The South African Flag is one of the most fascinating flags in Africa. Its artistic colour blend leaves one wondering how South Africa got the amazing multi-coloured flag. Here we present to you interesting facts you never knew about the South African Flag.
Interesting Facts about the South African Flags…
Brief History of the South African Flag
The South African Flag was designed by State Herald Frederick Brownell in March 1994 and was first adopted on the 27th of April the same year. Born in New York, USA in 1866, Frederick Brownell who studied Vexillology and Genealogy, lived in the city of Waterloo with his family for over 30 years before he died in July 1934. Fred as he was popularly called was 74 years old when he was instructed by Nelson Mandela to design the flag. Prior to this time, a public competition was held in 1993 for the design of the national flag, to this, the National Symbols Commission received more than 7,000 designs. Six designs were drawn up and presented to the public and the Negotiating Council, but none elicited enthusiastic support. A number of design studios were contacted to submit further proposals, but they were again without success. Parliament went into recess at the end of 1993 without a suitable candidate for the new national flag. But on March 15, 1994, Brownell’s design was unanimously adopted by the Transitional Executive Council.The new national flag was initially only an interim flag and was selected and used at the last minute before the 1994 presidential elections. To South Africans, the new flag symbolizes the convergence of the disparate groups within South African society, and their unification in one democratic state. The new national flag was hoisted to replace the flag that had been used since 1928.
Structure and Colour Symbols of the South African flag
Do you know that Flags were first brought to South Africa by the European explorers trying to find a sea route from Europe to India and the Far East? The first to reach what is now South Africa were the Portuguese explorers followed by the the Dutch, then the British each bringing along its country’s flag. No wonder the South African Flag has touches of the colours of these flags on her new flag. The South African National Flag comprises of two horizontally placed stripes. The red stripe is on the top and the blue stripe is at the bottom. The two horizontal bands both has equal width, separated by a central green band which splits into a horizontal “Y” shape, the arms which end at the corners of the hoist side. The left side of the flag has a black triangle outlined in yellow. The Black, gold and green colours were the first first colours that were incorporated into South African national flags in the 19th century. It feature prominently in the flags of the liberation movements, particularly the African National Congress (ANC) which was Mandela’s political party, the Pan-African Congress (PAC) and Inkatha. The other three – red, white and blue – reflects the flags of the old Transvaal colony (which also has green), the Dutch tricolor and the British Union flag.The ‘Y’ shape flowing into a single horizontal band to the outer edge of the flag, is commonly interpreted to mean the unification of the various ethnic groups and the moving forward into a new united South Africa. In all the colorful structure of the South African Flag symbolizes Unity and Progress.
According to Ancient and Heraldic traditions, much symbolism is associated with colors. The colours on the South African flag speaks a lot about the South African people and their history. South Africans call this the “rainbow nation” based on the multi racial, multi ethnic and multi cultural composition of the country, hence many refer to the new flag as the “rainbow” flag. Black (Blue/Black) symbolizes the people and the determination of the black race, the blue represents the Atlantic and Indian oceans, it also represents vigilance, truth, loyalty, justice and perseverance of the people or according to a different version, the wide sky overhead. The red(Also referred to as chilli red) represents the country soaked with blood shed during the wars of the past that cannot be forgotten, it also represents bravery, hardiness and strength. Green represents the fertility of the land and also love, hope and joy for the land, Yellow the mineral wealth beneath the soil and of generosity as well as the abundance of gold for which South Africa is well known, and white represents the white population of South Africa, honesty and peace. The new flag design was so popular that it was written unchanged into the new South African constitution adopted in 1996.
Interesting Facts Every South African Must Remember about their National Flag
Seeing the National Flag flying high in the sky, the South Africans cannot but remember the following:
- That it symbolize the convergence of the disparate groups within South African society, and their unification in one democratic state.
- It bring to mind the beginning of south Africa’s political transformation into democratic government and the end of Apartheid regime
- It reminds the people of the first time they were allowed to take part in the country’s electoral process. It was also the first held with universal adult suffrage conducted under the direction of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
- The flag is a clear example of South Africa’s commitment to nondiscrimination. The colours of the flag were deliberately not given any official symbolic meaning so everyone can make the colours of the flag personally meaningful.
- It also reminds South Africans of the rise and emergence of Nelson Mandela as their new democratic leader as the choice for a new flag was part of the negotiation process set in motion when Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990.
- At the time of its adoption, it was the only national flag in the world to contain six colours as part of its primary design.
Nick Names for the South African Flag
Just as we know, the South African flag is one of the most recognizable in the world that is yet to have a name. Years back, a Pretoria-based publishing house called for the public to suggest a nickname for the South African flag. Responding to this announcement made in Cape Town where WildNet Africa launched a book titled Flying with Pride: The Story of the South African Flag, South Africans came up with suggestions of names they feel will be perfect for their beloved flag. Some said it should be called Unity flag because it symbolized the unification of all the country’s ethnic group. Other suggestions include Interim flag, “Southern Crane” ,”Southern Union” ,”Oranje Union” ,”Rainbow Salad” AmaFlappaFlappa and lots more. Its interesting to know that slots of South Africans wanted the flag to be nicknamed Madiba, or Madiba’s Rainbow, theMandela Flag, or even just Nelson. Well, I think one of the most widely accepted name is the “Rainbow Flag” perhaps because the country is nicknamed the “Rainbow Republic” though its not yet officially accepted.
South African Flag Rules
Like in other countries, there are a number of traditional rules of respect that should be observed when handling or displaying the South African National Flag. Here are some of the rules guiding the use of the South African flag you must know:
- The flag must never be allowed to touch the ground or the floor.
- Tables, podiums, railings or platforms should never be draped with the flag.
- The flag should never be used as underclothes, bath mats or any derogatory application.
- The flag should never be used for any commercial advertising in a manner that is disrespectful to the flag.
- Use of the National flag in artifacts or manufactured products is subject to the sanction of the presidency and the Department of Trade and Industry.
- The flag should always be hoisted at the start of the working day and lowered again before or at sunset.
- The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
- The flag should never be used to start or finish any competition, race or similar event.
South African National Flag is the most commonly used visual symbol of South Africa. If you see this flag no matter where you are in the world, , you will know that either a South African or a friend of South Africa is near.
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