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Here's What The HuffPost SA Team Has To Say About The Old SA Flag

"There are enough South Africans (and Afrikaners) who want to make this place work."

01/11/2017 15:56 SAST | Updated 01/11/2017 17:07 SAST
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HuffPost SA Editor-In-Chief, Pieter du Toit: There Are Enough South Africans Who Want SA To Work

While I was growing up in 1980s Pretoria, the right wing was always part of the environment.

While primary schools under the Transvaal Education Department were preparing pupils for "terrorist attacks" on soft targets by holding regular evacuation drills, the threats of the fascist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), the Old Testament-bound Conservative Party (CP) and the dangerous Wit Wolwe (White Wolves) were always looming.

Even in 1989 and 1990, after it became clear that change was coming to South Africa, the right wing seemingly posed a greater threat than the "swart" and "rooi gevaar" that for so long were part and parcel of white propaganda.

Eugene Terre'Blanche and his swastika-flying, goose-stepping, brandy-guzzling "Ystergarde" (Iron Guard) evoked images of a command state and uniformed youth brigades. The CP -- with dominee Andries Treurnicht as its leader -- simply refused to even consider negotiating with "the terrorists", and Barend Strydom from the Wit Wolwe shot seven black people in the centre of Pretoria.

Today the right wingers are limited to poisonous Facebook groups and intermittent gatherings addressed by loudmouths on the fringe.

In my mind, they were scary, intolerant... and were capturing the support of the vast majority of Afrikaners in Pretoria. The path to democracy was going to be thwarted by Treurnicht's political nous, Terre'Blanche's military skills and the radical Wit Wolwe.

But the right wing came and went. After the aborted mission in 1994 to "support" Bophuthatswana by Terre'Blanche and a rag-tag group in bakkies with hunting rifles, the right wing's appetite for an armed insurrection waned. Secessionists were left with Orania in Northern Cape, and the CP became the "plus" in the Freedom Front Plus. The AWB died.

Today the right wingers are limited to poisonous Facebook groups and intermittent gatherings addressed by loudmouths on the fringe. The old South African flag (and the Vierkleur and others) will obviously remain their symbol, and it will always be the standard under which they march.

But they're a tiny group, and growing smaller still. Banning the flag will give them oxygen, a cause to fight for, something to rally around. Leave them be. There are enough South Africans (and Afrikaners) who want to make this place work.

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South African flag.

HuffPost SA Deputy Editor, Noxolo Mafu: Apartheid Wounds Still Haunt Us

It is becoming clearer and clearer that the wounds of apartheid still haunt South Africans today. The national dialogue has brought to light how the liberation movement did not do enough to protect succeeding generations from these contentious moments. The legacy of the apartheid flag is one of oppression, division and racism, and to expect South Africans to revisit that legacy in the name of freedom of speech is a reckless task.

Freedom of expression comes with an incredible responsibility to safeguard the healing South Africa is yet to undergo.

The tenderness of South Africans who lived through and survived apartheid has to be respected. I am a child of parents who still to this day find it difficult to discuss their full experience under the oppressive regime. The hurt and trauma should not be dealt with in a flippant way.

Freedom of expression comes with an incredible responsibility to safeguard the healing South Africa is yet to undergo. The outrage in the public domain regarding the use of the old flag is warranted. South Africa boasts a shameful past, which we cannot just ignore. The meaning behind such triggering symbols must be taught in school curricula, for the youth (who are often labelled indifferent) to understand how these legacies and ideologies cannot be repeated.

To ban the flag is something I would not oppose –– however, the real work for me is unpacking the legacies of hate we often sweep under the mat in order to achieve the "rainbow nation". There is hurt, there is joy, but, most importantly, there is a potential in this country that we have to work towards protecting every day.

HuffPost SA Chief Subeditor, Riaan Grobler: It's Time To Switch Off The Past

"Oranje-blanje-blou". I grew up with this strange, seemingly hastily thrown-together flag being punted as a symbol of national pride.

Early mornings, we would stand to attention at our lily-white Christian-nationalist schools as it was ceremoniously hoisted. Hell, we even sang a song about the flag. "Nooit hoef jou kinders wat trou is te vra, wat beteken jou vlag dan, Suid-Afrika..." ("Children who are loyal should never question the meaning of the flag").

Of course, it was a flag that represented only one history -- that of white people in South Africa. I started to realise this when a group of young, defiant Afrikaans musicians embarked on what would become known as the Voëlvrybeweging. They were not singing about the flag.

They were singing about the Immorality Act, about what the police were really getting up to in the townships, and how they despised National Party politicians. Their biggest "hit" was a song by Johannes Kerkorrel in which he mocked then state president, P.W. Botha, singing how he wanted to switch off the TV every time Botha's face came on.

Just because it is your right to do something, doesn't mean that doing so is necessarily right.

