Defend Truth

Politics

A brief look: Keep the home flag burning

A brief look: Keep the home flag burning

One of the acts by Julius Malema’s supporters which has most outraged older cadres of the ruling party was the burning of the ANC flag on Tuesday. But why are flags taken to be so sacred in the first place? By REBECCA DAVIS.

Brace yourself for a short history lesson. The precursor to the modern flag was the military standard. It was some form of identifying symbol, not necessarily a flag or even made of fabric, carried into battle since Bronze Age conflicts. It was only in the late 18th century, with the rise of nationalism, that countries began to adopt flags to be used in civilian (as distinct from military) contexts. One of the first was the Danish flag, introduced in 1854. Flags for individual political parties followed shortly after, with a colour protocol quickly developing: red flags for left-wing radicals, black flags for anarchists and dark blue were associated with conservatives.

The ANC’s own flag has several components. The spear and shield represent early resistance to colonial rule and the MK armed struggle. The wheel comes from the campaign for the Congress of the People, and symbolises non-racialism. Colour-wise, black is for South Africa’s people, green is for its land, and gold is for the resources Julius wants to nationalise. That’s some heady historical significance, all in all. When Malema’s supporters show disrespect for the flag, we assume MK vets see it as an act of disrespect towards their fight and the ANC’s whole history.

They’re not alone in feeling attached to their flag. Whenever flags are burned, it’s seen as a symbolic insult to the government of that country, and they’re accordingly sensitive about it. Flag desecration is illegal in countries as diverse as Austria, China, Germany, Israel, and New Zealand. In South Africa burning flag isn’t illegal – be they national or the ANC or any other. So the protesters were on the right side of the law. But they’ll still face the ire of the party elders. iM


Photo: Reuters

Gallery

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.