Apartheid flag: AfriForum's Ernst Roets not in contempt of court, judge rules

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Ernst Roets (Deaan Vivier, file)
Ernst Roets (Deaan Vivier, file)

An urgent application for AfriForum deputy CEO Ernst Roets to be found in contempt of court was dismissed in the Equality Court sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday. 

Handing down judgment, Judge Colin Lamont said, while he was of the view that Roets may in due course be held to have breached the provisions of the Equality Court Act, he was not in contempt of court. 

"This in my view is precisely why the order does not contain a directive prohibiting the display of the flag. There is no order ad factum praesdandum," he said.

READ | AfriForum's Roets set to learn his fate on apartheid flag tweet

The finding stems from a picture of the apartheid flag which Roets tweeted last month - just hours after the same court declared that the gratuitous display of the flag was hate speech.

In the hate speech judgment, Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo declared that the "gratuitous display" of the flag constituted hate speech in terms of Section 10(1) of the Equality Act, unfair discrimination in terms of Section 7 of the act, and harassment in terms of Section 11 of the act.

Roets then tweeted: "Did I just commit hate speech?"

Roets' tweet caused outrage on the social media platform and prompted the Nelson Mandela Foundation to take him to court for contempt of court.

In the application, the foundation submitted that Roets had insulted the dignity of the courts.

However, Roets claimed that he had posted the picture for academic purposes and in his personal capacity - not as an AfriForum representative.

He also argued that he and AfriForum could not be held in contempt of court because the hate speech order was not granted against them specifically.

In addition, he submitted that his tweets fell under the proviso that the display of the flag must be confined to genuine artistic, academic or journalistic expression in the public interest, in terms of Section 2 of the Equality Act.

More to follow.  

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