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All rights remain with the late Hubert de Vries, the original site owner.










PROVINCES 1994 -present



















Klein Vrijstaat







In the 1830es, Boers had migrated from the Cape Colony into the interior to escape the hated British rule, and settled the area beyond the Vaal river. Having defeated the Zulu and Matabele, in 1839, they proclaimed the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, and the republics of Lydenburg and Zoutpansberg. The British recognized the Zuidafrikaanse Republiek in 1852. The three republics merged into a unified Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek in 1857. The capital was established at Pretoria (founded 1855). The parliament, called Volksraad (people's council) had 24 members.

In 1877, the republic, practically bankrupt, was annexed by Britain. In 1880, the Boers revolted, again proclaiming their independence. Invading British forces were defeated by the Boers in 1881 in the Battle of Majuba hill.

In 1886 gold was found at Witwatersrand near Johannesburg; it proved to be the world's richest gold deposit. Johannesburg boomed.

In 1890, the tiny Boer republic of Klein Vrijstaat was incorporated into the Z.A.R.; in 1894 Swaziland was declared a protectorate of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek.

The Boers strictly separated the white Boer settlers from both the native African population and the miners and fortune hunters at Johannesburg, whom they regarded foreigners, denying both political participation.

Cecil Rhodes, entrepreneur, prime minister of the Cape and colonial politician, provoked the Boer War (1899-1902) which resulted in the annexion of what the British called Transvaal by Britain in 1902.

In 1900, the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek was occupied by British troops. Stiffnecked Boer resistance ended in 1902; the republic, as Transvaal, was now annexed by Britain.

Self-government was introduced in 1907. In 1910, Transvaal, together with the Orange Free State, Natal and the Cape, joined to form the Union of South Africa.




The South African Republic (Transvaal) obtained its coat of arms by a Volksraad  resolution of 18 February 1858. It was officially described as a wagon and an anchor on a silver field or shield, and on the arms an eagle; on the right-hand side a man in the costume of the land, armed with a gun; on the left-hand side a lion. The motto eendragt maakt magt (Unity is Strength) was added soon afterwards underneath the arms.

            The ambiguous description left room for various interpretations. The version which became current in the latter days of the republic was in the long run accepted as historically the most correct. This version was on 10 May 1955 also accepted as the arms of the province by the Transvaal Provincial Council. [1]


A flag and a coat of arms for the Suid-Afrikaanse Republiek were laid down by resolution of the “Committee Raad” dated 13 February 1858, Art. 21 and approved by resolution of the “Volksraad” of 18 February 1858, Art. 23. The resolution reads:


Is besloten dat eene Vlag voor de Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek aangenomen zal worden, bestaande uit de volgende kleuren: Rood, Wit en Blaauw, horizontaal, evenbreed boven elkanderen gesteld, en Groen perpendiculair langs den stok. Daarop zullen de woorden geplaatst worden:




Een Wapen voor dit land is aangenomen, aldus zamengesteld:

Op een zilveren veld zal een Wagen en een Gouden Anker staan, en op dat Wapen een Arend rusten. Op de regterzijde van dat Wapen een Man in ’s lands kleederdragt, gewapend met een Geweer en toebehooren. Aan de linkerzijde een Leeuw.” [2]


(... A coat of Arms for this land has been adopted, composed like this:

On a silver field there shall be a waggon and a golden anchor, and resting upon that arms shall be an eagle. On the right side of the arms a man in local costume, armed with a rifle with appurtenances. On the left side a lion.)


A drawing of the achievement was presented to the Volksraad on 30 September 1867 and approved by Art. 93. The resolution reads:


De Raad besluit hunne goedkeuring te hechten aan het model van het wapen der Z.A. Republiek, thans ter tafel, en is overtuigd dat zulks voldoet aan den wensch van het volk uitgedrukt in de besluiten van 1858. [3]


Sad to say that the drawing mentioned has disappeared.


The resolution was interpreted correctly only 36 years later by dr. E.J.P. Jorissen who published a drawing of the achievement in his Codex van de Locale Wetten de Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek. [4]



Even when the description of the achievement was quite clear, soon there appeared emblems composed of the elements described, arranged in an obstinate way. In the head of the Staatscourant, published 1867-1871 an emblem was printed ‘parted per fess, in chief an anchor between a lion and a man with a gun, and in base a waggon.’ The motto EENDRAGT MAAKT MAGT  was added on a listel above the arms. [5]



Emblem as printed in the head of the  Staatscourant 10.VII.1867- 4.I.1870



Emblem as printed in the head of the Staatscourant 24.I.1871


This coat of arms was printed in an embellished form, that is to say by adding an eagle and six national flags in saltire, on stamps issued in 1869. These were printed in Germany. This arrangement was highly appreciated and was formalized in the Staatscourant issued from 1872 until 1894.

6-Pence stamp issued 1869 with “embellished” emblem.

