Castle told to remove historical flags


Parliament has ordered the Castle of Good Hope to remove the old South African flag that it was flying.

As a consequence of its history, the Castle displayed all six flags above Leerdam Bastion to indicate the different reigns of government during the past four centuries.

The history of the Castle (built between 1666 and 1679) shadows that of the Cape of Good Hope itself. Occupied by the Dutch since the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay in 1652, the colony was taken over by Britain in 1795. The colony was later handed back to the Dutch until the second British occupation of the Cape in 1806.

The flag of the respective administration always flew from Leerdam Bastion. Although South Africa became a Union in 1910, the first South African national flag (the Vierkleur) was only introduced in 1928. The present South African flag was introduced in 1994.

However, the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans has taken issue with the presence of the old South African flag flying alongside the new flag. At a meeting on 31 October to discuss the Castle Control Board 2011/12 Annual Report, it was noted that an instruction had been issued for the old flag to be removed.

The Parliamentary Monitoring Group reported that Ms N Mabedla (ANC) commented that the sight of the old South African flag flying next to the new flag during the budget vote disturbed her. She said the old flag needed to be stored somewhere in the museum together with other artefacts that related to that era. The Monitoring Group noted that Mabedla complained that the old flag should not fly high with the (new) South African flag and that the old flag should not be seen after so many years.

Major General Justice Nkonyane, Chairperson of the Castle Control Board, replied that the Chief of the National Defence Force had raised the issue of the old flag and it was indicated to him that most flags hoisted at the Castle reflected regimes in history during which the Castle functioned.

An instruction had been issued that only the new SA flag should be flown above the Bastion, with all the other flags to be taken to a museum.

By the evening of 31 October, all the previous flags had been taken down from Leerdam Bastion.

Built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a maritime replenishment station, the Castle is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. Today the Castle is the seat of the military in the Cape, and houses the Castle Military Museum and the Iziko Museum.

The order of the flags flying from Leerdam Bastion was as follows (from the right):
1. Dutch flag
2. Union (British) flag
3. Dutch flag (again)
4. Union flag (now with St Patrick’s / Irish stripes)
5. Old SA flag
6. New SA flag

The Castle is managed by the Castle Control Board as a public entity under the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and mandated by the Castle Management Act (Act 207 of 1993).

Multiple queries to the Castle, the Department of Defence and Parliament have remained unanswered.