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Minister Nathi Mthethwa halts his R22 million flag project amid public outcry

Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.Image: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.Image: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 20, 2022

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Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has decided to review his R22 million flag project, amid rousing criticism from South Africans.

Artists, ordinary people, political parties and civil organisation have questioned the value of the monumental flag, citing that the money should be utilised in building playgrounds or improving the sports sector.

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Mthethwa said he notes the public discourse that unfolded regarding the envisaged monumental flag planned for Pretoria’s Freedom Park.

“In upholding the rights of citizens to be heard, Mthethwa has directed his department to review the process related to the flag totally,” said the department in a media statement.

The department is entrusted with a mandate to transform the country’s heritage landscape by building monuments, memorials, museums, changing colonial and apartheid names.

“In striving to transform the cultural and heritage landscape of our democratic society, the department will continue to be driven by the pursuit of the socio-economic dividend for the country as well as historical, symbolic, spiritual and aesthetic values and identity of a democratic South Africa and its people. As we pursue this path, it is hoped that the discourse will reflect deeper around these factors,” said the department.

The Star on Thursday reported that Mthethwa was defending the project.

“This is a 120m tall flag which is 10m by 15m, during the day it will be seen and at night it will also be seen because it is going to be lit because the education has to be continues both during the day and night. The massive nature of the flag is bringing in the steel industry. The value will outlive us and it is important,” Mthethwa said.

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The ministry said the monumental flag will be a huge structure hosted at Freedom Park Heritage Site and Museum.

The department’s spokesperson, Masechaba Khumalo said the project was approved by parliament.

“The SA National Monumental Flag project was approved by Cabinet in the last financial year 2021/2022. This project is now at pre-construction phase. It is anticipated that this project will be completed at the end of the 2023/24 financial year,” Khumalo said.

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DA leader John Steenhuisen said they will see President Cyril Ramaphosa in parliament soon.

“So President Ramaphosa wanted the flag too? While millions of South Africans are dying of hunger. Taxpayers don’t need to spend an extra R22 million, this poverty cabinet is S Africa’s giant red flag. We’ll see you in Parliament soon,” said Steenhuisen.

Ordinary South Africans took to social media to raise their views.

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“The Apartheid Museum had to close its doors. The District Six Museum was begging for funding. Johannesburg Art Gallery is a rundown mess. The Fugard permanently closed. But Mthetwa wants to spend R22 million on a flag to advance social cohesion,” said Naledi Mashishi.

Another Twitter user, Kgotalang Lekitlane said: “In a country where electricity supply is already a problem, it’s government is however willing to spend R22 million to build a flag that is supposed to bring in tourism. A flag that will somehow use electricity to 'light up ' in the evening. We are in hell”.

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