President Cyril Ramaphosa said he spoke to Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa about the controversial R22 million flag project and told him to cancel it.
The president was speaking at the Black Business Council gala dinner on Thursday.
Government has faced a growing backlash over the multi-million-rand flag.
Ramaphosa said Mthethwa called him to ask him what he should do about “the flag”.
“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,’” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said South Africa has a government that listens to its citizens.
“We listen to our people say. We don’t ride roughshod over our people, we listen and Minister Mthethwa was able to say ‘yes president we will pull this thing and besides that the cost was just too high.’”
“It’s a wonderful project, pull it, we shelve it, we will see it once our economy is flying, then we will see it,” Ramaphosa said.
Many South Africans were outraged by the cost of the flag and said the money could be put to better use like helping the poor.
The feasibility study was expected to cost the taxpayer R5 million while the installation of the 100-metre-long flag will cost R17 million.
Mthethwa initially defended the project as part of his department’s mandate to foster social cohesion.
On Tuesday, trade union federation Cosatu slammed Mthethwa for ignoring poor South Africans by spending R22 million on the flag and called for him to be fired.