DURBAN - Non-profit organisations have weighed in on the debate about what government should be doing with R22 million that has been earmarked for the Monumental Flag project.
The project if it goes ahead will see a massive flag 80 to 120 metre high erected at Freedom Park Heritage site in Pretoria. After widespread outrage about the “vanity project”, Arts and Culture Minister announced yesterday that it would be reviewed.
Asked what R22m could be used for, Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said prioritising spending in the best interest of the country’s citizens during times of economic crisis was what was expected of any responsible government.
“To spend R22m on a flag right now which has no impact on the well-being of the general masses who are in a state of severe economic and emotional distress is illogical, irresponsible and tantamount to showing the populace the middle finger.”
He described some of the matters that needed attention and funds.
“There is a huge water crisis in Tongaat. A few millions spent on boreholes will alleviate great suffering. The bridge on the M4 that needs another R2m to R3m to repair will save 40km of travel (80km return trip) for people in La Mercy, Tongaat, Umdloti and Ballito.
“Several schools and health facilities need infrastructure repair following flood damage. A few million would make a very productive intervention to improve the quality of life of learners, educators, patients and health-care workers.
“’Investing in sniffer dogs, which could have made an enormous contribution during search, rescue and recovery, is another national priority. Gift of the Givers has invested in all of the above. We can certainly guide the government to redirect the R22m to these projects to make a meaningful, substantial and appropriate investment.
“Then we can paint a beautiful flag at all the sites to demonstrate a wise, community-oriented South African intervention in the best interest of the citizens,” he said.
The Denis Hurley Centre in Durban said R22m could go a long way to help the homeless.
Raymond Perrier, the director of the centre, said their budget was just over R5m per year, so with R22m they could run everything for four years.
“That means at the very least serving 600 000 meals and seeing 60 000 patients,” he said.
The centre serves some of the poorest people in central Durban, in particular the homeless.
“We offer services through our clinic, a feeding scheme, political and economic empowerment, community support and pastoral outreach,” said Perrier.