These arms may be a misinterpretation of a written desciption of the arms by the German designer of the stamps.


A drawing of the achievements on the Staatscourant of 1871 until 1891 was made by  A. van Wouw. His drawing caused much confusion because the gun in the hand of the man was incorrectly drawn as a spade. The error was corrected in 1891 but in 1894 the version with the spade reappeared.


Achievement of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek

as on the Staatscourant from 20 February 1872 until 21 October 1891. Above the achievement is written: Juiste Kopie van ‘t heden bestaande wapen voorkomende in de Staatscourant (Correct copy of the actual existing arms appearing in the Staatscourant). The drawing caused great confusion because the gun of the man was exchanged for a spade.


British Occupation 1877-1881


During the British occupation the achievement of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek was abolished and exchanged for the British royal achievement and arms.



Flag-arms of the occupied Territory of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek.

As illustrated by the Admiralty but only adopted in 1881 when the occupation was already over  [6]

The arms are per pale of the Burgersvlag and the flag of the Z.A.R., and royally crowned.


Regained Independence 1881-1902


The achievement of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek on the wagon of President Paul Kruger:


ð  Arms on Krugers Wagon  [7]





The seal of Klein Vrijstaat


On the arms are three Boers in local dress, armed with guns. L.: HET ZEGEL VAN KLEIN VRIJSTAAT • ONDER HET BESTUUR VAN DE DRIEMANSCHAP •. (Muntmuseum Utrecht).


In 1876 the Afrikaners J.J. (Joachim) Fereira and F.J. Maritz bought about 34.000 acres land in today’s Retief District, from the Swazi king Umbandine. The territory soon became densely populated. The population founded, with the consentment of Umbandine, a free republic, named Klein Vrijstaat, ruled by a triumvirate consisting of  J.J. Bezuidenhout Sr., F.I. Maritz and W.A. du Plessis, and J. Gilstein as their secretary.  The governement ordered a seal, illustrated above. In 1888, at the request of the people, the Republic was incorporated in the South African Republic’






Achievement of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek

as in the Staatscourant of 28 October 1891 until 23 May 1894

The spade exchanged for the rifle.



Achievement of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek

as in a European publication. [8]


TRANSVAAL 1902 - 1910


The sculpture of the achievement on the front of the House of Government in Pretoria, sculpured by A. van Wouw was destroyed by the British in 1901 and replaced by the British royal arms. “Only the head of the eagle and the letter M of the motto were saved”. [9]

Next to the royal coats of arms a seal and a badge for the colony were introduced.


The royal seal of Edward VII (1901-’10) for The Transvaal


The seal shows the crowned royal arms with motto, surrounded by four roundels: top left: a mine headgear and a steam locomotive, top right a waggon, bottom left a lion couchant and bottom right a cluster of beehive huts. L.: EDWARDVS VII D: G: BRITT. ET TERRARVM TRANSMAR: QVÆ IN DIT: SVNT BRITT: REX  F:D: IND: IMP:  • THE TRANSVAAL •.




Badge for the colony of  The Transvaal

on the blue ensign. Introduced 1905, abolished 31 May 1910  [10]


The badge shows a natural lion couchant contourné in a landscape with a mountain in the distance and two palm trees behind the lion on the dexter.

The lion seems to have been taken from the first quarter of the arms of the Z.A.R.




On the arms of the Union of South Africa, adopted in 1910, the colony of Transvaal was represented by the ox-wagon from the arms of the Z.A.R.. As the old arms of the Z.A.R. nevertheless occurred on stamps issued in 1910, and there arose a problem with the design of the Great Seal of the Union, the quarters of the U.S.A.-arms were explicitly assigned to the four provinces by Royal Warrant of 4 May 1911. The arms for the Transvaal officially became Vert a Trek Waggon Argent. The provisions of this Warrant however were never implemented. [11]


In the time of the Union a sentiment was growing that the provinces should readopt their old colonial and republican arms. In 1950 the Secretary for the Interior took up this question with the Prime Minister and each of the Provinces was asked to indicate which arms they desired to adopt. Taking the article of Dr. Coenraad Beyers into account the Transvaal Provincial Administration opted for the reintroduction  of the arms of the former Z.A.R. in a petition of 1 March 1951. As it was necessary to withdraw the R.W. of 1911, of which the provinces were never informed, to make the reintroduction possible, it lasted until 1954 before the new arms could be accepted. The Transvaal started using its old arms on the Official Gazette on 29 September of  that year and also applied to have these arms recorded in the College of Arms. This was done in July 1955. The arms were then finally accepted by the Administrator-in-Executive-Council on 8 August 1957.

The arms are blazoned as follows:


Arms: An oval shield per fess, the chief divided per pale: dexter Gules, a natural lion contourné couchant gardant Or; sinister Azure, a bearded amn in national dress wearing a hat and a bandolier, and holding in the left hand a gun resting upon the ground; in vase Vert, a voortrekker wagon proper. On an inescutcheon Argent an Anchor Sable cabled Gules.

