Is it illegal? DA faces backlash over flag burning ad

  • Scores of users on social media are flaming the Democratic Alliance over a campaign ad that shows the burning of the South African flag.
  • Officially, the DA says that the burning of the flag symbolically represents the current “fabric of our nation.”
  • The desecration of the national flag is not a punishable offence according to the Constitution of 1994.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is facing backlash on social media over its latest election campaign advert posted to its official X account, but also running on TV. The advert appears to show the burning of a South African flag, but upon closer inspection, the burning is likely an editing trick.

However, this hasn’t stopped South Africans from responding to the visceral imagery with anger, and some are even asking if burning the flag or an effigy of the flag is illegal.

“The burning of our flag is ill-advised,” writes former public protector Prof. Thuli Madonsela, “Seems to show disrespect and disloyalty to the flag, which to many of us is more than a flag but a symbol of triumph against apartheid. In some countries, it’s even a crime to burn the flag.”

“This advert sets out the critical choice that our country faces in this election,” the DA explains, “Under this coalition of corruption, life will only get worse. And the very fabric of our nation, as symbolised by the burning of the South African flag in this latest advertisement, will be destroyed.”

“Whilst this advert shows the burning of our nation’s beloved flag, the reconstruction of the flag afterwards represents that it is possible to rescue South Africa and turn this situation around if we make the right choice.”

Beneath the post, users are asking why the DA is showing the burning of the flag, calling the idea into question.

“You never disrespect the flag because of what it stands for and those who died fighting for it,” one user wrote.

“This just doesn’t sit right with me. So DA’s top leadership actually thought hey let’s burn the SA flag for our tv ad?” wrote another.

“You may hate the ANC and what they are doing to our country but you can not burn our flag and think that is okay! That Flag represents our history and all those people who died for our freedom and rights!” another user remarked.

Is the burning of the South African flag by the DA illegal?

Under the current constitution of 1994, the desecration of the national flag of South Africa is not illegal, and there are no punishments prescribed for burning the flag.

The desecration of the national flag was illegal under the previous apartheid-era constitution upheld by the National Party. If one was found to desecrate the apartheid-era flag, one could face imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or face fines.

In 2012, the current national flag was notably burned by the Volksraad Verkiesing Kommissie (VVK), an Afrikaaner-first rights organisation, following the murders of 66-year-old Margrietha de Goede, and baby Wiehan Botes.

South Africans head to the polls on 29th May to vote in what many say is the most hotly contested national elections since 1994.

[Image – Democratic Alliance on X]


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