Old flag is offensive - but it's not hate speech, argues AfriForum

While the current SA flag accompanied the birth of democracy, the country's old flag reminds many citizens of the oppression they overcame. AfriForum has argued that the old flag, while offensive to many, should not be considered hate speech.
While the current SA flag accompanied the birth of democracy, the country's old flag reminds many citizens of the oppression they overcame. AfriForum has argued that the old flag, while offensive to many, should not be considered hate speech.
Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Just because some people find the old South African flag offensive is not sufficient reason for its display to be considered hate speech.

This is one of the reasons given by AfriForum on why it is appealing against an equality court order which in August found that displaying the old flag constituted prohibited hate speech, discrimination and harassment.

AfriForum filed its application with the Supreme Court of Appeal in October.

Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, said the organisation strongly supported freedom of speech, but at the same time believed that genuine hate speech should be opposed.

He said that according to the constitution, the fact that some people found the old flag offensive was not sufficient reason for it to be declared hate speech.

“AfriForum’s view has always been that hate speech takes place when hate against a group of people is propagated based on their identity - for instance their race, ethnicity, gender orientation or religion - and when the statement in this regard is combined with an incitement to cause the group harm,” said Kriel.

Ernst Roets, the group's head of policy and action, said AfriForum acknowledged the fact that displaying the old flag could offend a portion of the population, which is also the reason why the organisation does not display the flag.

He said the display of the flag could only be regarded as hate speech when it is combined with a message that targeted people based on their race and ethnicity, and also contained an incitement to cause harm to that group of people.

He said in the absence of such a message, the offence caused by the flag was not sufficient to be declared hate speech, according to the constitution’s provisions.


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