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The South African Government is facing criticism after earlier this year proposing to spend $1.3 million US to construct a 100-metre tall ‘monumental flag’ – with US$300,000 proposed for geotechnical studies alone.

The government’s plans have been met with outrage and criticism from citizens, political parties, and other groups following the department’s budget vote speech in May where the costs were revealed.

The department was criticised for spending exorbitant amounts of money on a “vanity project” when many have struggled to secure any funding or aid from the department over the last two years of Covid-19 lockdowns. There is also a constant need for financing and developing sports and the arts in South Africa, which often go underfunded.

Once constructed, the DSAC said the flag would become a national landmark and a tourist attraction site that would serve to display the country’s brand image.

In its annual performance plan for 2022/2023, the department said it had already embarked on a process to conceptualise, design and ultimately install a national monumental flag, with a flagpole that would extend 100 metres in height.

More than US$300,000 has been budgeted in 2022/23 for the site-specific geotechnical studies, including the environmental impact assessment and other tests and applications that will be required prior to construction.

Following the criticism, Mthethwa initially defended the flag, saying that it was vital to nation-building and “transforming South Africa’s heritage landscape”. However, on Thursday (19 May), the department said that the flag project will be reviewed.

“In upholding the 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,” it said.

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