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South African Presidents' flags

Last modified: 2011-06-24 by bruce berry
Keywords: south africa | president |
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Following the creation of the Union of South Africa on 31 May 1910, South Africa was a self-governing Dominion within the British Empire (later Commonwealth).  Britain was represented in South Africa by a Governor-General who was also High Commissioner and whose responsibilities extended to the adjacent colonies of Basutoland and Swaziland and the Bechuanaland Protectorate

In 1931, the posts of High Commissioner and Governor-General were spilt and the Governor-General flew a distinctive flag, in common with other Governors and Governor's-General in the Commonwealth .   Following a referendum held in October 1960 on the issue in which 850 458 whites voted for republican status versus 775 878 who voted against, South Africa became a republic on 31 May 1961. It had become clear for some time that South Africa's internal racial policies (apartheid) were cause for concern amongst many of the newly independent members of the Commonwealth and that there had been calls for the country to be expelled.  On becoming a republic South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth.

With the change to a republican form of government, the Governor-General was replaced with a President as Head of State. A new Presidential flag was hoisted for the first time at Government House (later known as the Presidensie) in Pretoria on the day of the State President's inauguration. 
Bruce Berry, 20 May 2002

South African President's flag (1994 - )

  image by Mark Sensen and António Martins, 09 Mar 2000

The South African President currently uses the national flag adopted on 27 April 1994 and does not have a distinctive flag of its own.
Bruce Berry, 20 May 2002

South African President's flag (1984-1994)

[President's 1985 flag] image by Mark Sensen, 01 Jul 2002

From: Data of the Bureau of Heraldry on registered heraldic representations.
Flag of State President of the Republic of South Africa was registered by the South African Bureau of Heraldry on 16 Aug 1985 with the following description:
A rectangular tricolour, proportion three by two, from the hoist, per pile throughout; top to bottom orange, white and blue, the white charged in the hoist with the embellished armorial bearings of the Republic of South Africa proper, ensigned with the letters S P in gold, fimbriated black, the height of the charges being one half the width of the flag."
Mark Sensen, 01 Jul 2002

Following the adoption of a new constitution which saw the creation of an Executive State President and the introduction of Coloured and Indian Houses in Parliament under the tricameral system on 03 September 1984, a new Presidential flag was introduced. The State Herald had been issued guidelines in July 1984 with a request to design a new Presidential flag. The guidelines given were that such a new flag should include the national colours (orange, white and blue) and also to include the national arms as in the original Presidential flag.  Of the three designs prepared, the one based on the flag of the Republic of Natalia was accepted.  The new Presidential flag was formally adopted on 14 September 1984 when the new Executive President was sworn in and the flag was registered by the Bureau of Heraldry (see above). 

The second Presidential flag comprises a white triangle with its base against the hoist, above which is orange and below is blue.  In the centre of the white triangle is the national coat of arms, with the letters SP (to signify State President).

This Presidential flag was used until 09 May 1994.  Although the new national flag was adopted on 27 April 1994 when the first universal adult suffrage elections were held in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was subsequently sworn in as President of a democratic South Africa on 10 May 1994. 
Bruce Berry, 20 May 2002

South African President's flag (1961-1984)

[President's flag till 1985] image by Mark Sensen, 20 May 2002

The first South African Presidential flag, like its predecessor, was blue and in place of the Royal Crest bore the embellished version of the South African coat of arms in full colour in the centre, ensigned with the letters SP in gold. Unlike the former flag of the Governor-General, this flag had the proportion of 2:3 like the national flag. 

Brownell in National and Provincial Symbols and flora and fauna emblems of the Republic of South Africa (1993) [brl93] states that from a visual point of view the President's flag adopted in 1961 was not a great success since the arms did not stand out against the blue field.  However, it was not until the advent of the new constitutional dispensation which was introduced in 1984 which made provision for an Executive State President, that a flag change was considered.  Thus the first South African Presidential flag was used between 1961 and 1984.
Bruce Berry, 20 May 2002

The first State President's flag was an adaptation from the Governor-General’s flag (as used from 1931 until 1961), which followed the British pattern of a dark blue flag with the British royal crest of the crown with the lion standing on it in the centre. Unlike other Governor-General flags, this one had the country’s name in two languages, on separate scrolls, one above the crest, and one below: “Union of South Africa” above and “Unie van Suid-Afrika” below. The proportions of the 1931-1961 Governor-General flag were 1:2, but those of the 1961-1984 State President's flag were 3:2.

The new flag was first hoisted for the first time at Government House (which became known as the Presidensie) in Pretoria, on the day of the State President’s inauguration, namely 31 May 1961.” Brownell in "National and Provincial Symbols" records that “The shade of blue was specified as being that of the blue panel of the national flag, namely ‘BCC150, Lapis Lazuli’ in the British Colour Council’s Dictionary of Colour Standards.”

Brownell also notes that blue presidential flags were also adopted in Ireland, Ghana, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while that of the Republic of Rhodesia was pale blue. Clearly these countries (with the likely exception of Ireland, which uses a banner of the country’s arms) were following the tradition of the Governor-General’s flag.
Mike Oettle, 22 May 2002

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