And that was when I "switched off" these symbols I was brought up to respect and adore -- these delusions of superiority. I realised that we were being lied to. That we were being brought up to believe that we were somehow special, that South Africa was given to us by God -- our very own promised land.

When I see people waving the flag today, I get the sense that they haven't managed to do that -- to switch off the past. I get the sense that they'd rather go back to that weird time in South Africa that most of us have labelled as history, a time when they felt superior –– when they were made to believe that they were special; when they were "in control".

Of course, they are free to do it –– freedom of expression gives them the right to. But just because it is your right to do something, doesn't mean that doing so is necessarily right.

It's time to switch it off.

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HuffPost SA Blogs Editor, Zimkhitha Mvandaba: South Africans Need To Stop Trivialising One Another's Lived Experiences

October 30 was a melting pot of racial tension and exposed just what a fallacy the rainbow nation project actually is. This day saw certain segments of South Africa come to a standstill in protest against farm murders, and the day seemed to me to be a move in delegitimising the lived experiences of one group of people, in order to prove a point about the value of the lives of the next group.

We have had the rainbow nation shoved down our throats for so long, that we were happy to not have the necessary conversations about privilege, power and the effects of historical dispossession that have resulted in the loss of dignity for the indigent. We've not even considered how refusing to talk about this has polarised views on issues like the apartheid flag and those who wave it.

We need to start engaging each other on an honest level about why certain lives are deemed more valuable than others.

It is this power and privilege that allows for the silencing of the voices of certain groups, and as such the framing of such issues in the public discourse favours the position of those with power. Reconciliation will not be realised in South Africa until we address apartheid's historical influence on today's reality.

Farm murders are a complex issue; one that needs to be dealt with urgently. But along with this, we need to start engaging each other on an honest level about why certain lives are deemed more valuable than others.

There have been many violent acts played out on black bodies in many townships throughout South Africa, and where has the public outrage been in these instances? All forms of crime against black and white bodies need to be condemned and dealt with decisively.

HuffPost SA General Reporter, Nkosinathi Shazi: The Younger Generation Has A Different Fight To The Older Generation

Symbolism is a powerful conceptual element, and if an apartheid flag still angers people in the present time, it just shows the massive effect apartheid had on the mindset of South Africans. Being a black man born in 1994, after apartheid, there is no sort of emotion or anger that is evoked within me when I see the apartheid flag.

Born in a democratic South Africa, I cannot relate to apartheid. Yes, black people were scarred, both physically and mentally by the racist regime... just not me. Even in the present time, I do not feel or experience racism directly, so why should I cry the cries of my parents and grandparents, when I should be moving forward and carving my own history?

The younger generation needs to understand that a new battle is upon us, and that is a battle to carve a new form of history.

The only flag I recognise is the South African flag, and whether they ban the apartheid flag or not, the legacy apartheid left, along with racism, will continue to exist in South Africa.

I honestly think racism will exist forever in our country. Not because I am ignorant, but because the generation I was born into is fighting a different war. We are fighting a war to elevate the status of black people, so instead of self-pity, I choose to move forward.

It is time to write our own history as black individuals, and stop crying about how we were cheated by "racists". Perhaps I choose to shy away from racism, but deep down, I know I have some sort of hatred towards racists and what they did to black folks. Perhaps I am not brave enough, but I choose not to delve into it –– although I do recognise what it has done.

But the younger generation needs to understand that a new battle is upon us, and that is a battle to carve a new form of history.

HuffPost SA News Reporter, Queenin Masuabi: Post-'94 And Race Relations In SA Are Still Turbulent

The apartheid flag did not mean anything to me, until I found out what the symbolism behind it means. My soul felt oppressed because it represents a South Africa that does not belong to all who live in it. I believe the flag re-opens very sore wounds in our country, and only creates a negative spirit that is not needed, at a time where race relations in South Africa are already so turbulent.

It's really sad that right-wingers cannot see the compromises made post-'94 for the sake of "unity".

The flag could be banned. However, what would the benefit of this be? I just anticipate a court battle, and perhaps another protest rejecting the idea. This is not what we need right now. The flag is offensive, and could possibly constitute hate speech, but it is merely a minority that insists on being insensitive. Should we not rather stop giving them attention, because if society gives them a platform, they will further antagonise people?

It is also important for the media not to give them a platform to flourish. They do not deserve it. If these people insist on being hurtful, petty and spiteful, then why are we even bothered?

It's really sad that right-wingers cannot see the compromises made post-'94 for the sake of "unity". There is no sense of them understanding how certain decisions, accepted in the name of unity, were not necessarily beneficial for black people –– but we're still living, breathing and getting on with the programme.

David Harrison/ AFP/ Getty Images
Protesters hold a banner during a demonstration by South African farmers & farm workers at the Green Point stadium to protest against farmer murders in the country, on October 30, 2017, in Cape Town.