Advocacy group AfriForum says it stands by and supports its head of policy Ernst Roets following his tweets about the apartheid flag. Roets tweeted an old South African flag with a caption “Did I just commit hate speech?”, on his social media account hours after the equality court in Johannesburg ordered that the gratuitous display of the flag amounts to hate speech.

The Nelson Mandela’s Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Sello Hatang approached the Equality Court on Friday in an urgent matter asking the court to call on Roets and AfriForum to appear before it and tell why they should not be held in contempt, and in Roets’s case – why he should not be imprisoned for contempt.

The Foundation has given AfriForum until Tuesday to respond to its court application regarding the tweet by Roets.

AfriForum’s Chief Executive Officer Kallie Kriel accuses the Nelson Mandela Foundation of dishonesty. Kriel says Roets committed no offence as his tweet was an academic and legal question.

“When it comes to matters like this, context is always important. If he just posted a flag and said this is beautiful – he would have contravened that, but he asked a legal question: ‘Is this the transgression of the ruling or is this hate speech?’ And that’s a legal question. It’s not an effort to say this is a brilliant flag that I want to show everybody. So that’s why we say that Nelson Mandela Foundation that they are dishonest in the fact that they are now trying to say that this was simply just portraying of the flag which was not,” says Kriel.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said it wanted a jail term for Roets, but he has described this as crazy.

Roets says freedom of speech is under serious threat in South Africa. “The fact that you shouldn’t do something or the fact that something is a bad idea does not mean that you should be banned by law from doing it or that you should be prosecuted if you do that. I mean the Nelson Mandela Foundation have said in their papers that there’s talk about imprisonment. So, we’ve reached a point where we talk about imprisoning for tweeting stuff. We should also protest banning, censorship and the violation of the freedom of speech.”

On Wednesday, Judge Phineas Mojapelo declared the flag as hate speech, stating that it constitutes harassment and unfair discrimination against black South Africans.

The National Heritage Council says it hopes the old apartheid flag will not re-surface again in the country.

The NHC says the display of the flag could be seen as a deliberate attempt to incite the majority of South Africans.

The FW de Klerk Foundation noted the ruling of the Equality Court on the apartheid flag but said the issue is more complex than reflected in the judgement. Chairperson of the FW Foundation, Dave Stewart says most white South Africans have accepted the new flag as a symbol of reconciliation and nation-building and that it would be insensitive to fly the old flag. Stewart, however, says the old flag encompasses and signifies the white presence in South Africa since 1652.