Pretoria - Cosatu has described the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s planned R22 million flag project as “embarrassing and ludicrous”.
The trade union federation called for the project to be scrapped immediately, adding that there was no room for a review on the matter.
It said the department should rather concentrate on service delivery than on vanity public relations.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has also now instructed minister Nathi Mthethwa to cancel his R22 million Monumental Flag project.
After heavy criticism the minister said his department had placed the project under review.
The department announced earlier this week that it would be embarking on a project that would employ more than 140 people, saying it would be a “symbol of unity and national pride” which would inspire “social cohesion”.
However, speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla made it clear that there was no room for such a project during these tough economic times.
He said: “There is no room for a review. This is borrowed money. You can’t be focusing on vanity projects when artists are sleeping on an empty stomach.
“When we first saw the story, we assumed that it was just an idea that was floated about and not officially endorsed, but we then realised that we were fooling ourselves because the minister (Mthethwa) then goes on to say that not only is he fully behind it but the Cabinet actually moved it.
“We then asked ourselves what other embarrassing and ludicrous projects are lurking around the department? Are these people in touch and in tune with what people are feeling on the ground?”
He said the federation welcomed the fact that the project was to be reviewed, but warned that it should never be resuscitated.
“We have been dealing with the government for some time and we hope that this is not a tactical withdrawal to right the furore that has happened after the leaking of this project,” Pamla said.
“We have seen situations when the government is faced with push-back from the media and other role-players. They tend to withdraw and later resuscitate the same project.
“Our position is that there is nothing to reconsider here. They must just scrap it because it’s a misguided plan. The idea of delivering services to the people is not that you sit in a boardroom and imagine some vanity programme, then come and impose (it).
“You must go to the people and engage the role-players and the people, listen to them, you hear what their urgent priorities would be and then respond accordingly.
“You can’t borrow money at the rate we are borrowing where rating agencies have long abandoned us and we are borrowing money at a very high interest rate, and then you say we take that money and say we are going to invest it in vanity projects when money should be invested in projects that benefit people.”
Pamla warned that the Cosatu would be monitoring the department closely, saying that if it reversed its decision the federation would look at “other avenues” of how to respond.
“We are going to monitor this situation closely and as soon as we suspect that they are deviating with this approach and try to resuscitate it, we will look at available avenues to explore in terms of how to respond.
“If they do resuscitate this, it would mean that they are abandoning the broad general understanding of a social accord, a social compact where we engage with each other and constructively correct each other and go forward as a unit,” Pamla said.
Ministerial and departmental spokespersons Masechaba Khumalo and Zimasa Velaphi had not responded to questions sent by the Pretoria News by the time of publication.
It’s not the first time that Mthethwa has had a run-in with the public. Last year there was an outcry after it was discovered that actress and Anglican Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s granddaughter Natasha Tahane had received a R1 million scholarship to study at the New York Film Academy from his department.