You really can’t make this stuff up.
South Africa’s latest contribution to the great encyclopaedia of fanciful projects comes in the form of proposals from the arts and culture department for the erection of a 100m-tall national flag that will cost the fiscus R22 million.
Yes, that’s right. The minister of congratulations and condolences, Nathi Mthethwa, who moonlights in the arts and culture portfolio, believes that there is a “lack of appreciation and knowledge of the flag in some quarters of the country”, and that the way to cure this is to build a “monument to democracy”.
His department says it will be doing this “as part of the promotion of national symbols and in keeping with our vision to inculcate love, passion and appreciation of this potent national symbol”.
When the idea was panned left, right and centre, Mthethwa’s best defence was that “AfriForum wouldn’t be in court today fighting for the old flag” if flags were not important. It must have been very flattering for the racist right-wingers to find out that the head of the ANC’s political education subcommittee is a great admirer of theirs.
Before Mthethwa embarks on this project, we have a number of questions for him. Is he happy about the state of Robben Island? Has he had a look at the state of the Kliptown precinct? Is he aware of the demise of Liliesleaf Farm?
Is the music industry happy with the support it gets from the department? How does the performing arts sector feel? And the film industry? Is there any sector in the creative space that feels that Mthethwa is doing a sterling job?
If the minister is serious about nation-building and forging cohesion, he should park this vanity project and use his portfolio to support the arts and preserve the heritage of South Africans.