Ernst Roets defends tweet of old SA flag

This after NMF files court papers against AfriForum deputy CEO

Ernst Roets says he did nothing wrong when he tweeted the apartheid flag hours after it was banned

AfriForum deputy CEO Ernst Roets has denied that he had disobeyed an Equality Court order that the gratuitous display of the old apartheid flag constitutes hate speech.

The Equality Court, sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, made the ruling on August 21.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) and Human Rights Commission (HRC) took the case to court, asking that the gratuitous display of the flag be stopped. AfriForum and Roets were the respondents in the case.

But just hours after the scathing judgment banning the gratuitous display of the flag, Roets took to Twitter to post a picture of the flag, asking: "Did I just commit hate speech?"

This week, the NMF filed an urgent application to have Roets and AfriForum held in contempt of court.

The foundation's spokesperson Luzuko Koti told News24 that the foundation had filed court papers and requested that the matter be heard on September 3.

In his answering affidavit, Roets denies any wrongdoing.

Roets argues that he and AfriForum cannot be held in contempt of court because no order was granted against them specifically.

Roets further argues that his tweets fell under the proviso that the display of the impugned flag must be confined to genuine artistic, academic or journalistic expression in the public interest, in terms of Section 2 of the Equality Act.

"The tweets were made on my personal Twitter account and in my personal capacity," Roets asserts. "They were not made in my capacity as a member or a representative of AfriForum."

Roets claims that his tweet was a "bona fide" academic enquiry as part of his studies toward a doctorate in constitutional law.

He added that AfriForum had brought an application for leave to appeal the judgment.

"I am advised that the effect of doing so is that the operation of the order granted by the Equality Court is suspended pending the outcome of the appeal process."

His tweet was therefore not in violation of the order, Roets further argues.

In its replying affidavit, the NMF argues that the order, while declaratory in nature, was equally granted against Roets and AfriForum as respondents.

Roets' assertion that the order was not valid because there was a pending leave to appeal application doesn't make a difference, the NMF argues, as the tweets were posted before leave to appeal was granted and the order was therefore still binding.

The NMF also questions Roets' claims that he posted in his personal capacity and that the tweet was academic in nature.

It says that Roets' Twitter account bears the following biography: AfriForum Head of Policy and Action, Forum Films CEO, Producer: #DisruptedLand, #TaintedHeroes, Author: #KillTheBoerBook, and it states Roets' website as afriforum.co.za.

"[The account] is followed by 50 000 Twitter users, who it cannot be suggested are all 'personal' friends or family of Mr Roets."

The NMF argues that there is "nothing personal" about Roets' Twitter account.

"There is no such disclaimer in the account's biography," the NMF argues, and even if there were, Roets would not be able to use it as an excuse.

Roets questions the need for an urgent application in the matter, arguing that "an accused person should have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence".

The NMF, however, argues that instituting an urgent application for a rule nisi (an order to show cause) is a long-established and court-approved practice in contempt proceedings.