Sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa’s defence of a R22m, 100m-high “monumental” flag has sparked fresh debate about the project.

The department said it had budgeted R17m for the installation of the flag and R5m for geotechnical studies. It said the flag would serve as a national landmark and tourist attraction.

Mthethwa justified the project and its cost on eNCA this week, saying the project should be seen in the broader context of deepening social cohesion.

He said research by the department found that many citizens were not familiar with national symbols.

He said the flag would be seen from afar and would be lit at night, because “education has to continue, both day and night”.

Mthethwa added the project will create jobs in the construction and steel industry.

“The value will outlive us,” he said.

Some have agreed with the minister’s explanations, saying the flag will be a source of pride for the country. Others said the money would have been better sent elsewhere.

Mthethwa previously defended the project, saying it was part of his department’s mandate.

“It’s the mandate of the department to create monuments, among other things, and this flag is a monument for democracy and we make no bones about that,” Mthethwa said.

He said the flag was a national symbol.

“The national flag is one of our primary symbols. We are saying it is important that we hoist high the flag as part of transformation of the heritage landscape.”

The project was slammed by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), who said it was senseless and ridiculous.

The DA said it was “the clearest indication yet that minister Nathi Mthethwa is out of touch with the needs of South Africans”.

The EFF said the project was “a useless, fruitless and misguided waste of money that must be rejected by all logical and rational people.”

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