nation that was built on black pain? Are we not once more the advocates of the 1994 reconciliation project instead of justice?

In 2017 we had the “black Monday” protest, which saw the public and open display of the apartheid flag. This led to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Humans Rights Commission taking legal action. The matter has been recently concluded by Judge Phineas Mojapelo’s ruling to partially ban the display of the apartheid flag. It is a ruling that has been uncritically welcomed by many sectors of society.

With the end of World War II in 1945, the global village took a firm and uncompromising position against German Nazi symbols. In many countries they were outlawed and a rigorous action plan, termed the “denazification process” was unapologetically carried out.

The denazification programme was initiated and further spearheaded by the Allies of World War II, as well as the United Nations. The sole purpose of this programme was to liberate the Austrian and German judiciary, culture, press, society, economy and politics from the National Socialist ideology (Nazism).

It is an open secret that the apartheid system was a Nazi-orientated system of governance, just as with the Jews in German under the rule of Adolph Hitler. The period from 1948 to the early 1990s was characterised by abominable cruelty against one race. The black race. The atrocities committed under and by the apartheid regime are of similar nature to those committed in Nazi Germany.

It is for this reason that the partial banning of the apartheid flag deserves no applause from the South African black community. It is ridiculous and shows a lack of seriousness from the judiciary when dealing with the previous imbalances of the past created by apartheid and the colonial era. Black people are the race that suffered the most — and continue to suffer the most — as the result of such evil system. We should resist any temptation of accepting and even welcoming such a moderate and despondent ruling by the equality court.

It will demand bold, uncompromising and decisive actions to be taken by the “natives” to achieve their total liberation. The moderate approach to uprooting the apartheid legacy in our economy, politics, judiciary, society and press has never worked and it will never work, even in the immediate future.

Yes, apartheid as system of governance was outlawed but it is an undisputed fact that it continues to persist in all sector of our society. Black people — the majority of South African citizens — are economic bystanders. They live in squalor, are landless and are easily disposable because of cheap labour coupled, with poor working conditions. Many have given up on looking for employment and are drowning in a pool of poverty. This also exposes them to all forms of mental ill-health.

I am reminded of Sergeant Bernstein Menyatsoe of the former homeland Bophuthatswana. When a far-right-wing group invaded Bophuthatswana in defence of the then apartheid puppet-administration led by Kgosi Lucas Mangope, Menyatsoe mercilessly fought back. This is a man who shot three members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) in cold blooded. This was premeditated and evidently executed with intent. He later confessed to the merciless killings and justified it by suggesting ‘it was all done in defence of the defenceless people’. It was a justification that was not well received by the late leader of AWB, Eugene Terre’Blanche and his followers.

What is more interesting is that after Menyatsoe and the people of Bophuthatswana decisively defended their homeland from the right-wing apartheid military invasion using violent means, the greater virtue was served and the effect was far-reaching. The right-wing insurgence against the new order as backed by the Freedom Alliance collapsed. The then head of state was removed and the will of the people came into effect.

Therefore, South Africa cannot afford to employ moderate tactics when dealing with elements of Apartheid. This includes the waving and display of the apartheid flag. Just as the global village took a firm posture against Nazi symbols, we owe it to ourselves to follow suit. Just as the sergeant defended his homeland, we ought to defend ourselves by any means necessary.

The apartheid flag and all other symbols of apartheid and colonialism should not only be declared to be hate speech, they should also be permanently banned.

There is precedent for this: the Latvian and Ukrainian governments recently took a decision to prohibit all Nazi symbols and punish anyone who transgresses this law with direct imprisonment. South Africa should employ the same attitude when it comes to brandishing apartheid symbols and ideology.

The attainment of our total freedom can no longer be postponed. We must achieve it by any means necessary.

Bonginkosi Khanyile is a political activist currently under house arrest.