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Fury over Sport, Arts and Culture Ministry decision to blow R22m on ‘useless’ statue

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.Image: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.Image: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 13, 2022

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South Africans have expressed outrage over the announcement by the Sport, Arts and Culture Ministry for planning to spend R22 million on a statue dubbed “flag project” in these depressed economic times.

The department this week made the announcement, saying it would be a “symbol of unity and national pride”. The department also said the project would inspire “social cohesion”.

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This has prompted political parties and activists to condemn the monument plan, saying there are other areas that the money can be better spent.

Currently, South Africa is faced with a high rate of unemployment, poverty, lack of housing, and most recently parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were hit by floods which displaced hundreds of people.

African futurist Mohau Pheko said South Africans have every right to be outraged by this kind of spending.

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She said the nature of the state has many different personalities, at one level it’s fragile, at another level it’s weak, at another level it’s powerful, at another level it is just not delivering any services at all.

“But it is powerful when it comes to funding and bailing out South African Airways to the tune of R10.5 billion, but weak and fragile when it comes to development, policing, housing, water etc.

“In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, mismanagement, and state capture, it’s seems like there’s a roller coaster of political and economical collapse in the country,” said Pheko.

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“We have a state that is able to manage and find funds for its elite projects and this R22 million is a case in point that this is money that could be spent to beef up other more needy sectors in the country.”

Pheko said when you have a state that is “schizophrenic” in a way which it plans or does not plan, this is the outcome of what happens…

“We have a state that has poor planning, when there are projects they are over running in terms of budget and there’s no link or inclusivity in terms of what benefits this particular project would deliver to the people.

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“There is no consultation in terms of why we should have this (monument), what it symbolises and what it celebrates for us as a country. We have to stand up and protest because often we forget the money spent is our money, this is not the government or the ANC’s money. It is the taxpayers’ money,” she charged.

EFF national spokesperson Sinawo Thambo condemned the vanity project, and called the flag monument project wasteful expenditure.

“This is a useless, fruitless and misguided use of the taxpayers’ money that must be rejected by all logical and rational people,” said Thambo.

“Many of our people are unemployed, landless and victims of arrogant and unrepentant racism in the land of their birth. They are confronted by the statues of their conquerors on the streets of this country and are made to sing ‘Die Stem’, an anthem of genocidal maniacs, which desecrates the African prayer, Nkosi Sikelela i’Africa.

“While Minister Nathi Mthethwa wastes money on putting a flag into the ground, right-wingers are in court fighting to ban liberation songs and battling for the right to display the apartheid flag all in this country. Racists are emboldened, and are completing a project of a takeover of all national assets, leaving a democratically elected state at the behest of the private sector,” Thambo said.

He added that the monument flag will mean nothing, because it is not underpinned by justice for African people for the crimes of colonialism and Apartheid.

“We call on Mthethwa to put the money he planned to use on his shameful flag project to better use, and not insult our collective intelligence. The money can be used to develop local sport, invest in women’s football or create long-lasting infrastructure for the creative industry, not this senseless attempt at social cohesion,” Thambo said.

Cope called on Ramaphosa to immediately intervene and stop this "scandalous flag project''.

"Millions of people are going to bed on an empty stomach. Nobody can justify this disgraceful abuse of power. The priorities of this government are laughable and senseless," Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said.

Sport, Arts and Culture Ministry spokesperson Masechaba Khumalo received the media query, but failed to comment at the time of publication.

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