The creators of the Gay Flag of South Africa have confirmed that their flag is not in fact a registered national symbol and have apologised for the misunderstanding.
The flag, originally launched in December 2010, is an adaptation of the gay rainbow flag created by Gilbert Baker in 1978 and incorporates the “Y” element of the South African national flag.
In October last year, the Cape Town based non profit organisation (NPO) behind it announced that the flag had been recognised by the government as South Africa’s “official gay flag”.
They touted the fact that the flag had been registered by the national Bureau of Heraldry and that this was published in the Government Gazette.
The news was widely reported on by local and international media on the basis that South Africa had become the first country in the world to make a gay symbol a national one.
It has now come to light that this is not in fact the case.
As reported by Out Africa Magazine, Marcel van Rossen, Deputy Director of Bureau of Heraldry in the Department of Arts and Culture confirmed that the gay flag is only registered and protected as the official flag of the Gay Flag organisation.
“The flag is not a national symbol at all. It is not the gay flag of South Africa either. There is no such thing,” he said, adding that “any claim that it is a national symbol is false”.
The magazine called the news “a shocking revelation” and slammed the Gay Flag of SA for its “misrepresentations”.
Eugene Brockman, creator of the flag, admitted that it is not a national symbol but told Mambaonline that they had misunderstood the process of registering it as one.
“As the Bureau of Heraldry registered the Coat of Arms, the Protea, Springbok, Blue Crane etc. as national symbols we were under the assumption that they had the power to declare the Gay Flag of SA as a national symbol,” said Brockman, insisting that the organisation had done everything it did in good faith.
“It was an honest mistake as we are novices at governmental registration processes for heraldry and really just followed instructions as we got them,” he said.
Brockman went on to say that “we sincerely apologise for the confusion. It was our understanding at the time that we had reached the goal of becoming a national symbol. It turned out that we were only a leap closer to that goal”.
He argued that even though the flag is not a national symbol, “the Gay Flag of SA is still the first gay flag or gay emblem to be officially recognised by a government’s heraldry. This in itself is a major feat .”
He insisted that the organisation could still achieve its aim of making the flag a national symbol and that this “is now firmly set as a life goal of mine”.
Brockman explained that to do this “we will lodge for the Presidency to review the Gay Flag of SA’s application, it’s body of work and the meaning it holds for the LGBTI people of SA in order to approve it as a national symbol”.
“It is my vision that the Gay Flag of SA will become a symbol and organisation that can unite and bring the various key organisations and individuals together,” he added.
The Gay Flag of SA NPO was behind a campaign last year opposing calls by Phathekile Holomisa, from the Council of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, to remove sexual orientation protection from the Constitution. It also ran a national bus tour to highlight LGBT issues.