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 the 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. The first South African national flag, introduced in 1928, superseded it.
The Hertzog administration introduced the flag after several years of political controversy. Approved by Parliament in 1927, it was first hoisted on May 31, 1928.
The flag reflected the Union's predecessors. The basis was the Prince's Flag (royal tricolour) of the Netherlands, 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 May 31, 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 the State Herald, Frederick Brownell therefore designed a new flag. Approved by the Transitional Executive Council on March 20, 1994, and officially authorised by state president F.W. de Klerk on April 20, 1994, it was officially hoisted a week later, on April 27, 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.