By: Siyabonga Sithole
Local artists have reacted to news that Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthwetha’s intention to spend R22m to erect a gigantic flag as part of the department's heritage programme.
Slamming it as a “vanity project” as the country is faced with a myriad of economic problems culminating in artists being heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic .
Veteran performer and activist in the sector, Eugene Mthethwa was scathing in his criticism of the minister and called the minister “mad” for advocating for the election of this monument at a time when he should be charting bold and strategic programs for the sector.
“The minister is mad. That is what I can say. On a serious note though, this just goes to show how out of touch and out of depth the minister is with reality on the ground. To announce such a project to a sector that has been without jobs and income for at least two years is an indication that his heart is not with the artists. He should be helping chart a recovery plan for the artists who have had to endure two years without jobs and income but instead he goes and announces something such as this. You can even tell that this man is uncomfortable and not confident about this project when he speaks. Maybe it is another way to steal money from the taxpayers. He really is prioritising the wrong things instead of fixing what has gone wrong,” Mthethwa told The Star newspaper.
This is in the face of recent closures of some of the historic arts facilities such as the closure of Apartheid Museum, the lack of funding at District Six Museum and the mess at some of the cultural theaters and institutions across the country.
However, the leader of the South African Arts and Culture Youth Forum said people should understand the importance of preserving our cultural heritage which this project aims to preserve.
We have not reacted to the project but National Identity is very important and we do support the Promotion of our National Identity. Many people are just complaining because one they don't value the Arts, Culture and Heritage. They don’t take this sector seriously and when money is being spent in the sector they complain and say it is a waste,” Ramuada said.
On social media, former Metro FM radio host, Penny Lebyane defended Mthethwa saying the minister is not liked by a lot of people in the industry which makes it easy for them to criticize him.
“Nathi Mthethwa is not liked by a whole industry that hates itself so nothing new there for me. But I have a question: How did they build your favorites, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Statue of Liberty in New York, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil
Why do you like them?,” she quipped.
Seasoned sportscaster, Robert Marawa would not tolerate Lebyane’s argument about how some of these monuments were funded saying she must do some reading before advancing her argument on.
“ They were not flags!! They were not vanity projects in a struggling economy of mass youth unemployment caused by a thieving government!! Here is some leisure reading,” Marawa responded.