Top 10 Most-Asked Questions on South Africa

1. What are the National Symbols of South Africa?

 Country's Symbols  Natural Symbols

 • Seal

 • National flower: King Protea

 • Coat of Arms

 • National tree: Real Yellowwood

 • Motto

 • National animal: Springbok

 • Flag

 • National fish: Galjoen

 • Anthem

 • National bird: Blue Crane

2. What does the Seal on the Coat of Arms represent?

A coat of arms of any country is the highest visual symbol of that country, and is part of the great seal, which confers absolute authority on all documents bearing it.

South Africa's new coat of arms was launched on Freedom Day, 27 April 2000, during former president, Thabo Mbeki's, administration. It was created by designer, Iaan Bekker, and replaced the former coat of arms, which had been in use since 1932.

South Africa Coat of Arms

3. What are the Symbols on the South African Coat of Arms?

The South African Coat of Arms is elegant and contemporary in design and distinctly egg-shaped.

The Rising Sun
An emblem of brightness, splendour and the supreme principle of the nature of energy, it symbolises the promise of rebirth, the active faculties of reflection, knowledge, good judgement and willpower. It is the symbol of the source of life, of light and the ultimate wholeness of humanity.

The Secretary Bird
The secretary bird is characterised in flight, the natural consequence of growth and speed. It is the equivalent of the lion on Earth.
A powerful bird whose legs, depicted as the spear and knobkierie, serve it well in its hunt for snakes, symbolising protection of the nation against its enemies.
Its uplifted wings are an emblem of the ascendance of our nation, while simultaneously offering us its protection. It is depicted in gold, which clearly symbolises its association with the sun and the highest power.

The Protea
The King protea is an emblem of the beauty of our land and the flowering of our potential as a nation in pursuit of the African Renaissance. The King protea symbolises the holistic integration of forces that grow from the Earth and are nurtured from above. The most popular colours of Africa have been assigned to the King Protea - green, gold, red and black.

The Spear and Knobkierie
Dual symbols of defence and authority, they in turn represent the powerful legs of the secretary bird. The spear and knobkierie are lying down, symbolising peace.

The Shield
It has a dual function as a vehicle for the display of identity and of spiritual defence. It contains the primary symbol of our nation - the human figures.

The Human Figures
The figures are derived from images on the Linton stone, a world-famous example of South African rock art, now housed and displayed in the South African Museum in Cape Town.
The Khoisan, the oldest known inhabitants of our land and most probably of the Earth, testify to our common humanity and heritage as South Africans and as humanity in general.
The figures are depicted in an attitude of greeting, symbolising unity. This also represents the beginning of the individual's transformation into the greater sense of belonging to the nation and by extension, collective humanity.

The Ears of Wheat
An emblem of fertility also symbolises the idea of germination, growth and the feasible development of any potential. It relates to the nourishment of the people and signifies the agricultural aspects of the Earth.

Elephant Tusks
Elephants symbolise wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity.

South African Motto

4. What is South Africa's Motto?

!ke e: /xarra //ke, written in the Khoisan language of the /Xam people.

Literally translated it means "diverse people unite" and replaces the former Ex unitate vires, Latin for "unity is strength".

Pronunciation of: !ke e: /xarra //ke:

  • ! - Place the tip of the tongue against the gum root in the middle of the mouth and click hard. This is similar to the q sound in Zulu, for example in iqanda (egg)

  • k - Not pronounced and followed by a short ê sound, as in nest.

  • e: - A very long ê which is pronounced with a dip in the voice, like a sheep bleating; similar to ê-hê-hê-hê.

  • / - Place the tongue softly against the root of the teeth in the middle front of the mouth. Then click with the middle of the tongue. The sound is similar to the c sound in Zulu, for example in ucingo (telephone).

  • x - Similar to a prolonged gggg sound in Afrikaans, leading to gggarra.

  • // - Another click, this time with the side of the tongue against the palate, similar to the x sound in the word Xhosa. The k is not pronounced.

South African Flag

5. Who Designed the South African Flag?

The national flag was designed by a former South African State Herald, Mr Fred Brownell, and was first used on 27 April 1994.

6. What Does the South African Flag Symbolise?

The design and colours are a synopsis of principal elements of the country's flag history.

Individual colours, or colour combinations represent different meanings for different people and therefore no universal symbolism should be attached to any of the colours.

The only symbolism in the flag is the V or Y shape, which can be interpreted as "the convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity".

7. How Do You Fly the South African Flag?

When the flag is displayed vertically against a wall, the red band should be to the left of the viewer with the hoist or the cord seam at the top.

When it is displayed horizontally, the hoist should be to the left of the viewer and the red band at the top.

When the flag is displayed next to or behind the speaker at a meeting, it must be placed to the speaker's right.

When it is placed elsewhere in the meeting place, it should be to the right of the audience.

South Africa National Anthem

8. The National Anthem

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika

Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist school teacher, wrote the first verse and chorus and also composed the music in "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (which means "God Bless Africa") as a hymn in 1897.

'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' was publicly performed in 1899 for the first time. Sontonga wrote the first verse in Xhosa. Samuel Mqhayi, a poet, contributed seven additional verses, also in Xhosa.

