Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has ordered a review of the proposed R22 million monumental flag project following public outrage across South Africa.
In a statement on Thursday (19 May), his Department said he “has followed and taken note of public discourse that has unfolded in respect of the envisaged monumental flag.”
R22m flag project under review
“The diversity of voices around this important heritage project are a welcome celebration of South Africa’s vibrant constitutional democracy and the freedoms that must be upheld beyond posterity. It also bodes well for one of the pillars of social cohesion which is an active citizenry,” the Department added.
“In upholding these ethos and the inalienable rights of citizens to be heard, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture has directed his Department to review the process related to the monumental flag in its totality.”
The proposed flag’s mast would have been 120 metres tall and the flag itself 10 metres by 15 metres in size, Mthethwa revealed during an eNCA interview earlier this week. It would also have been illuminated at night.
He defended the project during the interview, insisting that it would promote national cohesion and tourism. “The value would outlive us,” he insisted.
‘Waste of public money’
However, several organisations condemned the project. The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) described it as a “monumental waste of public money.”
The Democratic Alliance (DA) called it a “vanity project” being planned “while citizens, and especially children, are literally staving of hunger.”
“The DA contends that the money would be better spent helping struggling athletes and artists who have received little to no help from the Department after the COVID-19 lockdown destroyed their lives and livelihood,” DA MP Tsepo Mhlongo said.
R1.7m already spent
On Wednesday, the Department’s Deputy Director-General for Heritage Promotion and Preservation, Vusithemba Ndima, revealed that R1.7 million had already been spent on the project’s feasibility study.
Asked what constituted this cost, he explained, “They had to do the needs analysis of whether a project of this nature was necessary, whether it was within the mandate of the Department, and whether it is something that can be done in South Africa and create job opportunities.”
The Department had planned to install the flag in the 2023/24 financial year. It had set aside R7 million for “site-specific geotechnical studies” and R15 million for the installation.