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President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: BLOOMBERG/DWAYNE SENIOR.
President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: BLOOMBERG/DWAYNE SENIOR.

When a panicking sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa called President Cyril Ramaphosa to ask him for advice on how to handle SA’s reaction to the R22m flag scandal, Ramaphosa simply told him: “Cancel it.”

In a video doing the rounds on social networking site Twitter, Ramaphosa details how he told Mthethwa to scrap the supposed patriotic flag initiative after SA reacted with outrage.

The president was speaking during the Black Business Council summit in Midrand.

A chuckling Ramaphosa said: “Mthethwa comes to me and says, ‘President, please tell me when I can call you’. I say, ‘Mthethwa I am in a cabinet committee meeting, we will talk afterwards.’ I call him back and he says to me, ‘President, this flag thing, which is such a wonderful initiative, it seems our people are not happy with it’, and I say, ‘ Of course they are not happy with it. Cancel this thing,’” said Ramaphosa to the crowd that roared with laughter.

It was reported earlier on Thursday that Mthethwa’s plan to spend R22m on a 100m-high “monumental” flag was under review. The ministry had announced that Mthethwa had directed his department to review the process related to the flag in its totality after widespread criticism.

“Over the past few days the minister of sport, arts and culture has followed and taken note of public discourse that has unfolded in respect of the envisaged monumental flag. The diversity of voices around this important heritage project are a welcome celebration of our country’s vibrant constitutional democracy and the freedoms that must be upheld beyond posterity. It also bodes well for one of the pillars of social cohesion, which is an active citizenry.

At a Black Business Council meeting in Midrand on May 19 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa reveals that he told sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa to cancel the R22m flag scandal. Mthethwa was widely criticised for advocating for a 100 metre high flag project which is now under review. Ramaphosa also addressed black economic empowerment and its role in government.

“In upholding these 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,” the ministry said.

The department is entrusted with the mandate to transform SA’s heritage landscape by building monuments, memorials and museums, changing colonial and apartheid names as well as the overarching injunction to heal the divisions of the past.

“It does so informed by national aspirations and international best practice, which appreciates that heritage is among the bedrock of value systems that must drive national pride, social cohesiveness and unity. The World Heritage Convention makes the point that cultural and natural heritage is not only an irreplaceable source of identity and inspiration, but also a key driving force for sustainable development.

“In striving to transform the cultural and heritage landscape of our democratic society, the department will continue to be driven by the pursuit of the socioeconomic dividend for the country, as well as the historical, symbolic, spiritual and aesthetic values and identity of a democratic SA and its people. As we pursue this path, it is hoped discourse will reflect deeper around these factors,” the ministry explained.

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