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A Commission on National Symbols was set up by the multi-party Negotiating Council (which was busy negotiating a interim Constitution) on 10 August 1993. The purpose of this Commission was to recommend at least four flags and coats of arms, a seal and an anthem for the transition period following the 1994 elections. The Commission was given until the end of October 1993 to make its recommendations to the Negotiating Council.
The Commission met for the first time on 15 September 1993 and had approximately 5 weeks to complete its task. Requests for public submissions were publicised in the media and letters were sent to 24 000 educational institutions encouraging them to participatein the process to select new national symbols.
The Commission on National Symbols was divided into 3 sub-committees dealing with the issue of a national flag, coat of arms
and national anthem respectively. The guidelines for submissions for the national flag were as follows:
The State Herald, Mr FG Brownell, was the convenor of the national flag sub-committee. Each sub-committee appointed a number of assessors to assist the Commission in identifying the dominant features and significant trends in the public submissions and to prepare a report for the Commission.
The Assessor to the Sub-Committee on the national flag were: Mr B Berry (SAVA Secretary/Treasurer), Mr D de Waal (SAVA Committee Member), Mrs B Leburo, Ms M Martin, Mr P Matlua, Dr Odendaal, Mr L Seage, Mr T Stylianides (SAVA Vice-Chairman)
At a meeting on 14 October 1993, to evaluate the 7 000 submissions received from the public, the following guidelines for the
evaluation of the proposed designs were to be kept in mind:
The recommendations made the Commission on National Symbols did not meet with much enthusiasm by either the public or the Negotiating Council. At its meeting on 28 October 1993, the Negotiating Council announced that a number of advertising agencies and design studios would be invited to send in designs to the Council. By 4 November, a further 35 designs were submitted by these agencies to the Council and the Heraldry Council was asked to evaluate these proposals, none of which
were found to have any potential for being the future flag of the country.
On 15 February 1994, a sub-committee consisting of Mr Roelf Meyer (then Minister of Constitutional Affairs) and Mr Cyril Ramaphosa (then ANC Secretary General) was appointed by the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) (the executive authority governing the country until the elections) to once again advise on the issue of national symbols. This sub-committee subsequently appointed a Technical Working Committee with Mr Brownell as conevnor. The Technical Working Committee prepared five
new proposals based on the original six designs selected by the National Commission on National Symbols and the designs prepared by the design and advertising agencies.
On 15 March 1994 (just over a month before the first democratic elections in South Africa) the sub-committee made its recommendations to the TEC. The design finally selected was later approved by the TEC to be the interim national flag of South Africa.
The new flag was officially hoisted for the first time on 27 April 1994, the date of the first universal adult suffrage elections in
Further public consultation by the Constituent Assembly (formed after the election and charged with drawing up a new Constitution for South Africa) concluded that the "interim" flag was a popular design and consequently it was adopted as the permanent national flag and described in the Constitution of South Africa (1996).
Further details on the process (and illustrations of the proposed designs) leading to the design of the South African flag are
to be found in SAVA Newsletters 7/93, 8/94 and 9/94.
Bruce Berry, 26 March 1999
This is one of the 6 finalists of the contest in 1993. The main colours are the "springbok" colours: green and yellow, symbolising prosperity, natural resources and sun, and the country, fertility, growth and youth. Triangles of green, red and blue stand for rain, water and the sky (red also for courage, lifehood and blood) are separated by white stripes standing for hope, reconciliation and peace.
Source: VDCN's Info-Bulletin no. 86.
Mark Sensen, 23 April 1997