Flag of the Week: South Africa

Author name
Lily Koning
South African flag

South Africa is the southernmost country on the African continent. The country has three capital cities: Pretoria is the executive capital, Cape Town is the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital. Other prominent cities include Johannesburg, the largest urban area, and Durban, a major port and industrial center.

The legislative capital


South Africa is an incredibly linguistically, culturally, and ethnically diverse country. Under the 1996 constitution, eleven languages hold official status. These languages are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.

The land was inhabited by the Khoikhoi (Khoi) and San people as well as the Xhosa and the Zulu nations when Dutch settlers arrived in the 17th century. In 1795 the British took over the Cape from the Dutch, which led the Dutch to move north to found their own republic. The discovery of diamonds and gold increased aggressive colonial expansion and immigration from Europe.

When the National Party took power in 1948, they instituted a policy of apartheid (separateness). This system of institutionalized racial segregation was characterized by an authoritarian political culture based on white supremacy, the dictation of housing and employment opportunities by race, and the violent suppression of resistance. The government faced significant internal resistance from trade unions, churches, and organizations such as the ANC and PAC. Apartheid was not dismantled until a series of negotiations took place between 1990 and 1990. The negotiations resulted in the first universal-suffrage democratic election in 1994, which Nelson Mandela and the ANC won.

After the 1994 election, the government adopted a new flag to replace the flag that had been used since 1928. According to the national government’s website, the colors may represent different meanings for different people, so no universal symbolism should be attached to the colors. The government claims Y-shape design symbolizes “the convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity.”

2019 Rugby World Cup

Many South Africans avidly participate in sports. South Africa’s rugby team, the Springboks, won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, 2007, and 2019. South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup, the first time that an African country has been selected to do so. Music is also important to many South Africans. South African music is a fusion of various musical styles such as traditional indigenous music, jazz, and Christian religious music. These combinations are evident in the music of such performers as the African Jazz Pioneers such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, and Hugh Masekela. This fusion is also evident in Kwaito music, a popular genre that draws influence from the African Diaspora’s Hip-Hop, Dub, Jazz, and UK House music.

Hugh Masekela