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The truth about apartheid, crimes against humanity and the use of the old flag

March 12, 2018 deur Ernst Roets

The Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) approached the Equality Court for an order declaring the “gratuitous display” of the old South African flag as hate speech and to have the flag banned. In a peculiar step, the NMF stated in their own court documents that AfriForum would oppose the application and added AfriForum as a respondent.

One has to believe that the NMF is setting a trap for AfriForum to “prove” that AfriForum has some dark agenda – an unfounded accusation that ANC-based organisations regularly hurl in AfriForum’s direction.

AfriForum will base its opposition of the NMF’s application mostly on two key arguments: The first is the application of sound legal principles and the second is a plea for consistency.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation’s claims

The NMF claims that people are reminded of apartheid and their feelings are hurt when they see the old South African flag, so the flag must be declared as hate speech. The Foundation earlier even argued that the use of the flag should be criminalised.

Sello Hatang, CEO of the NMF, explained that he got this idea after having received a WhatsApp during the Black Monday demonstrations against farm murders. The WhatsApp informed him that someone was displaying the flag somewhere and it hurt his feelings and reminded him of apartheid.

Since then it has come to light that the news reports about the use of the old flag during the Black Monday demonstrations were fake news. It is also worth noting that the NMF decided, on a day like Black Monday, to file a lawsuit against the old South African flag with the limited resources at their disposal rather than to get involved in the fight against farm murders.

The NMF further argues that apartheid is a crime against humanity. The court documents also contain strange political slogans such as “Whiteness has power. Structurally, black lives matter less”.

Freedom of speech and hate speech

AfriForum is strongly in favour of freedom of speech. However, AfriForum also believes that freedom of speech in South Africa should not be as unlimited as it is in the USA, for example. Hate speech should not be protected under the banner of freedom of speech. The question is where the fine line between hate speech and freedom of speech is drawn. That line is not offensiveness, as the NMF argue. The essence of freedom of speech is that one must be exposed to offensive points of view. In principle, it is good for us to be exposed to awkward ideas from which we differ. Perhaps these ideas are better than your own ideas. Then it might convince you to reconsider your point of view. Maybe those ideas are bad ideas. Then it forces you to sharpen your point of view and sharpen your arguments to bring the person who promotes those ideas around to better insight.

Therefore, the test for hate speech should rather be a wake-up call for action. Displaying a flag is not hate speech. Combining the display of the flag with a wake-up call to cause grief to a particular group may be hate speech.

Condemnation of apartheid

White people make up only about 8% of the South African population. I believe less than 1% of white people think we need to move back to apartheid. White people are very frustrated with the so-called “new South Africa”. This frustration must not be interpreted as a yearning for apartheid. AfriForum receives great support, especially among Afrikaners, when we ask people not to display the old flag at protest actions. The percentage of white people who arrive at political gatherings with old national flags is very small.

However, we should not hesitate to criticise the past. It is not necessary to be dragged into the narrative of the ANC and its minions, especially as they are often dishonest about what happened in the past. Regardless of how frustrated we are with the current political dispensation, we must admit that people’s dignity has been violated during apartheid. Ironically, an important part of the criticism of apartheid is exactly what the ANC concerns itself with today, namely that it was a policy of state-centralised social engineering. Forced integration is just as wrong as forced segregation.

Carte blanche on criticism

There is a broad consensus that apartheid was wrong and must be condemned. Nobody wants to be an apartheid apologist or apartheid denier. Therefore, to mention anything positive that happened before 1994 is politically incorrect. As a result, a vacuum has developed that offers radical leftist activists the perfect opportunity to produce their evil versions of history and present it as the truth. They do so for two reasons. Firstly, it creates a smokescreen that sweeps the ruling elite’s own failures under the carpet. Secondly, it justifies continually aggravating discriminatory policies against minorities. The further we move away from apartheid, the more we must be reminded of its wickedness. If this does not happen, people may just start to call the ruling elite to accountability for their failures.

As a result, lies are being told about apartheid – lies that can easily be contradicted by facts. Examples are that apartheid was genocide, or that apartheid was slavery. There is ample evidence that these allegations are false. However, the most dangerous lies are not specific allegations such as these, but generally promoted perceptions. This includes the perception that apartheid was as cruel as Nazism and crueller than communism.

Crime against humanity

It is argued that apartheid was as cruel as Nazism, because both were declared a crime against humanity. It is further argued that apartheid was crueller than communism because communism – unlike apartheid – was never declared a crime against humanity. It is, of course, very lazy to base your argument on the minutes of a United Nations (UN) meeting without ascertaining yourself of what really happened under apartheid, Nazism or communism.

In 1973 the UN General Assembly declared apartheid a crime against humanity. However, what is not told today is how controversial that decision was because of the hypocrisy and political motives that led to it. The decision was taken in the heat of the Cold War’s struggle against the communist-oriented Soviet bloc. Apartheid was an easy target because the South African government included racial segregation in its law books. Consequently, it was difficult for Western society – who tried to shed perceptions of racism and oppression – to defend apartheid. However, the supporters of the initiative to declare apartheid as a crime against humanity were all members of the Soviet Union. Many of those countries themselves have human rights records that are significantly worse than that of the South African white minority government.

The United States and the leading Western countries have openly refused to support or ratify the resolution – not because they were pro-apartheid, but because coarse double standards were applied in determining when something is a crime against humanity. The US, in its opposition to the resolution, had the following recorded in the minutes: “We cannot accept that apartheid can be made a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity are so grave that they must be meticulously elaborated and strictly constructed under existing international law.”

