Ernst Roets angers some with old flag tweet

Did I just commit hate speech?, asks AfriForum policy head

'Did I just commit hate speech?' - AfriForum's Ernst Roets causes angers people with his apartheid flag tweet

22 August 2019

Just hours after a scathing judgment banning the gratuitous display of the old South African flag, dubbed the apartheid flag, lobby group AfriForum's deputy CEO Ernst Roets took to Twitter to post a picture of the flag, asking: "Did I just commit hate speech?"

The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday declared the "gratuitous display" of the flag as constituting hate speech in terms of Section 10(1) of the Equality Act, unfair discrimination in terms of Section 7, and harassment in terms of Section 11 of the act.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Human Rights Commission had taken the case to court, asking that the unjustified display of the flag be stopped. This after it was displayed at a protest in October 2017 termed "Black Monday".

Handing down judgment, Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo said those who display the flag aimed to insult, and were expressing feelings of white supremacy.

Mojapelo said the declaration did not mean that the old flag had been entirely banned. It may still be used for purposes of genuine artistic, academic or journalistic expression that are in the public interest.

Speaking to SAfm's Stephen Grootes on Thursday morning, Dario Milo, who represented the SAHRC in the case, said Roets' tweet and justification were highly problematic.

"On the other hand what Mr Roets' tweet seeks to do is gratuitously distribute or disseminate the flag, and that's something which the court had said is hate speech if you do it in a gratuitous fashion," Milo said.

'I am a Constitutional law scholar'

Milo said, during the case, AfriForum did not challenge the constitutionality of the act and therefore they were bound to live with the declaration by the court that the display of the flag is hate speech.

Several hours after his first tweet, Roets posted another tweet explaining that he had expected the reaction he received.

"The judgment said the flag may be used for academic purposes. I am a scholar of Constitutional Law, currently doing my doctorate," he tweeted.

He said his tweet was posing an "academic question", adding that it seemed that the Nelson Mandela Foundation's quest for "apartheid style censorship & banning continues".

When News24 reached out to the NMF, its CEO Sello Hatang said it had no comment on the statements made by Roets.

' Violation of court order will not be tolerated'

While some people have threatened to lodge complaints with SAHRC over Roets' tweets, the commission said it would not hesitate to act.

"Now that the court has made a ruling on the matter, anybody who intentionally posts this flag in a manner which goes against the ruling, the commission will deal with those persons in a manner we deem fit," SAHRC CEO Tseliso Thipanyane said.

He said, once complaints were received, the commission would assess whether the display fell within the parameters set by the court and then make a call.

"We will certainly not tolerate any violation of this court order," he said.

The commission has urged South Africans to act in line with the country's Constitution, Bill of Rights and the court judgment.

As expected, Twitter users did not take kindly to Roets' posts.

"The disrespect you have. What study are you conducting. You are now regarded as a tourist pushing the ‘privileged’. I now await you to go home, where your ancestors originate," @ChepapeD replied.

Your priledge has clouded your judgement. Nothing good will come out of this tweet and this is not an academic question. You are not doing a PhD in Social Media or Twitter for that matter. You are just a plain racist who cannot hide it