President Cyril Ramaphosa has explained his government’s decision to construct a new national monumental flag project, which is currently under review.
Originally detailed in May, the giant flag has faced criticism after it emerged that the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture had budgeted R22 million for the project.
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 will be more than 100 metres in height.
Following public backlash, the project was put on ice, with the department promising a full review of the plan.
However, in a parliamentary Q&A this week, president Ramaphosa justified the concept, saying that projects such as these are important for the unity of the country.
“The promotion of national symbols and the construction of monuments are important for building a common identity and advancing national unity,” he said.
“The flag project, as with all programmes of government departments, is informed by the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), which is itself based on the electoral mandate of this administration. These programmes are reflected in departmental budget votes, which are extensively debated in parliament.”
Ramaphosa acknowledged public criticism of the project, particularly concerns around its cost, and said that the plan in under review.
“In view of the current fiscal pressures and public concern, the minister of Sport, Arts and Culture directed his department to review the flag project.
“Government will continue to work to ensure that its programmes and associated expenditure are informed by the priorities of the MTSF and the broader interests of the country.”
South Africa’s national flag was designed by a former state herald, Fred Brownell, and was first used on 27 April 1994.
The design and colours are a synopsis of principal elements of the country’s flag history. Individual colours or colour combinations represent different meanings for different people and therefore no universal symbolism should be attached to any of the colours, the government says.
The government has subsequently developed a set of specific instructions with regard to the use of the national flag and how it should be flown.
When the flag is displayed vertically against a wall, the red band should be to the left of the viewer with the hoist or the cord seam at the top.
When it is displayed horizontally, the hoist should be to the left of the viewer and the red band at the top. When the flag is displayed next to or behind the speaker at a meeting, it must be placed to the speaker’s right. When it is placed elsewhere in the meeting place, it should be to the right of the audience.