This site is a mirror of the original site, made in 2022 by Heraldry of the World. The original site is unaltered. This mirror functions as an archive to keep the material available on-line.
All rights remain with the late Hubert de Vries, the original site owner.








1 Deutsch Südwest Afrika

2 Suid West Afrika

3 Namibia


Armed Forces













The first European to set foot on Namibian soil was the Portuguese Diogo Cão in 1485, who stopped briefly on the Skeleton Coast, and raised a limestone cross there, on his exploratory mission along the west coast of Africa.

The next European to visit Namibia was also a Portuguese, Bartholomeu Dias, who stopped at what today is Walvis Bay and Lüderitz (which he named Angra Pequena) on his way to round the Cape of Good Hope.

The inhospitable Namib Desert constituted a formidable barrier and neither of the Portuguese explorers went far inland.

In 1793 the Dutch authority in the Cape decided to take control of Walvis bay, since it was the only good deep-water harbour along the Skeleton Coast. When the United Kingdom took control of the Cape Colony in 1797, they also took over Walvis Bay.

It was not until the 19th century, when European powers sought to carve up the African continent between them in the so called "Scramble for Africa", that Europeans – Germany and Great Britain in the forefront – became interested in Namibia.

The first territorial claim on a part of Namibia came in 1878, when Britain annexed Walvis Bay on behalf of the Cape Colony, confirming the settlement of 1797.

In 1883, a German trader, Adolf Lüderitz, bought Angra Pequena from the Nama chief Joseph Fredericks. He soon renamed the coastal area after himself, giving it the name Lüderitz. Believing that Britain was soon about to declare the whole area a protectorate, Lüderitz advised the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck to claim it. In 1884 Bismarck did so, thereby establishing German South West Africa as a colony (Deutsch Süd-West Afrika in German).

In 1915, during World War I, South Africa, being a member of the British Commonwealth and a former British colony, occupied the German colony of South-West Africa.

On December 17, 1920, South Africa undertook administration of South-West Africa under the terms of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and a Class C Mandate agreement by the League Council. The Class C mandate, supposed to be used for the least developed territories, gave South Africa full power of administration and legislation over the territory


Upon the dissolution of the League of Nations in 1946, South Africa refused to accept United Nations authority and to replace its mandate with a UN trusteeship. In 1966, the UN called for South Africa's withdrawal from the territory, and officially renamed it Namibia in 1968. South Africa refused to obey. Under a 1974 Security Council resolution, South Africa was required to begin the transfer of power or face UN action but South Africa only handed over limited powers to a new multiracial administration in 1985 Installation of this government ended South Africa's direct rule, but South Africa retained an effective veto over the new government's decisions. Finally, in 1988 South Africa agreed to a plan for independence. SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma was elected president, and on March 21, 1990, Namibia achieved independence.





Western heraldry was introduced in Namibia by the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão who raised a stone cross at Kaap Kruis (Cape Cross) when he set foot on Skeleton Coast in 1485.





The Padrão of Kaap Kruis.

Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin.


This limestone pillar was placed by Diogo Cão on Cabo Padrão, now Kaap Kruis, in south west Africa during his voyage of 1485-1486. On the front-side is a crowned coat of arms with the Portuguese quinas: a cross of five blue escutcheons charged with a saltire of five white roundels. On the back is an inscription in latin, mentioning King Joao III. If the pillar was ever crowned with the cross of the Order of Christ, this has now disappeared.


The coat of arms on the pillar poses some problems because they are not the royal arms. Very likely it is the coat of arms of D. Manuel, Duke of Beja, made governor of the Order of Christ in 1484, eleven years before his accession to the throne, The Order of Christ had been granted the spiritual jurisdiction over all the 'islands, towns, ports, countries and states, from the Capes of Bojador and Nao, throughout all Guinea, and beyond that southern region as far as the Indies' by pope Calixtus III, in the bull Inter Caetera of 1456. As such the pillar would be a confirmation of the privileges of the Order in Africa behind Cape Cross. It makes it probable that the expedition was under the auspices of the grandmaster of the Order of Christ instead of the king of Portugal.



