A Tiny R22 Million Erection Furore

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Of course, tempers got bound to flare. 

The sports, arts and culture department’s plans to spend R22million on a flag installation come amid a sea of countless national challengers considered more urgent.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s posture is that the flag monument project would be a social cohesion, national unity, and a nation-building amplifier. The thinking extended to a vision of a national landmark that would be a tourist attraction.

All is well and good.

But numerous questions arise, specifically from a tourism point of view. Apart from its height, what features would make a more than 100m in South African flag monument an awe-inspiring sight? The London Eye in the United Kingdom draws over 3.5 million visitors per year. 

So, what would drive people across the country to make a pilgrimage to Pretoria to marvel at the flag monument? You know, the nectar and ingredients to make cultural, heritage, lifestyle or leisure tourists want to spend time at the monument.

What will give splendour to the posture of the monument such that foreign tourists would find it charming and hard to resist its allure? In 2019, more than four million people visited the Statue of Liberty in New York.

So, what is it about a South African monumental flag that would make a trip to Gauteng, Pretoria, seem incomplete if there was no stopping at its location?In Paris, the Eiffel Tower attracts over 7 million people annually, making it the most visited monument in Europe. Around 7.25 million tags assigned to photos on the Instagram application were of the Eiffel Tower. What would propel a monument of Frederick Brownell’s designed flag to the top of the charts as the most Instagrammed tourist attraction in Africa?

According to reports, Freedom Park in Pretoria was the proposed site for the tall flag rising. The Voortrekker Monument and Freedom park were almost a whisper from each other. Writing for the Mail & Guardian in 2015, Luke Alfred reported that forty-three per cent of Chinese tourists to South Africa visit the Voortrekker monument. The visitor figure got put to non-specific tens of thousands in numbers. According to the Alfred report, Freedom Park hardly had visitors. Just the occasional crackle of the security walkie-talkies. 

Perhaps a more than R22 million rand investment was needed, not for the flag monument but for the construction of life-size cultural tourism, amusement, art and lifestyle feature in the Park. It could be innovative and visionary to capitalize on the vantage point of Freedom Park’s spectacular panoramic views.

It should make sense to consider the kind of project that Makes the Circle Bigger, expanding the vision to open up sustainable income-generating opportunities for artists and leisure entrepreneurs. 

The project could get imagined as a living human cultural space that would breathe yet another life into the thoughts of convergence and unification that inspired the post-1994 South African flag.

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