Despite a huge public backlash, Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s desperation to push through his controversial R22 million flag was not only ignorant but a “plan to save face following the humiliation and public’s reaction”.
Apart from President Cyril Ramaphosa saying the project – set to be the tallest flag in the country and illuminated at night – should not proceed, it made no sense why the minister was still desperately pushing for it, political analyst Ralph Mathekga said.
“Why is he insisting this thing can actually pass while he knows exactly this is not the right time to experiment in this direction,” he asked.
“He has seen the reaction of the public and the presidency, of course, has spoken, but I’ve got a feeling that the minister’s insistence is just a face-saving exercise.”
In answer to a parliamentary question from the DA, Mthethwa told Parliament that the R22-million flag construction was now “being referred to Cabinet”, which will make a final decision on whether it gets built or not.
Student activist Mmapule Ramalepe said the growing calls for the minister to resign were proving to be valid because, despite what was happening in the country, he seemed to always miss the mark with the flag and the R30 million National Philharmonic Orchestra programme.
“What is he doing, when the president said he must drop this thing, did he think it was a joke? Because he keeps missing the point, which clearly shows he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Ramalepe said.
“He was just under fire for the orchestra and not spending that money on Banyana Banyana, following their victory as the Women Africa Cup of Nations champions, but he still chooses to embarrass himself like this.”
DA MP Tshepo Mhlongo said the public outcry was enough to cancel the whole project, however Mthethwa seemed to have learned nothing from the anger the project almost unanimously elicited from South Africans.
“The minister is obviously out of touch with the community. There was a public outcry and petitions were signed but even today, this issue is going back to be discussed,” Mhlongo said.
He said it was truly astounding that the department can find no other worthwhile project to invest in.
“The minister is refusing to engage with the public and stakeholders on this. It shows he does not care about nation-building and social cohesion,” Mhlongo said.
One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane said: “Rather than seeking to use R22 million on flags that light up at night, Nathi Mthethwa, as a minister, you should be funding the amazing Banyana Banyana team that made the nation proud.
“Let us set a standard by fully supporting the careers of these winners and women’s soccer,” Maimane said.