When the new flag was designed it was specifically stated that the colors had no official meaning and/or symbolism, other than the reason for their choice arose from their use in the past in flags in the country (red, white and blue from the Dutch and British communities and black, green and gold from the flags of the various liberation movements: ANC, Inkhatha, PAC etc). Only the Y, the ‘pall’, has an official meaning, namely the convergence and going forward as one unified nation of previously disparate groups in South Africa. However, the following meanings have been ascribed to the flag:
- Red for bloodshed
- Blue of open blue skies
- Green for the land
- Black for the black people
- White for the European people
- Yellow for the natural resources
A nationwide competition invited the public to submit flag designs but none of those submitted were supported by the committee charged to select the final design. An interim flag was designed by State Herald Frederick G. Brownell for the 27 April elections, the nation's first fully-inclusive elections, and for Nelson Mandela's May 10 inauguration. The flag was so well received that the interim version was made the final, national flag in the South African Constitution.
The advent of true democracy in South Africa led to the adoption of the constitution on 8 May 1996. The constitution, one of the most progressive of its kind, includes the Bill of Rights which contains the following clause:
The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
With a clause like that, you can see what a huge break from the apartheid past was heralded by the democratic era.
Twelve years later, things have changed in so many ways for so much the better but South Africa has its fair share of woes that make the daily lives of millions of South Africans a misery.
Various commentators have said that until the youth of the country are able to live in a country that does not suffer a 40% unemployment and have one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, they are not truly free. I fully understand those sentiments but despite high levels of government incompetence and corruption, I believe the country is immeasurably better than it was.