The British colonies that existed in the 19th century, flew the British flags, and from the early 1870s some, i.e. Natal, Cape Colony, and later the Orange River Colony and Transvaal, added their own colonial flag badges.
The Union of South Africa, formed in 1910, initially used a red ensign, defaced with a badge depicting the Union coat of arms. This was superseded by the first South African national flag, introduced in 1928.
The flag was introduced by the Hertzog administration, after several years of political controversy. It was approved by Parliament in 1927, and first hoisted on 31 May 1928.
The flag reflected the Union's predecessors. The basis was the 17th-century orange-white-blue Dutch flag, with the addition of a Union Jack to represent the Cape and Natal, the former Orange Free state flag, and the former South African Republic flag.
Until 1957, the flag was flown subordinate to the British Union Jack.
The flag remained unchanged when South Africa became a republic on 31 May 1961. However, there was pressure to change the flag, particularly from Afrikaners who resented the fact that the Union Flag was a part of the flag. The then prime minister, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, had a "clean" flag, comprising three vertical stripes of orange, white, and blue, with a leaping Springbok over a wreath of six Proteas in the centre, designed, but he was assassinated before he could introduce it, and the project died with him in 1966.
South Africa was reconstituted as a democratic state, with equal rights for men and women of all races, in 1994. The old flag's long association with the apartheid era made it unacceptable for the new era, and a new flag was therefore designed by the State Herald, Frederick Brownell. It was approved by the Transitional Executive Council on 20 March 1994, and officially authorised by state president F.W. de Klerk on 20 April 1994. The flag was officially hoisted a week later, on 27 April 1994.
The new flag was intended as an interim measure, but it proved so popular that when the final Constitution was prepared in 1996, it became the permanent flag.
Two horizontal bands of chilli red (top) and blue with a black triangle at the hoist, over all a green horizontal (pall) (Y-shape), fimbriated white against the red and blue and gold against the black.