Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa under public pressure shelves monumental flag idea

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

The issue of the R22 million flag that was to be produced and installed at Freedom Park in Pretoria by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has now been put on hold.

This decision, announced on Thursday by Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Mthethwa followed a public outcry that followed revelations that DSAC was going ahead with these plans of this monumental flag. This announcement flew  in the face of the current difficulties faced by the creative sector following two years of Covid-19  sustained impact on the sector due to the lockdowns.

Many had publicly during the week ridiculed this project in the face of the difficult economic situation facing the country in general and the precarious position of the creative sector in particular.

This flag outcry followed shortly after another, even louder outcry in how the Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP meant to assist the creative sector in the face of the pandemic, was mismanaged by the National Arts Council (NAC), an agency of DSAC. Top management of the NAC are currently facing the music following a damning forensic report, which pointed fingers to their wrong doing.

Just more than two weeks ago, the Chief Executive Officer of the NAC Rosemary Mangope controversially resigned and took a package in the middle of a disciplinary process she was facing relating to the PESP fiasco. The terms of the settlement remain secret, leading to speculation that she was paid handsomely to go away by the Council. 

Therefore the announcement of this monumental flag could not have come at a worse time for the DSAC following all these recent scandals, and therefore reviewing the decision of going ahead with the flag has been welcomed by the creative sector.

Over the past few days, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture has followed and taken note of public discourse that has unfolded in respect of the envisaged Monumental Flag.

In upholding these 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,” a statement released by DSAC said. 

This announcement is in stark contrast to the one the Minister released earlier justifying and explaining the rationale of creating this flag in the context of a fractured and fragmented history of race hate and discrimination of the past.

The understanding of creating this flag was seen in the context of contributing to social cohesion as part of the nation building mandate of the post 1994 government. That mandate is within the ambit of DSAC.

“We are memorialising our democracy, and we are building this monumental flag, which will be there forever to inform society about the symbol.,” the Minister had said in his earlier statement explaining the reasons behind the expensive flag.

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