South Africa’s Ramaphosa calls opposition flag-burning ad ‘treasonous’

South Africa’s Ramaphosa calls opposition flag-burning ad ‘treasonous’
DA supporters carry the national flag during an election rally of the official opposition party The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Johannesburg, South Africa, 28 October 2021. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

JOHANNESBURG, May 8 (Reuters) - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described as "treasonous" a campaign ad by an opposition party that depicts a burning national flag, as antagonism between political parties rose three weeks before an election.

The campaign ad released on Monday by the Democratic Alliance uses the burning flag as a metaphor for what it says is the grave risk of the ruling African National Congress retaining power in a coalition with left-wing parties.

“I think it is treasonous,” Ramaphosa told reporters during a visit to Limpopo province. “It is the most despicable political act that anyone can embark upon,” he said, accusing the DA of desecrating a symbol of national unity.

The business-friendly DA won the second largest share of the vote in the last election five years ago. This year’s May 29 election is hotly contested, with polls suggesting the ANC will lose its majority for the first time since it came to power 30 years ago at the end of apartheid.

This has raised the possibility that the ANC will have to form a coalition.

The ad shows a flag slowly burning as a voice warns of a disastrous alliance between the ANC, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and those aligned with former President Jacob Zuma.

An intact flag then unrolls from the ashes of the burnt one as the slogan “Unite to rescue South Africa, vote DA” appears.



“We picked the flag as the clearest symbol of the dream we shared 30 years ago, at the dawn of democracy under President Nelson Mandela. The flames show how his vision has been ravaged by 30 years of ANC rule,” wrote Helen Zille, a former DA leader and chairperson of the party’s federal council, in an opinion column.

Speaking on Radio 702, Zille said the blowback was coming from people who would never vote for the DA anyway.

“It creates a choice. Are you part of burning the flag? Are you part of that brigade, or are you part of those of us like the DA who want to restore the flag?” she said.

DA leader John Steenhuisen has called the prospect of a coalition between the ANC and EFF a “doomsday” scenario for South Africa, but not ruled out partnering with the ANC in government.

The ANC, for its part, has said it will win the election and will not need to go into coalition. The latest opinion poll showed its support at just over 40%.

(Reporting by Tannur Anders; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Christopher Bedford says:

    Yeah I can see wehre they were going with the ad, but… oh my goodness Mr Steenhuyzen, really? Talk about handing the opponent all the ammunition they needed.

  • Yunus Scheepers says:

    Well, you can’t argue with an expert. The ANC has been committing treason for the last 3 decades

  • Daniel McLaren says:

    After 30 years of democracy, the ANC’s miss-steps are only half of the political crisis facing the country. The other half is the failure of a genuine political contender to emerge. And no opposition party has squandered more open goals than the DA. By reverting back to an old white elite, many of whom embody characteristics of the old Nats (Steenhuisen and Zille lead the charge here). This flag burning ad is tip of the iceberg of a disastrous leader running a disastrous campaign of division and negativity. The DA has is assured of another missed opportunity this May.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    What an utter hypocrite! He and his vile anc have betrayed our country in just about every way. Corruption, poverty, crime, the destruction of SOE’s, self/party interest above all and a most duplicitous foreign policy that kowtows to the most brutal and evil mass-murderers and human rights abusers on earth. Typical of the pot calling the kettle black.

  • Peter Slingsby says:

    Mr President, your former leader and colleague is not only a traitor to your party, he has treasonably turned his back on the very Constitution that he swore before his God and his Country to uphold. You served with this traitor in his cabinet for five years; your party denied his traitorous theft of public money by lying to Parliament about it – and then, via your secretary general, admitting that you had lied. You are in no position to talk about treason, sir, you clearly have no idea what it is, nor how your party has so assiduously promoted it for so long. We’ll all understand what treason is just a little bit better after May 29th, when we see whom you court to share your government …

  • John Bewsey says:

    My immediate reaction to the ad was one of shock that anyone (including my own team) can do a thing that this – it is disgraceful. The idea was catchy but the picture of putting the desecration of our flag on paper is extremely stupid. My advice is for Mr Steenhuizen to admit that he allowed this terrible mistake to happen and resign – preferably before the elections; that might save this disaster from counting too heavily against the DA.

  • Johann Fourie says:

    It is a true reflection on what is and will continue happening with the ANC in charge. The only treasonous acts are being commited by the ANC, supporting Hamas with the one hand and the Russians by the other.

  • Elise Levendal says:

    If ever anyone wants a clear definition and example of the saying: “scored an own goal” , explain it to them using the DA’s treasonous act of burning our beautiful South African Flag. A flag that many died for.

  • District Six says:

    Quote: “Zille said the blowback was coming from people who would never vote for the DA anyway.”
    So who is this ad aimed at, then? Echo chamber. Ridiculous argument.

  • District Six says:

    DA are so bad at reading the temperature of the country. Talk about handing the ANC a marketing gift! How does the DA tell people, “It’s all symbolic” but are themselves unable to understand what those symbols mean to South Africans? Jho! Jho! Jho! Own goal!

  • District Six says:

    So what are the so-called “moonshot” partners saying now? The ‘coalition’ seems to have left the DA to clean its own room. That should tell the DA all they need to know about how this ad landed.

  • Roann Roberts says:

    Don’t you just love how fully grown adults in this comment section pretend they couldn’t possibly understand the narration and symbolism of the ad, even when narrated in plain elementary school English. It shows how fake and disingenuous parts of our society can be. It makes associating with these people, let alone uniting for the greater cause, very difficult.

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