Perched on the shield an eagle displayed Or.

Behind the shield and draped below on both sides three flags of the South African Republic, green, red, white and blue.



ð see illustration in the head of this essay. [13]




PROVINCES 1994 - present






An achievement for Gauteng was granted on 17 July 1995. It can be blazoned as follows:


Arms: Azure a pick per pale Or between eight lying billets per pale Argent.

Crown: A crown of two bees and three arrow-points.

Supporters: Two lions proper



The shape of the shield is typical for the Nguni peoples. The pick symbolises the importance of mining in the province.

The 'crown' is made of two honey bees, taken from the arms of Pretoria and used as a symbol of diligence, and some arrow points.

The lion supporters are symbol of strength and are also derived from the old arms of the Transvaal.

The motto is shown on three gold bars, symbol for the gold mining and prosperity.





Limpopo Province, the most northerly of the nine new provinces, adopted its arms on 23 March 1998, when it was known as Northern Province. The blazon reads:


Arms: Or, a baobab tree and a chief wavy, Vert; the shield ensigned of a circlet Or, heightened of eight cycad leaves supported by sets of buffalo horns, Argent.

Supporters: Two buffalos proper.

Compartment: An undulating compartment, Vert above and Sable below, the lower edge Or.





Arms: Parted per bend sinister double kinked and parted per fess Argent and Azure, Or and Vert, in dexter chief a Barberton- or red marigold (Gerbera jamesonii - Compositæ), Gules.

Crown: A crown of three points and two marigolds, its diadem charged with five black diamonds

Supporters: Two kudu bulls (Tragelaphus strepsiceros - Bovidae).

Motto: OMNIA LABOR VINCIT (Labor masters All)

Compartment: Vert.


The bend sinister in the arms symbolizes the river Mpumalanga and the yellow and green parts the territory of the province.

The red marigold symbolizes the flora of the province and is chosen because it grows uniquely in South Africa.

The black diamonds symbolize the rich coal fields.

The kudu-bulls represent the fauna of the province and in particular the Kruger National Park.


It is not known when the achievement was adopted.




The North West is for the greatest part made up of the former homeland of Bophutatswana.

An achievement for the Province North West was recorded by the Bureau of Heraldry on 7 May 1999. It is: 


Arms: In saltire Gules and Azure, a diamond cross saltire Vert, fimbriated Argent, charged with a water gourd proper.

Crown: On a diadem Argent and Or, a sunflower (Helianthus anuus) between two buffalo horns  proper.

Supporters: Two Sable antelopes (Hippotragus niger-Bovidæ) proper

Motto: KAGISO LE TSWELELOPELE (Peace and Prosperity)

Compartment: Vert.


The arms are in the colors of the national flag, the water gourd symbolizes the Tswana culture of the people of the North West .

The sunflower is an important trade crop.

The two sable antelopes represent the abundant wild life of the province.


More about the arms of the South African provinces


© Hubert de Vries 2009.03.09

[1]  Beyers, Coenraad: Die wapen van die Suid-Afrikaanse Republiek. In: Archives yearbook for South African History, v. 13, part 1, 1950.

[2]  Staatscourant der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, 26 Februarie 1858, No. 2; de Locale Wetten der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, 1849-1885, (Pretoria, 1887), pp. 69-70.

[3]  Staatscourant der Z.A. Republiek, 16 Oktober 1867, No 221; Lokale Wetten, 1849-1885, p. 303. The translation reads: The council decides to approve the design of the arms of the Z.A. Republiek, now presented and is convinced that it meets the wish of the people as expressed in the resolutions of 1858.

[4]  Beyers, op. cit 1950 Illustrasie XXV. The Codex issued in Groningen (Nl.).

[5]  Ibid.  Illustrasie I, II.

[6]  Mentioned by Geocities.

[7]  See also  Arms on Krugers Wagon and Wikipedia.

[8]  Ströhl, Hugo Gerard: Heraldischer Atlas. Eine Sammlung von Heraldischen Musterblättern für Künstler, Gewerbe-treibende, sowie für Freunde der Wappenkunde. Verlag von Julius Hoffmann. Stuttgart, 1899

[9]  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. P. 81.

[10]  The badge occurs for the first time in the Flaggenbuch by the Reichs Marine Amt, 1905, Part II, p. 32. The version illustrated from: Drawings of the Flags in use at the Present Time by Various Nations. Admiralty, 1915. http://www.archive.org/details/drawingsofflagsi00grea.

[11]  Brownell, F.G.: National and Provincial Symbols and flora and fauna emblems of the Republic of South Africa. Johannesburg, 1993. P. 74 . Picture from Brownell, n° 2.4.4.

[12]  This section from Brownell, op cit. 1993 pp. 7476

[13]  Illustration from Pama, C., op.cit. 1965.

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