AfriForum’s Roets not in contempt for tweeting apartheid flag, court rules

 

 

The Johannesburg high court on Tuesday dismissed an application by the Nelson Mandela Foundation that the Afrikaaner lobby group, and its deputy chief executive Ernst Roets, be held in contempt after tweeting an image of the apartheid flag.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Sello Hatang said in urgent court papers filed last month that the “unmistakable intent” of the tweet was to “mock and provoke all those South Africans — black and white — who were celebrating the judgment, and felt vindicated and protected by the judgment.”

That tweet came just hours after it had been declared hate speech by the deputy judge president of the court.

Judge Colin Lamont said Roets could not be held in contempt because Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo’s order was “declaratory” — he declared that the gratuitous display of the flag was hate speech.

To be in breach of a court order, the order had to require a person to do, or not do, something.


Lamont quoted from Mojapelo’s judgment, where the deputy judge president said: “Contrary to the protestations of Afriforum, the relief sought by the applicants in this matter is not a banning order against the old flag.”

Lamont said that by declaring, instead of banning, Mojapelo’s order “sets the standard of morality expected to be adhered to by society”.

Roets may still be held to have breached the Equality Act, said Lamont, but the Equality Court was the right place to deal with it.

Lamont also said that Roets’s tweet was not authorised by AfriForum and he was not acting on his organisation’s behalf when he tweeted.

Roets tweet was posted a few hours after Mojapelo’s judgment. Posting a picture of the apartheid flag, Roets asked: “Did I just commit hate speech?”

The following day, Roets retweeted his earlier tweet, but this time accompanied by a comment saying that the reaction from people to his earlier tweet was “as expected”. He added that the judgment said the flag could be displayed for academic purposes and that he was “a scholar of Constitutional Law, currently doing my doctorate”.

“This is an academic question. It seems the NMF’s quest for apartheid style censorship & banning continues,” Roets tweeted.

Then, in an interview with Radio 702, Roets said that while it was correct to respect the rule of law, courts were not always right: “We must remember that Nelson Mandela was illegal according to the laws of the time, that the apartheid system was legal according to the laws at the time and according to the courts at the time.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Franny Rabkin
Franny Rabkin
Franny is the legal reporter at the Mail & Guardian

Related stories

Andrew Mlangeni: A comrade until the end

The foundations of former Rivonia trialists reflect on the loyalty of the comrades who fought for democracy.

We need more anger about racism in South Africa

Those who want a non-racial and equal society need to unite against both whites and blacks who collaborate to entrench a racist system

Partners aim to build a new society

Nelson Mandela University and the Nelson Mandela Foundation are collaborating to realise Madiba’s dream of building a new society

Zondo asks court for more time

The deputy chief justice says the inquiry’s terms of reference are too broad and it would take six years to look into state capture in such detail

“Rot at the public protector’s office,” says former chief operating officer

Basani Baloyi has submitted an affidavit to the ConCourt asking for leave to appeal the high court ruling in her case against the public protector

What the law could clarify this year

Lawfare: Major developments are on the cards where law and politics meet, including the first amendment to South Africa’s Bill of Rights
Advertising

Ingonyama Trust Board moves to retrench staff

More than 50 workers at the Ingonyama Trust Board have been issued section 189 notices

No proof of Covid-19 reinfection, yet

Some people report testing positive for Covid-19 after initially having the disease and then testing negative. Scientists are still trying to understand if this means that reinfection is possible
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday