The present coat of arms of South Africa was introduced on Freedom Day April 27, 2000. It replaced the earlier national arms, which had been in use since 1910. The motto ǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke is written in the Khoisan language of the ǀXam people and translates literally to "diverse people unite". The previous motto, in Latin, was Ex unitate vires, translated as "unity is strength".
The first coat of arms was granted by King George V by Royal Warrant on 17 September 1910. This was a few months after the formation of the Union of South Africa.
It was a combination of symbols representing the four provinces (formerly colonies) that made up the Union.
- The first quarter is the figure of Hope, representing the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope.
- The two wildebeests of the second quarter represent Colony of Natal.
- The orange tree in the third quarter was used as the symbol of the Orange Free State Republic.
- The wagon in the fourth quarter represented the Transvaal.
- The supporters are taken from the arms of the Orange River Colony and the Cape Colony.
- The lion holds four rods, bound together, symbolizing the unification of the four former colonies.
The motto, Ex Unitate Vires was officially translated as "Union is Strength" until 1961, and thereafter as "Unity is Strength".
The design process was initiated when, in 1999, the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology requested ideas for the new coat-of-arms from the public. A brief was then prepared based on the ideas received, along with input from the Cabinet. The Government Communication and Information System then approached Design South Africa to brief ten of the top designers. Three designers were chosen to present their concepts to the Cabinet. Iaan Bekker's design was chosen.
The new arms were introduced on Freedom Day, 27 April 2000. The change reflected government's aim to highlight the democratic change in South Africa and a new sense of patriotism.
The Coat of Arms is a series of elements organised in distinct symmetric egg-like or oval shapes placed on top of one another. The completed structure of the Coat of Arms combines the lower and higher oval shape in a symbol of infinity. The path that connects the lower edge of the scroll, through the lines of the tusks, with the horizon above and the sun rising at the top, forms the shape of the cosmic egg from which the secretary bird rises. In the symbolic sense, this is the implied rebirth of the spirit of the great and heroic nation of South Africa.
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