Johannesburg - Minister Nathi Mthethwa achieved something very few politicians, ANC or otherwise, have managed recently – he united us.
In fairness, that is his mandate as the political head of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, but it didn’t happen the way he envisaged.
This week Mthethwa’s determination to erect a massive flag pole atop Pretoria’s Freedom Park unleashed a wave of outrage that was impressive for its scale and scope.
There were many reasons for this, perhaps as many as 22 500 000, the price in rands that Mthethwa’s department budgeted for the erection of a 120m flagpole and a commensurate flag that may or may not be (Eskom willing) lit up at night.
His idea was to create a symbol that could unify us all and create jobs in the steel industry – among a raft of mealy-mouthed defences he offered to TV host JJ Tabane early in the week.
Many South Africans believed the only industry that would benefit would be tenderpreneurs and the “steal” sector.
Artists and cultural workers literally starved during lockdown and museums were forced to close. Others lie in near-ruin. All of them could have done with the kind of cash Mthethwa was willing to splash out for a flag.
In a speech at the Black Business Council’s annual summit aired on eNCA on Thursday night, a chuckling President Cyril Ramaphosa said the minister turned to him for advice.
Mthethwa, he said, complained that “this flag thing, which is such a wonderful initiative, it seems that our people are not happy with it”.
To much laugher in the audience and from the podium, Ramaphosa told him that of course they weren’t happy and to “cancel this thing”.
So it seems the "Monumental Flag Project“ is dead.
The minister has said it was being reviewed by his department, but that was before the president and his audience got the giggles over the storm.
Is it too much to hope that he will run up a white flag instead?
And to read the room better when he next has a brainwave that will infuriate the people he is meant to serve.