South African Olympic Flag, 1992
With the beginning end of he Apartheid system, South Africa returned to the Games after 32 years in Barcelona 1992. This “interim” flag was used by the team in place of the national flag, since the latter was not considered to be representative of the nation as a whole.
The stylised diamond represents the country’s mineral wealth. Starting beneath the Olympic Rings are flashes of blue (representing rain and sea), red (for land) and green (for agriculture).
The government criticised both the decision to use such a symbol as well as its design. However, for most of South Africa’s athletes, the chance to compete in the Olympic games after being suspended for such a long time was the most important concern.
Natalia Republic, 1839-1843
Vasco da Gama sighted what’s now KwaZulu-Natal on Christmas Day 1497. He called it “Terra Natalis” (Christmas Land, basically). Centuries later, the name Natalia was being used by a Boer Republic, which flew the above flag.
The flags of Transvaal and the Orange Free State remained popular even after those states became British colonies, but the white population of Natal Colony was mostly English and they preferred flying the Union Jack. The Republic’s flag was soon completely forgotten, save for a couple of vague historical descriptions that didn’t say anything conclusive about it. One source said its colours were arranged “transversely”, for example, while another said it was a cross between the French and Dutch flags. It wasn’t until 1953, when an illustration of the flag was uncovered on a map in the Rijksmuseum, that the design was rediscovered.
The Venda bantustan was granted its quote-unquote independence from South Africa on 13 September 1979. The colours of the flag were taken from traditional Venda beadwork.
Welcome to #southafrica #joburg #newtown #chalk #flag #tusouthafrica (at Museum Africa)
South Africa (civil ensign), 1912-1928
The Duke of Connaught went down to South Africa in 1910 to open Parliament for the first time, and it was decided that a flag should be adopted for the occasion. This led to the creation of the South African Red Ensign. The badge was divided into four quarters: the allegorical figure of Hope for the Cape Province, a pair of wildebeests for Natal, an orange tree for the Orange Free State, and a wagon for Natal. A white disc was added in 1912.
The flag was more or less ignored by the South African public. Folks of English descent tended to fly the unadorned Union Jack, while Afrikaners preferred the flags of the old Boer Republics. The unpopularity of the flag lead Prime Minister (and noted racist) J.B.M. Hertzog to rhetorically ask, “Have we ever yet heard of a flag of any country which was so stillborn?”
South Africa (proposed), 1927
The old South African tricolour was the end result of a long drawn-out political fight. Nobody could agree about what should be on there. Some folks wanted to give pride of place to the Union Jack, some wanted to include the flags of the old Boer republics, and others wanted a simple “clean flag”. (The majority black population probably would have had some opinions of their own too, but nobody thought to ask them.)
In the end, the House of Assembly passed the “shield flag”, an orange-white-blue tricolour with a quartered shield in the centre. In the first three quarters were the flags of Britain, the Orange Free State, and Transvaal. In the bottom right was a blue field with four white stars for the country’s four provinces.
The Senate countered with this particularly ugly design, which blew up the four quarters of the shield and divided them with a white cross. Note the weird effect this caused with the Orange Free State’s bottom white stripe.
In the end the two sides compromised. The tricolour returned, but the three flags were put on there in full, arranged into a cross. And thus was born the old South African flag. A cluttered ugly mess, designed by not just one but several committees, representing only a small minority of the country’s population. Let’s just say I’m not sad to see it gone.
South Africa (naval ensign), 1951-1952
As if the apartheid-era flag didn’t have enough flags on it already! In 1951 a new South African naval ensign was created by placing a smaller tricolour within the top stripe of the existing national tricolour. On the smaller white stripe was the red lion crest from the former coat of arms, holding four bound staves for the four original provinces.
Neither heralds nor naval types had any love for the flag, so it was replaced the next year by a white ensign with a green cross. That cross remains on the naval ensign to this day.
(designer: Commodore Frederick Dean)
So here’s a curious little flag from some obscure corner of the internet. It’s purported to be the flag of Seychellois people living in the European Union. I guess the Cross of Lorraine and fleur-de-lis represent the French heritage of the islands, but why in god’s name is it based on the South African flag? I have no idea if this flag has ever existed in the real world, but it sure is weird.
The name of this former Bantustan (which somewhat ironically translates to “whiter than white”) comes from the white sandstone cliffs in the region. Its flag is decidedly not white. In fact, it has a rather dark green-orange-black colour scheme.