7 March 2018

South Africa: 'We Need to Have a Discussion About the Old Flag'

Activist Johan Pienaar wants people to start talking about the old South African flag.

Pienaar laid down the old Oranje, Blanje, Blou (orange, white, blue) with names of some of the most prominent apartheid architects and enablers written on it, inviting attendees of the US Woordfees in Stellenbosch to walk on it.

The names on the flag included Hendrik (F) Verwoerd, Johann Coetzee, PW Botha, FW de Klerk, JG Strydom, and ET (a reference to former Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader Eugene Terre'Blanche).

While a violinist played "Die Vlaglied" (The Flag Song), he invited people to walk over it.

"I am doing it because we need to have a discussion about the old flag. People should start thinking about what it means to other people."

Pienaar said the attendees of the festival were mostly "okay" with his protest action, but added that he had received a lot of hate on social media.

"This is political commentary," he said.

Pienaar also added the names of singer Steve Hofmeyr, AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel, and Afrikaans news personalities Riaan Cruywagen and Freek Robinson.

"I included those names because some of them were instrumental in it. But we must remember, it was a system," he said.

"Riaan Cruywagen, for example, went on TV every night and read the news. In a way, he was part of the system. I am not saying he is a bad person."

Pienaar said he bought the old flag from a second-hand goods page on Facebook in November last year, following outrage over the display of the flag during the Black Monday process.

"It further highlighted a disconnect prevalent in the white community about the deep symbolism this flag is imbued with. It is the symbol of a crime against humanity, perpetrated in the name of white South Africa," Pienaar wrote on a website he created ahead of the protest.

Pienaar's protest comes after the Nelson Mandela Foundation approached the Equality Court last week to declare "gratuitous and unwarranted" displays of the old South African flag as hate speech.

The foundation's Lunga Nene said they have asked for unwarranted displays to be criminalised.

"Through public debates with AfriForum, one of the leading figures in the Black Monday demonstrations, it became apparent to the foundation that some South Africans do not fully appreciate that apartheid was a crime against humanity," she said at the time.

Danie Marais, one of the Woordfees organisers, said Pienaar was not part of the event, but he was free to practise his freedom of speech.

"He isn't part of the festival. To us, he is just Johan Pienaar, standing on a sidewalk in Stellenbosch," Marais said.

Source: News24

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