- After South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994, a Government of National Unity
(GNU) was formed.
- Government agreed that prior to the 1994 elections, there were important historical days
that the apartheid government did not recognise.
- These days were "unofficially" commemorated but not part of calendar of public
- Cabinet decided that there should be a day (24 September) on which South Africans
commemorate their heritage.
- The Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST), as the custodian of South Africa's culture,
was given the responsibility to plan and manage events for Heritage Day at national level
- The first Heritage Day commemoration took place on 24 September 1995.
- Although South Africans have diverse cultures, elements of national unity, nation
building, reconciliation and national patriotism should be emphasised.
- The ideal is to preserve, exhibit and promote our diverse but connected cultures.
- Heritage Day should encourage the youth, in particular, to embrace South Africa's common
- MINMEC decided that the theme for Heritage Day 2001 should be Celebrating National
- MINMEC declared the week of 17-24 September 2001 as National Symbols Week.
- The rationale behind this theme is that most South Africans do not understand the role
of national symbols in nation building.
- The symbols to be emphasised are:
- Government also realises that since South Africa became a democratic country, there have
not been enough efforts to educate the public about the importance of national symbols.
- Our national symbols do not receive the dignified respect they deserve.
- It is often due to lack of information than disrespect that the majority of South
Africans do not observe the national symbols.
- Consequently, places such as museums and monuments, even those established recently
under the democratic government, still do not enjoy patronage by all sections of the
- Museums and monuments are still generally alien to the ordinary South Africans.
- Government is also aware that national symbols can play an important role towards
reconciliation and patriotism if programmes to popularise the nation are introduced.
- The performance/singing of the national anthem by ordinary members of the public is
still characterised by racial patterns.
- This divisive situation does not augur well for our democracy and needs to be changed.
- It is also necessary that government popularise the new coat of arms and make it the
trademark of South Africa.
- Government acknowledges that it needs to do more to popularise the national symbols and
therefore it would be inaccurate to conclude that all of these negative patterns are
manifestations of non-patriotism and defiance.
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OBJECTIVES OF HERITAGE DAY 2001
- Promote the Heritage theme of Celebrating National Symbols
- Encourage the public to fight for unity, reconciliation, tolerance and common heritage
between cultural groups.
- Create awareness to the public that national symbols could play a unifying role and
instil a sense of patriotism among South Africans
- Mobilise the entire country across cultural and racial lines celebrate Heritage Day as
- Create awareness and educate the public about the national symbols and their importance
- Position national symbols as metaphors of national pride and elements of democracy
- Emphasise the importance of active participation by ordinary South Africans to make
democracy and social integration work for all.
- Celebrating national symbols
CELEBRATING OUR NATIONAL SYMBOLS
What are our National Symbols?
Our national symbols are those official visual and verbal marks that identify us as a
nation. National symbols are defined in terms of the Constitution and are meant to promote
reconciliation and nation building. In the constitution it is stated that the Republic of
South Africa is a sovereign democratic state founded on the following values:
- Human dignity, the achievement of equality and advancement of human rights and freedoms
- Non-racialism and non-sexism
- The supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law
- Universal adult suffrage, national common voters roll, regular election, and a
multiparty system of democratic government to ensure accountability, responsiveness and
These values are expressed in South Africa's:
- National Flag which we see as flying in the wind
- National Anthem which we hear being played on official occasions and which is sung by us
at schools and at sports events
- National Coat of Arms which we see on government buildings, documents, vehicles, etc.
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The new national Flag of the Republic of
South Africa was taken into use on 27 April 1994. It was
hoisted just after midnight as
the new nation was born. The design and colours of the flag are an outline of the
principal colours of South Africa's flag history, from the earliest times to the present.
- There are a few important rules to adhere to when using the national Flag:
- The flag should be treated with respect. It should not be allowed to drag on the ground
or have something paced on top of it.
- A flag is read like a book - from top to bottom and from left to right. Therefore it
should be displayed in the correct manner:
- When displayed horizontally, the hoist should be to the left of the spectator and the
red band uppermost. When the flag is flown upside down, it is a sign that the country is
- When displayed vertically against a wall, the red band should be on the left of the
spectator with the hoist uppermost
- When displayed next to or behind the speaker, it should be placed on the speaker's right
- When the National Flag is displayed with other flags, it should be:
- Hoisted first and lowered last
- On the spectators' left if displayed on crossed staffs and its staff
- must be in front of the staff of the other flag
- On the marching right in a procession with another flag/s
- and on the right of a building when flown with national flags or other countries (all
same size and flown at equal height).
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The National Anthem
Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa South Afrika - South Afrika.
Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.
This is the official version of the national Anthem, combining Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika,
Die Stem and The Call of South Africa. As with all our National Symbols, the National
Anthem should be treated with dignity and respect when played or sung.
Coat of Arms
The role of a Coat of Arms
The national Coat of Arms, or State symbol, is the highest visual symbol of the State.
Take a minute to consider the important events in your life - birth, marriage, death and
school certificates, your passport - they are all made official by the Coat of Arms. Your
smallest coin has it on one of its sides. When away from the country seeing this symbol on
the embassy building signals a home away from home. The Coat of Arms is also a central
part of the Great Seal, traditionally considered to be the highest symbol of the State.
Absolute power is given to every document with a mark of the Great Seal on it, as this
means that it has the support of the President of South Africa.
A new Coat of Arms replaced one that has served
South Africa since 17 September 1910. The change reflects Government's aim to highlight
the democratic change in South Africa and a new sense of nationalism.
Symbols have been used as an easy way of democratically empowering especially those
South Africans who have for so long been excluded from most of the decision-making
processes in this country. The symbols of political parties were used in the 1994 election
for easy identification on ballot papers.
The three primary national symbols dealt with here represent this new democracy and
replace all previous equivalent symbols. Key values underpinning these new symbols are
reconciliation, unity in diversity and nation building. Through these symbols every South
African is encouraged, mobilised, energised and inspired to own the process of taking this
nation from a divided past to a unified future.
Issued by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, 14 September 2001
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