ð More about the heraldry of the Portuguese Seaborne Empire


As in the next few centuries the peoples of Namibia were largely left to their own fate, the coats of arms of the Dutch East India Company and the United Kingdom can hardly be considered as belonging to the heraldic history of the country.


It is only at the end of the German presence in Namibia that a heraldic tradition was founded.



1884 - 1915


A coat of arms for Deutsch Südwest Afrika was designed in 1913 by the German Ministry of Colonies.

Coat of arms granted by the Germans to South-West Africa in 1914 but never received there because of the war. It was therefore unknown until its rediscovery in 1933. The shield  is surmounted by the German Imperial Crown. [1]


Arms: Azure, a bull’s head, between its horns a diamond radiant Argent, and a chief Or, an eagle Sable, billed and clawed Gules, on its breast quarterly Argent and Sable. [2]


The coat of arms, together with the coats of arms of the other lost colonies of Germany, was published about 1933 in a German Magazine called Afrika Nachrichten. In this magazine it was discovered by C. Pama and mentioned in his “Lions and Virgins” about South African Heraldry. He writes:


….just before the First World War, in 1912 and 1913, the then state-secretary of the Imperial Colonial Office (Reichskolonialamt), Dr. Solf, had made a journey during which he visited all the German colonies and some of the British possessions as well. He was struck by the fact that these British colonies did have their own colonial badges, and that by placing them on the Union Jack local colonial flags could be designed which were nevertheless all of one British pattern. This impressed him greatly and on his return to Germany he sent a memorandum to the Emperor Wilhelm II in which he stressed the desirability of adopting such symbols as well in German colonies, and went so far as to suggest that designs should be made immediately.

The Emperor agreed with Solf and the German Bureau of Heraldry, the Heroltsamt, was asked to submit suitable designs at their earliest convenience.

Before being shown to the Emperor, the designs had to be approved by Johann Albrecht, Duke of Mecklenburg, under whose supervision they were made.

When they finally reached the Emperor, he was satisdfied with most of them; on other drawings he suggested small alterations, in his own handwriting, and tye final drawings could then be made. In fact they were made, but in the meantime the war broke out, and they were never sent off to the colonies for which they were destined.  [3]


The original drawings, together with an explanation were published recently on Internet by Mr. Jörg M. Karaschewski   (in German).



1915 - 1966


... The [present] arms were designed in 1961 by Dr. Coenraad Beyers. (...) The mining industry is represented by two minehammers and three triangular diamonds, agriculture by the head of a karakul ram and an Africander bull, and history by the German eagle, the Namutoni Fort and a Portuguese padrao. Two local animals, a springbok and a kudu are used as supporters and the gemsbok, also well known in South-West  Africa, is used as a crest. The whole is placed on a mount, with a growing welwitschia mirabilis in the foreground, which also contains the motto viribus unitis (With United Forces) on a silver scroll. [4].


Namutoni is the name of a formerly police- and military settlement in the south-east of Ethosha National Park in Namibia. The name means ”high place”  in Ovambo language because it is situated on a limestone hill. Namutoni was founded as Okaukuejo by the German Colonial Government  in 1897 to mark the northern border of German influence. In 1901/1902 a military fortification was build which is the reason that it was called Fort Namutoni.



W elwitschia mirabilis


Alice Notten

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

March 2003




Welwitschia mirabilis grows in isolated communities in the Namib Desert, in a narrow strip, about 1000 km along up the coast from the Kuiseb River in central Namibia to Mossamedes in southern Angola. The plants are seldom found more than 100 to 150 km from the coast, and their distribution coincides with the fog belt. Welwitschia is still common in its habitat and shows variability, which is a sign that it is far from extinction. They are neither endangered nor rare, nevertheless they are protected by law.


