President Cyril Ramaphosa says he told Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa to cancel the controversial R22-million project to erect a 100m flagpole at Freedom Park in Pretoria.
On Thursday Mthethwa announced that he "directed his department to review the process related to the monumental flag in its totality". However, Ramaphosa's comments emphatically state that the project has been cancelled.
While addressing a Black Business Council gala dinner on Thursday night, Ramaphosa said government listened to the concerns of its people, which led to the upcoming Public Procurement Bill. He then quipped, to laughter and applause from the crowd, that government always listened, "just like Minister Mthethwa listened about the flag".
At the dinner, Ramaphosa recalled a phone conversation with Mthethwa, who told him: "President, this flag thing, which is such a wonderful initiative, it seems our people are not happy with it."
Ramaphosa said he told him, "Of course they are not happy with it," and then when Mthethwa asked him what they needed to do, the president said: "Cancel this thing".
Ramaphosa then reiterated that this showed that this is "a listening government".
"We listen to what our people say. We don't ride roughshod over our people."
He acknowledged that the price was too high, and that while the project was shelved, "we will see it once our economy is flying".
Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Sports said the department previously reported that R1.7 million was spent on geotechnical studies for the project so far.