Coat of arms of South Africa

The present coat of arms of South Africa was introduced on Freedom Day 27 April 2000 and designed by Mr Iaan Bekker. It replaced [|the earlier national arms], which had been in use since 1910. The motto is written in the Khoisan language of the ǀXam people and translates literally to "diverse people unite". The previous motto, in Latin, was Ex Unitate Vires, translated as "From unity, strength".


The design process was initiated when, in 1999, the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology requested ideas for the new coat-of-arms from the public. A brief was then prepared based on the ideas received, along with input from the Cabinet. The Government Communication and Information System then approached Design South Africa to brief ten of the top designers. Three designers were chosen to present their concepts to the Cabinet. Iaan Bekker's design was chosen.
The new arms were introduced on Freedom Day, 27 April 2000. The change reflected the government's aim to highlight the democratic change in South Africa and a new sense of patriotism.
The coat of arms is a series of elements organised in distinct symmetric egg-like or oval shapes placed on top of one another. The completed structure of the coat of arms combines the lower and higher oval shape in a symbol of infinity. The path that connects the lower edge of the scroll, through the lines of the tusks, with the horizon above and the sun rising at the top, forms the shape of the cosmic egg from which the secretary bird rises. In the symbolic sense, this is the implied rebirth of the spirit of the great and heroic nation of South Africa.
The coat of arms is also a central part of the Seal of the Republic, traditionally considered to be the highest emblem of the State. Absolute authority is given to every document with an impression of the Seal of the Republic on it, as this means that it has been approved by the President of South Africa. Since 1997, however, the use of the Seal of the Republic has not actually been required by the Constitution, but it continues to be used.


The official blazon of the arms is:

The oval shape of foundation

The first element is the motto, in a green semicircle. Completing the semicircle are two symmetrically placed pairs of elephant tusks pointing upwards. Within the oval shape formed by the tusks are two symmetrical ears of wheat, that in turn frame a centrally placed gold shield.
The shape of the shield makes reference to the drum, and contains two human figures derived from Khoisan rock art Linton Stone, which is housed and displayed in the South African Museum in Cape Town. The figures are depicted facing one another in greeting and in unity.
Above the shield are a spear and a knobkierie, crossed in a single unit. These elements are arranged harmoniously to give focus to the shield and complete the lower oval shape of foundation.
Immediately above the oval shape of foundation, is the visual centre of the coat of arms, a protea. The petals of the protea are rendered in a triangular pattern reminiscent of the crafts of Africa.
The secretary bird is placed above the protea and the flower forms the chest of the bird. The secretary bird stands with its wings uplifted in a regal and uprising gesture. The distinctive head feathers of the secretary bird crown a strong and vigilant head.
The rising sun above the horizon is placed between the wings of the secretary bird and completes the oval shape of ascendance.
The combination of the upper and lower oval shapes intersect to form an unbroken infinite course, and the great harmony between the basic elements result in a dynamic, elegant and thoroughly distinctive design. Yet it clearly retains the stability, gravity and immediacy that a coat of arms demands.
The first coat of arms was granted by King George V by Royal Warrant on 17 September 1910. This was a few months after the formation of the Union of South Africa.
It was a combination of symbols representing the four provinces that made up the Union.
The motto, Ex Unitate Vires was officially translated as "Union is Strength" until 1961, and thereafter as "Unity is Strength".


Three official renditions of the arms were used. The original rendition was the only version used until 1930, and it continued to be used as the rank badge of warrant officers in the South African Defence Force and South African National Defence Force until 2002. The second version, painted in 1930 and known as the "ordinary coat of arms", and the third version, painted in 1932 and known as the "embellished coat of arms", were both used until 2000. The former was also used on the insignia of the South African Police until the 1990s.

Provincial arms


Between 1910 and 1994, South Africa was divided into four provinces, Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal. These provinces had their own coat of arms.


In April 1994, South Africa was divided into nine provinces. Each province was granted a coat of arms, in most cases designed by State Herald Frederick Brownell.