An adult welwitschia consists of two leaves, a stem base and roots. They are the original leaves from when the plant was a seedling, and they just continue to grow and are never shed. They are leathery, broad, strap-shaped and they lie on the ground becoming torn to ribbons and tattered with age. The stem is low, woody, hollowed-out, obconical in shape and sturdy. It grows to about 500 mm in height. The largest recorded specimen is in the Messum Mountains and is 1.8 m high, and another on the Welwitschia Flats near the Swakop River is 1.2 m tall and 8.7 m wide. Carbon dating tells us that on average, welwitschias are 500-600 years old, although some of the larger specimens are thought to be 2000 years old. Their estimated lifespan is 400 to 1500 years. Growth occurs annually during the summer months.




1990 - present


A flag and a new achievement were adopted on the 2nd of February 1990. The shield of the achievement is identical with the flag.


The achievement is:


Arms: Tierced per bend sinister Azure, Gules and Vert, in the first a sun radiant of 12 rays Or, the bend Gules fimbriated Argent.

Crest: On a wreath lozengy Vert and six pieces Or, an African Fish Eagle rising proper.

Supporters:  Two Oryx-antelopes (Oryx gazella - Bovidae),  proper.

Compartment: A desert charged with a Welwitschia mirabilis, proper



Æ See illustration in the head of this essay


The flag and its symbolism are laid down in art. 8 of the Constitution. The flag is parted of blue and green by a red left bend with white edges. In the blue triangle in chief there is a yellow sun with twelve rays.

• Red is for the people and its ambition to realize a future of equal chances for all.

• Blue is for the Atlatic Ocean and the importance of water for the development of Namibia.

• Green is for the natural wealth and agriculture.

• White  is for the peacefully  living together of the Namibians of all races or tribal descent.

The golden sun is the symbol for life and power.

The supporters are two Oryx-antelopes (Oryx gazella - Bovidae), known for their elegance and courage. They represent the Namibian fauna.

The African fish-eagle (Haliæetus vocifer - Accipitridæ) on the wreath is the symbol of the North and of the Namibian waters. The fish-eagle is famous for its view and symbolizes the future of Namibia.

The shield stands on a compartment charged with a welwitschia mirabilis, the oldest plant of the world.



The seal shows the achievement encircled by the legend NAMIBIA and the motto, separated by two twelve-rayed suns.



Presidential Flag

Adopted 16.03.1990




The emblem of the armed forces is the National Achievement





Sleeve Patch





According to Plan Odendaal South West Africa should have ten Homelands: Caprivi, Kavangoland Ovamboland, Bushmanland, Damaraland, Hereroland, Kaokoveld, Namaland, Rehoboth (Basterland) and Tswanaland. [5]


In 1968 three of the Homelands were effectively founded: Caprivi, Kavango en Owambo. These  were granted self government. For these homelands flags as well as coats of arms were designed. [6] The Homelands were abolished in 1989.




The Caprivi Strip became a part of German South West Africa after the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty on July 1, 1890, between the United Kingdom and Germany. The Caprivi Strip in Namibia gave Germany access to the Zambezi River and thereby to German colonies in East Africa. In exchange for the island of Heligoland in the North Sea, Britain took control of the island of Zanzibar in East Africa.


Arms:  Quartered Azure and Or. In dexter head a lumber saw in bend sinister Argent and sinister a mealie cob seeded proper. In dexter base an ox head caboshed proper and sinister a tiger fish in bend sinister fanged Argent.

As a crest issuing from a wreath Or and Azure an ascending fish eagle grasping in its talons two ox tail switches in saltire all proper.

Supporters: Two elephants erect respecting each other proper on a field Vert above an escroll Or with black lettering.



  • The Fish Eagle symbolizes the government watching over the safety of the people.
  • The wreath, which is symbolical of the headring worn by elderly men, is a sign of wisdom and experience gained through the years and is characteristic of the governing body, while the two oxtail switches are symbolical of the execution of authority.
  • The lumber saw symbolizes timber industry, a source of income for the country and also generally the idea of a sound economy and a desire for advancement.
  • The mealie cob represents agronomy, and the oxhead cattle breeding; together they symbolize agriculture upon which the people of Caprivi mainly depend for their existence.
  • The tiger fish is commonly found in the rivers of the country and is part of the natural diet of the people; it also symbolizes the dependence of the inhabitants on their own natural sources and the conservation thereof.
  • The elephants are native to the territory and symbolize power and courage, necessary for the fulfillment of the people’s calling.
  • The motto LUYEMI HAMOHO means: We Stand as One.





