The Cooma-Monaro Shire Mayor has defended a decision to continue flying the former South African flag at Cooma in south east New South Wales.
The flag is part of the historic Avenue of Flags along the town’s main street, which was put up to represent the nationalities of workers involved in building the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
The flag’s presence has been the subject of controversy in recent years, with some ex-pats calling for the old flag to be replaced with the current one.
The South African High Commission has been in discussions with the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council over the issue, and the council has now decided to fly South Africa’s present day flag in a separate location near the town’s Centennial Park.
But Mayor Dean Lynch said there was still no need to take down the former South African flag.
“They’re historic flags; this is nothing about politics,” he said.
“They’re the flags that people lived, worked and died under while the Snowy scheme was being built.”
South African High Commissioner Sibusiso Ndebele said he raised concerns with the council after seeing a report online that referred to “some sort of honouring of the apartheid flag” in the town.
“We wanted to check up [with the council] because the Australian Government had taken a position that … they supported the creation of a democracy, so Australia can’t be seen to be supporting the old,” Mr Ndebele said.
“That’s how I understood it until we had discussions with Mayor Dean Lynch last Friday.
“He took us to lunch and explained they have got this historical flag avenue that represents the countries that built the hydro electric power in the late 50s.
“We are arranging now on our national day to put up a flag which will take pride of place there at Cooma of the South African flag as it exists now alongside with other flags.”
Cr Lynch said the old South African flag was not the only one in the town that had “negative” political associations.
“We fly a number of historic flags, one of them being Yugoslav flag which of course was another oppressive regime,” he said.
“But also there’s other old flags there – the old Canadian flag, the old American flag minus the star.
“Those flags are the flags of the day and that’s just history.” – Australian Broadcasting Corporation