A South African court has banned gratuitously flying the apartheid-era national flag as a sign of “hate speech” and “harassment.”
Judge Phineas Mojapelo ruled Wednesday in South Africa’s Equality Court that the “apartheid flag” can only be displayed for academic, artistic or journalistic purposes, according to Aljazeera.
Mojapelo called any unwarranted display of the old flag “racist and discriminatory.”
“It demonstrates a clear intention to be hurtful, to be harmful and incite harm and it, in fact, promotes and propagates hatred against black people … it constitutes hate speech,” Mojapelo said.
Although those who fly the flag in unapproved ways won’t face arrest, they will be subject to community service and fines, Aljazeera reported of the court’s decision.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at promoting freedom and equality, tweeted its celebration of the decision Wednesday.
“The Apartheid flag is gone,” the organization said in the tweet. “The Equality Court has today ruled that gratuitous displays of the old flag are legally hate speech! A win for democracy and all South Africans!”
The Foundation Trust petitioned the court to ban the 1928 flag after it was displayed in October 2017 when white South Africans were protesting against killing farmers.
The old flag has horizontal sections of orange, white and blue and features the British Union Jack to represent the country that colonized South Africa and the flags of former South African republics, the Transvaal and Orange Free State.
It was replaced the same year Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first Black president on May 10, 1994, but it has, according to Bloomberg news, occasionally been displayed at rugby matches and other gatherings.
“Our nation needs an opportunity to heal from the wounds of the past,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a media statement Wednesday. “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.”
The flag’s critics argued it’s seen as a sign of white supremacy. Before the landmark court decision, they shared tweet after tweet with #morethanaflag to urge the court to ban the flag. Some compared it to the swastika.
“This is the apartheid flag, a reminder of pain and suffering to my fellow black people in South Africa,” Twitter user Anele Mlozana said in a tweet March 8, “the government wants to ban the flag, white people in South Africa are asking why should it be banned as it’s part of our history, to us, it’s painful to see as the swastika.”