Ban the Flying of the Old South African Flag
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Events of Monday, 30 October have unfortunately illustrated that there are members of South African society who cannot be trusted to behave in a respectful and empathic manner. Flying the old South African flag - and singing the full verses of Die Stem in insolation from the rest of our national anthem - on a day that was ostensibly meant to unite people in a common cause, was nothing short of irresponsible and insulting to the people who were brutalised under the Apartheid system.
We have now been given an opportunity to make a clear stand against the racism that is tearing our country apart. Remember 1994, when we all shone the light of hope across the world? Let's be that light again. Let's take this opportunity to regroup and re-imagine what we can be.
I am asking you to sign this petition as an act of empathy, compassion and love.
In the beautiful words of Pieter Howes: "Imagine being able to look back one day and say you were part of rectifying our legacy in a deep and meaningful way."
If you feel that you need to stand against this petition, I ask you: "What value does this flag bring to your life that cannot be fulfilled by visiting it in a museum and is that value greater to you than the pain of millions of fellow South Africans?"
We believe it is time to follow in the footsteps of Germany's Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code). The law prohibits the distribution or public use of symbols of unconstitutional groups—in particular, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting.
In order to get this done, we need to petition the Constitutional Court of South Africa. With enough signatures in support of this ban, we will approach a lawyer or legal advisor to assist us in lobbying the court to hear this matter.
If anyone wants to see the old South African flag for heritage or learning purposes, they will be welcome to visit one of our national or local museums, of which there are many.
This is the perfect opportunity for us to be vocal about rejecting symbols that are very painful for our people.
"Fools multiply when wise men stay silent." - Nelson Mandela
UPDATE: We have been engaging in a LOT of conversation online about this petition and a few very important questions have come up time and time again. We feel it is important to address them and have done so in the FAQ below.
1. Why bother with the old SA flag when there are so many other more pressing issues in SA?
This flag is a symbol of oppression and provokes deep pain for the majority of the country. Whenever the Old SA flag is celebrated or flown, it is a call for the return to apartheid segregation and the oppression of our citizens. The display of the old SA flag hinders any chance of building our nation and only causes anger and division. We can call for this banning of the Old SA Flag and also fight for other injustices in society.
2. But what about free speech?
Banning symbols which infringe on the fundamental human rights of others (like dignity) is a justifiable limitation of the right to freedom of expression as provided for in section 36 of the constitution. Tolerance does not mean tolerating everything - if that was true we would also have to tolerate theft, damage to property, rape and murder. We don’t tolerate behaviour that infringes on other people’s rights. Rights come with obligations - primarily the obligation not to use your rights in ways that hurt other people.
The Old SA Flag is the symbol of a government that has been declared to have committed a crime against humanity. It hurts and pains the majority of the people in this country. The deliberate display and glorifying of this flag should be considered hate speech as it is a declaration of support for racial oppression and segregation. It is a speech that basically says "I want Apartheid back".
3. Aren’t you erasing history?
We are not asking to the have the old SA flag destroyed or erased from memory. It is absolutely a part of our history. The call is for it not to be displayed in public places, but only in museums and learning institutions where it can tell it’s whole history, in context and with sensitivity.
4. Don’t you care about farm murders? Don’t you care about the protest against farm murders?
We definitely care about farm murders. Many people from all walks of life were supporting #blackmonday. Many understand that the government has let us all down with regarding crime and that farmers are feeling particularly vulnerable, as are other people in various parts of our country. But when we heard reports of the flag being flown it was a message that the cry for protection was for “whites only”, because the old South African flag represents a government that declared that only white lives matter and only white people are human. Sadly, the protest to honour slain lives turned into an insult to all by the proud display of the old SA flag.
We also acknowledge that the issue of farm murders has no simple answers and has become politicised. We do not want to enter into the debate around the complexities of this specific issue. Our focus is on ensuring the Old SA Flag is no longer glorified and no longer traumatises the majority of the country.
5. What about people chanting Kill the Boer?
The slogan "Kill the boer, kill the farmer" was outlawed in 2011. We would like the same standard applied to the Old SA flag.
