WTF is the apartheid flag doing at #BlackMonday protests?

Protesters donned black and carried white crosses – and some the old apartheid-era flag – in the #BlackMonday protests. The protest raised questions about Afrikaner nationalism and white supremacy.

On Monday, hundreds of protesters around South Africa blocked highways in support of #BlackMonday. They wanted to raise awareness about the growing prevalence of farm murders. AfriForum claimed that there have been 70 farmers murdered and 341 attacks since January compared to the 339 attacks and 64 murders last year.

Protesters blocked highways and but what stood out was the display of the the old tricolour flag which is symbolic of the apartheid regime.

People on Twitter were puzzled about why the flag was being evoked at these protests.

A woman from Cape Town told News24 she felt protected under the old South African flag, that she was proud of that flag. “This isn’t a black and white issue, it’s about the right to live and the right to protect yourself,” she said.

Social anthropology professor at Wits University David Coplan told eNCA in September that Afrikaners continue to display the flag to show they still have ownership of the country. Coplan was commenting after a pub in Sea Point came under fire for displaying it.

“It memorialises Afrikaans nationalism and white supremacy. It’s not just a matter of history only,” he said. They have this problem in the United States with the old Confederate flag which they say is part of Southern history but is very prejudicial and ethnic oriented and divisive history, he said. “If people in South Africa really want to be South African and pull together as I do, I don’t think we should be displaying that flag.”

Politicians condemned the use of apartheid symbolism. Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa and Midvaal executive mayor Bongani Baloyi came out on Twitter to condemn the use of the flag.

The blatant brandishing of apartheid-era symbolism suggests that at least for a portion of the protesters, Black Monday is more about politics and less about farm murder.

*Editor’s note: A paragraph was amended in this article to reflect that AfriForum has made a claim about the rate of farm murders, rather than a revelation.

Featured image via Twitter