“This convention, which clearly was an attempt by the Soviet Union to isolate the United States, was a major propaganda breakthrough for the ANC, who used ingenious propaganda to create the impression that the whole world regards apartheid as a crime against humanity,” writes Flip Buys.

The idea that there are people who do not believe apartheid was not a crime against humanity makes people’s hair stand on end. However, this view is not as isolated as the ANC wants to make us believe. In fact, opinion polls by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation found that South Africans of all races increasingly believe that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. In 2003, 87% of people in South Africa believed that apartheid was a crime against humanity. By 2017, this figure decreased to 77%. The rate at which black people change their opinion of apartheid is faster than the rate among white people.

Nazism and communism and the ANC’s “people’s war”

Alan Paton, a friend of former president Nelson Mandela, said it is a “prostitution of language” to compare apartheid to Nazism. Anyone who wants to make this comparison should read what was done in the name of Nazism. In fact, the equation is absurd, and even more so if it is argued that apartheid is worse than communism.

The Jewish genocide took place over a four-year period during which six million people died. This amounts to 1,5 million deaths a year. Then we did not even talk about communism. For every person killed in the name of Nazism, roughly 15 people were killed in the name of communism. During the communist hero Mao Zedong’s so-called Great Leap Forward, 45 million people were killed in four years. This amounts to an average of 11 250 000 a year!

The Human Rights Committee has presented figures on political murders during apartheid to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). A total of 21 000 people died during apartheid because of political violence. It happened over 46 years, thus it amounts to 457 political deaths a year – 0,004% of annual deaths during the Great Leap Forward.

The argument about political deaths is even more blurred if we look at who actually was responsible for the deaths of these 21 000 people.

We know that the communist Soviet Union financed the ANC and that the South African Communist Party (SACP) played the role of “ideological leader” in the liberation struggle. It is also not a secret that the Soviet Union sent the ANC to Vietnam in 1979 to learn how to “struggle” against the apartheid government. There they learned the so-called “people’s war” strategy developed by Mao Zedong. It meant that a devastating war against black competitive organisations should be launched so that those organisations could be neutralised to entrench the ANC’s position as leader of the liberation struggle and designated future ruling party. That is why political violence between black organisations broke out in the early 1980s.

Strike Thokoane, a former friend of Steve Biko and a leader in the Black Conscious Movement (BCM) – who was considered as an opponent by the ANC – explained it as follows: “Initially there were debates as to which philosophy is correct for our country… We were caught by surprise somewhere in the early 1980’s – we believe it was under the direction of the ANC – that they became intolerant of the Black Consciousness Movement. They became intolerant of the philosophy and started attacking us. It even went to an extent where houses were burned down and people were executed. It went to an extent where people were necklaced.” At the time, more than 500 people were murdered using the necklace method and 700 were murdered using other ways of burning.

Thokoane explained the influence of communism on the ANC’s strategy as follows:

“It was just a Soviet way of doing things – that you liquidate and eliminate (rivals) so that you can then have political space. That also weakened the organisation, because a lot of people who were in the leadership of the Black Consciousness Movement and Azapo then said, ‘When we got into politics, we never thought that we would die at the hands of our own brothers.’”

The Human Rights Committee found that more than 90% of the 21 000 political deaths during apartheid were committed by the ANC’s communist-inspired “people’s war”. The apartheid government killed 3% and rightist groups 0,5%.

Land ownership during apartheid

Apartheid was a policy of forced relocation. It is true, and apartheid must be criticised for it. The ANC and the EFF suggest that blacks owned 100% of South Africa’s land and that they had been relocated to reserves which took up only 13% of the land area under the 1913 Native Land Act. This is simply untrue. The Beaumont Commission found that blacks owned only 9% of South Africa’s land – but that is not told. What is also not told is that, due to South Africa’s dry climate, one can only survive on 30% of the country’s surface area if you do not have the technology to sink a borehole. Relocation during apartheid can be rightly criticised and even rectified. But the argument that apartheid must be rectified by land being given back to black people so that they can possess the majority of the land’s surface is not based on historical facts.

A plea for honesty

There is no doubt that apartheid has become a political weapon. It is a weapon used to silence minorities and to discriminate against them. At the same time, it is a weapon used against the ANC when they fail. We can compile a list of anti-apartheid activists and politicians who have argued in the past few years that some issues were better under apartheid than under the ANC. This is, of course, a way to hold the ANC accountable. For example, Mamphela Ramphele argued that education during apartheid was better than education under the ANC. More recently, Julius Malema has argued that the health system under apartheid was better. He referred to ‘apartheid clinics’ which cared for people but were closed by the ANC government.

Therefore, if the old South African flag is declared hate speech and banned, a much stronger argument can be made that the SACP’s flag and even the ANC’s flag should also be banned. However, this is not the appropriate way to fight sleaziness.

There is a new tyranny in South Africa. It is a tyranny of political correctness, a tyranny of distorted political thinking. We are dictated what our political thinking should be and if we do not comply, we are accused of evil conspiracy and oppression. The problem is that this very prescribed political ideology is nothing but a house of cards. It is an ideology that was not only built on a distortion of the past, but which depends on that distortion for its continued existence. It is an ideology that can be destroyed by common facts. Therefore, for this ideology to survive, it became necessary that the facts are swept under the carpet and that all kinds of fabrications of the past are being forced down our throats. If we resist, we will be denounced as apartheid apologists. However, to be falsely denounced as an apartheid apologist – despite our own unambiguous criticism of apartheid – is better than subservience to a false political ideology.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”

AfriForum will fight unashamedly for an honest assessment of our past.


Ernst Roets

Ernst is Deputy CEO of AfriForum

Follow Ernst on Twitter at @ErnstRoets