6. But why is the banning of the Kill the Boer song not enforced?
That's a question for the police force or judiciary. We encourage you to tweet Fikile Mbalula (our Minister of Police) and put that question to him. Our laws against hate speech should be strongly enforced.
7. Why don’t you start a campaign against “black supremacists or racists”?
You may lobby the Human Rights Commission to address any cases of supremacy or racism. That is why they exist. To protect the human rights of all South Africans. It's a right you should exercise.
You can lodge a complaint with the HRC here.
8. So what if you ban the Old SA Flag, it won’t stop hate speech by blacks?
Two wrongs don’t make a right. We have to choose the right way for any chance to build this country.
9. Are you planning on banning all symbols linked to the apartheid government?
We'll start with the flag and work on the rest later.
10. Aren’t you worried about corruption of our current government?
State capture concerns us all. Just because one is opposed to the Old SA flag does not make one pro-Zuma or pro-Gupta or pro-State Capture. These are two separate issues.
11. "By calling for the banning the Old SA flag you are calling for the further oppression of white people."
The old flag represents the laws that oppressed millions. The current legislation does not legally oppress white people. Do the laws make white people carry a passbook and deny them the vote? White people can own land; can move freely; can live anywhere; can marry anyone, can have a cup of tea with anyone, use any public facilities or beaches; etc. The motivation for the calling for the banning of the Old SA flag is not to hurt or oppress white people, rather it is to allow healing and this will benefit us all.
12. "But the Old SA flag is my heritage and means a lot to me"
Many of us also grew up with the flag and remember how we stood for hours in the sun and sing 'die vlaglied' etcetera. It is part of what many of us grew up with. But then we came to realise the pain it causes to others. And we realized what a trigger it is to so many people. And that is why we support this that this flag can't be used for anything anymore. It causes so much additional division and pain. The real question here is, is it really worth hanging on to a symbol that is so painful to do many. Can we not be compassionate and empathetic and say "We know this reminds you of your painful past so we're going to put it in places where it can tell its truthful story."
13. It’s a small minority who fly that flag, yes they shouldn’t have, but isn’t the best thing to just ignore them.
These small minorities tend to spread their hateful messaging and if they go unchallenged we run the risk of what the USA is now struggling with: white supremacists who are loud and proud. Our country must do everything to prevent that. Consider that nobody stopped the small minority who flew the Old SA flag, nobody told them to put it away. Their silence spoke to their complicity. This sent a loud divisive message that the apartheid past was being honoured. Also, remember that the sight of that Old SA flag is deeply painful and traumatising for the majority of the people our country.
14. If Nelson Mandela found it in himself to not ban the old flag and include Die Stem in the National Anthem, why do you want to remove it? He knew that the aging population will still hold dear to their heritage and symbols, why divide people when you can make it inclusive...it is an aging population, the change of unity is happening under our noses and in a generation or two these "die in the ditch" arguments will be shrugged off by the future South Africans. I implore you, let people be.... let them to treasure their heritage. Let "old" sleeping dogs lie.
We can’t talk for Nelson Mandela but we suspect, given his commitment to ubuntu and unity, that in his extension of grace and forgiveness he was hoping and expecting that white people would also show empathy and repentance. We suspect he was hoping that white people would choose to give up their rights to the beloved symbols that hurt the majority, as an act of “making right” and as a step towards building a new South Africa. Those who have held tightly to their symbols are in fact dishonouring the noble act of kindness that Mandela showed.
Further, you ask “why divide people when you can make it inclusive” – the old SA Flag is in its nature a bold statement of “whites only” which the total opposite of being inclusive.
15. "I hope your petition has some form of success. But my experience is that the only way to fight racism is fighting ignorance first. Spending time with each other as equals... real equals not this media version of it and learning to understand how to deal with the cultural differences that won't change."
Pursuing the banning of the Old SA Flag does not stop people from building friendship across the racial divide. It is not either – or, in fact, we strongly agree and would encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zones to connect with people who are culturally different to them. Many of us are signing the petition because we, through conversation and fellowship, have come to see just how painful the glorifying of this Old SA Flag is. We can’t stand by in silence.
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