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Cape Town -
A row has erupted over the removal of the old South African flag from the parapet of the Castle where it has been flown together with flags denoting the history of South Africa.
The old “oranje, blanje blou” flag was removed with four others that flew along with the new flag on instruction from the Portfolio Committee on defence and military veterans earlier this month.
The removal of the flags came after committee member and ANC MP Nomfunelo Mabedla commented that the sight of the old South African flag on Leerdam Bastion upset her. She said the old flags belonged in a museum.
Roland Hudson-Bennett, who served on the Castle Control Board for 18 years until early this year, said the removal of the flags was a “shame” and “stripping the Castle of its history”.
The old flag was flown in sequence with the Dutch flag and the Union Jack to show the sequence of colonial powers that ruled South Africa.
The Castle is government-owned, but occupied by the military. The board comprises civilians, military personnel and historians who oversee the daily running of the institution. Hudson-Bennett said after 1994, it had been decided that the flags of countries that colonised South Africa would be flown along with the new flag as they were part of our history.
“I think [the removal] is a shame because the flags are part of our history.
“The history of the Castle is good and bad.
“Their decision is very contentious because they have to go back to the stakeholders involved. They didn’t and they just gave the order.”
It came as a shock to him that such a decision could be taken in less than two weeks, Hudson-Bennett said.
Cape Town author Neil Veitch said the flags should be reinstated as flags had played a “crucial role in the history of this great seaport”.
“To discard everything pertaining to the period before that date is simply disingenuous and takes us back to the mind-engineering of apartheid’s junior thinkers,” Veitch said.
The FF Plus, has written to the committee, requesting it reconsider its decision, but Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence chairman JJ Maake, who chaired the meeting in which Mabedla raised the issue, said the flags would not be reinstated.
“It is wrong for the flags of oppressors to fly side-by-side with the new flag,” Maake said.
“It doesn’t look right. You wouldn’t fly those flags at the Olympics or when Bafana Bafana play, so why should [those] fly at the Castle.”
He said the decision had been taken by the committee in consultation with the board, and the flags would be displayed at the Castle’s museum.