South Africa’s R22 million mega-flag project is dead
Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, says that the controversial ‘mega flag’ project that would cost the country R22 million to construct has been stopped.
Speaking to the parliamentary portfolio committee on sports, arts and culture on Friday (9 September), Mthethwa said that the government acknowledged the outcry from the public and responded.
“There’s nothing we haven’t said about this project. We noted the outcry, and we responded. As far as I’m concerned, we have dealt with this matter, and it is finalised,” he said.
First announced in February 2022, plans to erect a monumental flag in South Africa caught massive public backlash in May 2022 when the department revealed that it would cost R22 million to get the project underway.
The department justified the flag project by saying that, once constructed, it would become a national landmark and a tourist attraction site that would serve to display the country’s brand image.
Monumental flags are flags and flagpoles that are constructed on a colossal scale, intended to display a country’s prowess, pride and patriotism. The tallest flag in the world is Saudi Arabia’s at 171 metres high.
The SA Monumental Flag Project was developed to promote social cohesion and extend the country’s portfolio of post-apartheid monuments, the department said, noting that it wanted to construct a flag that was 10 metres by 15 metres, flying 120m metres high. It stressed that there is a lot of economic activity around such structures.
It said that the flag project wasn’t just thought up and implemented and that a feasibility study was commissioned in 2020 and conducted in 2021, which said that the project was possible and would provide benefit.
Addressing the portfolio committee, the department’s acting director general said that the backlash to the flag came from “a general misunderstanding” of the project – placing particular blame on the media, which it said influenced public opinion.
This response triggered commentary from the Presidency, who first said that the project should be reviewed, ultimately advising that it be discontinued, the acting DG said.
“Since then, all operational activity around the project has stopped,” it said.
The committee was directed by the speaker of parliament to investigate the project based on a petition that was submitted to the government speaking out against the flag. The petitioners wanted the flag project to be stopped on the understanding that it was only temporarily on hold while the department was conducting a review.
However, the committee struggled to find anything to investigate as the project has now been confirmed to have ceased.
“The petitioners wanted the project to be stopped, and it has stopped,” it said.