South Africa: The Old SA Flag Legal, but Fly It At Your Own Risk - Expert

Left: South African flag post-1994. Right: Old South African flag.
18 December 2018

It is perfectly legal to own or display the old South African flag, but be mindful that it could also be considered insensitive and offensive to show it off, a flag expert says.

The expert's comments were made amid a furore over a flag that a man was selling online.

"If you want to display it, that is your right," said Bruce Berry, secretary of the SA Vexillology Association.

"But if you stick it up outside or wear it to a rugby match, there will be a reaction and most people must understand that.

"It's still legal. There's no prescription against it. It's part of the constitutional right to freedom of expression. But you must understand there are other people who might not appreciate it in the same way as you."

If this happens, the constitutional balance between rights and responsibilities become important and whoever is showing off the flag, must be ready to explain why they are displaying it.

The old orange, white and blue South African flag was put up for sale on Facebook.

The seller was not reachable for comment but according to his Facebook page, he asked R1 000 for it, and got R5 000.

The outrage was swift with some people demanding the post be deleted from the Table View Classifieds group it had been posted in.

"Why don't you do everyone a favour and burn that rag?" asked Lee Engel, to which Naude replied: "I would like to wipe my ass with the new one".

The comments section became a standoff between various groups. There were those who wanted the flag destroyed, those who believed in freedom of speech and those who believed in the freedom to sell things. Some engaged in a discussion about the crime rate before and after apartheid, the Nazis and the calibre of Table View's residents.

One comment by Hendrick Fourie read: "One Love Brother You wanna tell me You didn't have some kind of a better life under that flag than we all having under the current flag Think about it," to which Meaghan Essel retorted: "Racist."

Eventually a post about a missing child slowed down the thread.

Berry said that every flag told a story and communicated a message.

Some people have emotional attachments to flags. It may be the flag of their regiment when they served in a military organisation, for example, he said.

But what does one do if they are cleaning out someone's cupboard and find a flag that may have negative connotations?

Berry says there are collectors who might want it if it was original, or it can be offered to a museum or, one could just "dispose of it".

"In South Africa, the issue is that you need to be sensitive," said Berry.

A Cape Town antiques and collectables expert who would only identify himself as Eric said: "It's a hot potato. I just avoid it. I just don't want any controversy.

"I don't buy it. I don't want to know."

Source: News24

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