In 1927 the Lovedale Press, in the Eastern Cape, published all the verses in a pamphlet form. In 1942, Moses Mphahlele published a Sesotho version of the hymn. Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika was further popularised by Reverend JL Dube's Ohlange Zulu Choir and the hymn proved to be a hit in church services across South Africa.

At the first meeting of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the forerunner of the African National Congress (ANC), Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika was immediately sung after the closing prayer.

In 1925 the ANC officially adopted it as a closing anthem for its meetings. It was later adopted as an anthem at political meetings and sung as an act of defiance during the Apartheid years. It became known as the unofficial national anthem of South Africa.

In the national anthem the first verse is performed in Xhosa (first two lines) and Zulu (third and fourth lines). The second verse is performed in Sesotho.

The Call of South Africa (Die Stem van Suid-Afrika)

Die Stem van Suid-Afrika is a poem written by Cornelis Jacobus (C.J.) Langenhoven in 1918. In 1919 a Cape newspaper, "Die Burger", sponsored a competition for the music, but initial attempts were unsatisfactory to Laneghoven. Suitable music was ultimately supplied by Marthinus de Villiers in 1921.

It was first sung publicly at the official hoisting of the national flag in Cape Town in 1928 and was further popularised when the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) began to close its daily broadcasts with both "God Save the King" and "Die Stem".

In 1936 the "Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings", unanimously selected the poem by Langenhoven and the music of de Villiers as the winners of a competition to find the best lyrics and music for an official National Anthem.

In 1952, an English translation was selected from more than 220 submissions.

It was only in 1957, however, that the government acquired the copyright and accepted "Die Stem" as the official National Anthem of South Africa.


 Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika (Xhosa)

 God [Lord] bless Africa

 Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo, (Xhosa)

 May her glory be lifted high

 Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Zulu)

 Hear our petitions

 Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo. (Zulu)

 God bless us, your children

 Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,

 God we ask You to protect our nation

 O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,

 Intervene and end all conflicts

 O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
 Setjhaba sa, South Afrika. (Sesotho)

 Protect us, protect our nation,
 our nation, South Africa

 South Afrika!

 South Africa!

 Uit die blou van onse hemel,

 Ringing out from our blue heavens,

 Uit die diepte van ons see,

 From our deep seas breaking round,

 Oor ons ewige gebergtes,

 Over everlasting mountains,

 Waar die kranse antwoord gee, (Afrikaans)

 Where the echoing crags resound,

 Sounds the call to come together,


 And united we shall stand,


 Let us live and strive for freedom,


 In South Africa our land. (English)


South Africa Bushmen

9. Who Were the First Inhabitants of South Africa?

Earliest inhabitants - The earliest South Africans were the hunter-gatherer San (Bushmen) and the pastoral Khoekhoe (Hottentots), which were collectively the Khoisan.

Both lived on the southern tip of the continent for thousands of years before written history began with the arrival of European seafarers.

10. Who Was the First White Person in South Africa?

The first permanent European settlement was established by the Dutch on 6 April 1652, when they established a garrisoned trading station at Table Bay.

On that April day, Jan van Riebeeck arrived with 3 ships and a company of 90 men, women and children.

South Africa Zulu Poeple

11. When Was the Zulu Kingdom Established?

When the early Portuguese sailors rounded the Cape of Good Hope in the 15th century, very few Bantu speakers were found there.

By 1600 all of what is now South Africa had been settled: by Khoisan peoples in the west and the southwest, by Sotho-Tswana in the Highveld, and by Nguni along the coastal plains.

The Zulu (Zulu: amaZulu) are a Bantu ethnic group of Southern Africa and the largest ethnic group in South Africa, with an estimated 10 - 12 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.

Southern Africa's contribution to the Cradle of Humankind is borne out by several important archaeological sites, not least the Border Caves of our Zulu Kingdom's north-eastern quadrant.

Here lies evidence of 150 000 years of human occupation and some of the oldest Homo sapiens remains on earth.

These 'ancient ones' were the small- statured, ochre-skinned races of Later Stone Age hunter-gatherer generically referred to as Bushmen.

Related neither to the Zulu nor their deeply revered ancestors, the Bushmen were descendants of Early Stone Age progenitors who had enjoyed the same fruits of this bountiful terrain for a million-plus years before them.

Clans and loosely-connected family groups followed seasonal game migrations between mountain-range and in caves, beneath rocky overhangs or in temporary shelters of branches and antelope skins.

These nomadic people neither domesticated animals nor cultivated crops, even though their knowledge of both flora and fauna was encyclopaedic.

Bushmen 'classified' thousands of plants and their uses - from nutritional to medicinal, mystical to recreational and lethal - while displaying their spiritual connection with the creatures around them in the fascinating rock-art which continues to intrigue modern investigators.

The Bushmen probably imagined no deviations in lifestyle beyond those compelled by the fluctuations of nature, but forces of change were gathering to their north.

Zulu Ancestors

In the Great Lakes region of sub-equatorial Central-to-East Africa lived black races collectively labelled by early European anthropologists as 'Bantu' - a term derived from the Zulu collective noun for 'people' but used in certain scholarly circles to differentiate black languages from the click-tongues of Bushmen to the south. Among these so-called Bantu were the Zulu ancestors - the Nguni people.

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