Citizen reporter
3 minute read
4 Sep 2019
12:12 pm

Roets should be jailed for 30 days for apartheid flag tweet, argues Ngcukaitobi

Citizen reporter

The Nelson Mandela Foundation believes the lobby group is in contempt of court after one of its leaders posted the flag on Twitter.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi representing Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema in December, 2018. Picture: Twitter (@MbuyiseniNdlozi)

Judgment has been reserved in the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s (NMF) application for AfriForum’s Ernst Roets to be held in contempt of court.

Representing the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF), advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi argued in the Equality Court on Wednesday that the Afrikaner lobby group’s deputy CEO should be jailed for 30 days for being in contempt of court for tweeting a picture of the old South African flag hours after “gratuitous” displays of it were ruled to be hate speech.

Meanwhile, Advocate Cedric Puckrin, representing AfriForum, said the tweet was sent in Roets’ personal capacity and therefore had nothing to do with the lobby group.

At the Equality Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning, Ngcukaitobi earlier argued that anyone who read Roets’ tweet would interpret it as being from AfriForum, as it came from one of its leaders only hours after the judgment.

According to Ngcukaitobi, a proper reading of the recent ruling shows that Roets was clearly prohibited from displaying the flag.

His doing so amounts to a deliberate undermining of the courts for which he should be appropriately punished, Ngcukaitobi further argued.

Ngcukaitobi also questioned whether Roets needed to include a picture of the flag in his tweet, which he claimed was an “academic question” and therefore legal according to the new ruling.

Judge Colin Lamont presided on Wednesday over the urgent application brought by the NMF seeking to hold AfriForum in contempt of court over Roets’ tweet. Roets tweeted the flag on August 21 along with the question “Did I just commit hate speech?”.

READ MORE: Equality Court rules ‘gratuitous display’ of the old SA flag constitutes hate speech

In another tweet, he argued that his use of the flag was legal as it was for “academic purposes”. He is also arguing that he tweeted it in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the organisation.

The Equality Act does not protect academic displays of the flag that were made in bad faith, a statement released by the foundation said at the time.

He further argued that the August 21 judgment must be enforced strictly, as it was a declaratory order which constituted more than just advice.

Ngcukaitobi said the absence of an interdict did not mean that AfriForum had not been in contempt of court.

Judge Lamont asked Ngcukaitobi if Roets’ actions could be considered contempt of court since the display of the flag was not prohibited but only declared hate speech by the ruling.

In response, Ngcukaitobi argued that this interpretation would be too technical and narrow, as Roets’ actions deliberately undermined the authority of the judiciary contempt and should therefore legally constitute contempt of court.

Judge President Phineas Mojapelo ruled that badly intentioned public displays of the old South African flag, which its detractors often referred to as the “apartheid flag”, should be limited, since “gratuitous display” constituted not only hate speech but also harassment, and could be interpreted as an expression of white superiority, divisiveness, and severe racial prejudice.

The flag was in use from 1928 to 1994 and was used by the Union of South Africa and its successor state, the Republic of South Africa, until 1994.

(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, ANA)

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