The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) says it will review its plans to build a 100-metre tall ‘monumental flag’ for R22 million.
The government’s plans have been met with outrage and criticism from citizens, political parties, and other groups following the department’s budget vote speech last week (10 May) where the costs were revealed.
The department was criticized for spending exorbitant amounts of money on a “vanity project” when many have struggled to secure any funding or aid from the department over the last two years of Covid-19 lockdowns. There is also a constant need for financing and developing sports and the arts in South Africa, which often go underfunded.
Civil action group Outa called the project a “monumental waste of money”.
Monumental flags are typically installed by countries to express their identity and pride. South Africa’s intention to build one was first announced in February 2022.
Once constructed, the DSAC said the flag would become a national landmark and a tourist attraction site that would serve to display the country’s brand image.
In its annual performance plan for 2022/2023, the department said it had already embarked on a process to conceptualise, design and ultimately install a national monumental flag, with a flagpole that would extend 100 metres in height.
“A feasibility study on the development of the South African monumental flag was undertaken in 2020/2021. The results of the feasibility study will inform the brief for the South African national monumental flag,” said minister Nathi Mthethwa.
“R5 million is budgeted in 2022/23 for the site-specific geotechnical studies, including the environmental impact assessment and other tests and applications that will be required prior to construction. In 2023/24 R17 million is allocated for the installation of the monumental flag.”
The department noted that the flag is the symbol of ‘nationhood’ and the ‘common identity’ of the people of South Africa.
Following the criticism, Mthethwa initially defended the flag, saying that it was vital to nation-building and “transforming South Africa’s heritage landscape”. However, on Thursday (19 May), the department reeled in its ambitions, saying that the flag project will be reviewed.
“In upholding the ethos and the inalienable rights of citizens to be heard, the minister of Sport, Arts and Culture has directed his department to review the process related to the Monumental Flag in its totality,” it said.
The department spun the outrage towards the project as “a celebration of South Africa’s vibrant democracy”.
Over the past few days the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Mr. @NathiMthethwaSA has followed and taken note of public discourse that has unfolded in respect of the envisaged Monumental Flag. pic.twitter.com/sGfD2S9Op7
— Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (@SportArtsCultur) May 19, 2022