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Sport, arts & culture minister Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
Sport, arts & culture minister Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

What sport, arts & culture minister Nathi Mthethwa’s flagpole folly shows is that his department — actually, the entire cabinet — wastes millions of rand in the face of dire poverty in our country. But there’s more.

In December 2021, I planned a visit to the gravesite of Sarah Baartman in the Eastern Cape town of Hankey. A Khoi-San woman born in 1789, she was taken against her will to Europe and put on display as a scientific curiosity. The SA government lobbied for her remains to be returned, and August 9 2002  —  Women’s Day —  she was reburied in the area of her birth near the Gamtoos River Valley. The grave was declared a national heritage site. She was considered an icon of oppression and colonialism that stripped Africans of their dignity.

In 2009, the government announced the establishment of the Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance at Hankey. Ten years later, in 2019, this grandiose scheme of R165m came to a stop. The expense had ballooned to R280m. Yet at the time Mthethwa boasted that the heritage site will turn Hankey into “another Gauteng”.

Instead, by December 2021, when I was there, only half-finished buildings stood amid rubble and weeds, encircled by a dilapidated fence. No builders in sight, only a wooden hut for a solitary guard. What a waste!

Sam Jacobs, Pretoria

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