Arms:  Per bend sinister Argent and Azure. In dexter the head of a bull caboshed proper; in sinister a tigerfish hauriant in bend sinister Argent. Issuant from the whole five mahangu ears seeded spreaded and banded Or.

Supporters: Two bateleur (mountain cocks) rampant respecting each other proper. On a  mount Vert an escroll Or with lettering Sable.



·         The outline of the shield is in the form of a shell (“npande”) which is indigeneous to the territory and which was in earlier times used as means of barter. It symbolizes the strife for a sound economy.

·         The bull’s head represents the cattle breeding without the people cannot exist.

·         The tiger fish is peculiar to the territory; it serves as food and is also used to trade and symbolizes the necessity of industrial development.

·         The mahangu ears are part of the staple diet of the people and symbolize their dependence on agriculture and their will to develop it.

·         The two bateleurs symbolize alertness to protect and promote the interest of the people.

·         The motto LIPARU KAVANGO means: Sacrifice for Kavango. [7]


photo Callie de Wet ©]

Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus - accipitridæ)




South African troops took control of Ovamboland in 1917. Mandume Ya Ndemufayo (1894 - 6 February 1917) the last king of the Kwanyama, took over the Kwanyama kingdom in 1911 and his reign lasted until  February 1917 when he was killed when under Portuguese attack.

In 1968 it became a bantustan called Owambo, intended by the apartheid government to be a self-governing "homeland" for the Ovambo people. Self-government was granted in 1973. Owambo, like other homelands in South West Africa, was abolished in May 1989 at the start of the transition to independence. The region is now commonly refered to as The North.



Arms:   On a blue shield seven ares of ivory proper, spaced equally and arranged in the form of a circle, out of a circlet embellished with seven spearheads Or, radiating upwards and outwards with each spearhead supporting an arc.

Crest: The shield ensigned with a wreath Argent and Azure and issuant therefrom seven palm leaves proper, in base Or and spreading radially upwards and outwards.

Supporters: Two black-faced impala’s rampant facing each other, proper, on a mount Vert an escroll Gules with gold lettering.



The symbolic meaning is: the seven spearheads symbolize the seven Owambo tribes. The spear is also a formidable weapon, used with the rule of the government. The seven arcs of ivory represent the elephant of which there are many in the country and which, because of its stature and strength is associated with authority and power. The ivory arcs therefore, symbolize the authority of the seven tribes who together constitute the governing body responsible for the protection of the people as a whole and also of the individual. The palm tree is indigeneous to the territory and also fulfills a place in the life of the people. When someone commits an offence and is found guilty in a tribal court of law, a palm leaf is used to met out corporal punishment. It is therefore an instrument to enforce the law and maintain peace, and as such symbolizes justice and peace. [8]


In February 1917, Mandume Ya Ndemufayo, the last king of the Kwanyama of Ovamboland from 1917 to 1998, was killed in a joint attack by South African forces for resisting South African sovereignty over his people.



Back to Main Page


© Hubert de Vries, 2009.01.20. Updated 2013.03.20




[1] Picture from: http://www.dr-herzfeld.de/flaggenkunde/FlaggenSchutzgebiete.pdf

[2] Afrika Nachrichten, 1933 ca. In: Pama, C.: Lions and Virgins. Heraldic State Symbols, Coats of Arms, Flags, Seals and other Symbols of Authority in South Africa, 1487-1962. Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1965.

[3]  Pama, 1965; pp. 111 - 112.

[4]  ibid. p. 112.

[5] Hesmer 1992 p. 111

[6] Arma, Quarterly Bulletin of the Heraldry Society of Southern Arfica. Pp. 957-962

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

Flag Counter In cooperation with Heraldry of the World