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When South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994, the flag of the former Apartheid republic was one of the first symbols of oppression consigned to the garbage heap of history. Members of the public were originally invited to submit designs for the new flag, however none of these were accepted by the committee tasked with selecting the new South African flag.
Instead the committee voted to adopt the interim flag design created by State Herald, Frederick Brownell, as the flag for the new South Africa. The Brownell design was subsequently adopted as the official flag in the South African constitution, and to this day remains an enduring symbol of South African liberation from oppression.
The South African flag is the only national flag in existence featuring 6 different colours. The flag features two horizontal bands, one blue and one red, split by a perpendicular green 'Y' edged in white. The Y is filled in with a black isosceles triangle edged in gold. The South African flag is also unique in that it is the only national flag that doesn't feature a seal or brocade.
Frederick Brownell initially claimed that the new South African flag had no specific symbolism. According to him the choice of colours was merely an attempt to combine the colours of the former South African flag with those used by the various African political parties.
Despite Brownell's claims, a number of unofficial interpretations of the symbolism of the South African flag have been put forward. Many consider the red band to be representative of South Africa's bloody and oppressive history, while the blue band is representative of the country's oceans and large coastline.
Interpretations of the 'Y' shape in the South African flag are somewhat more controversial as the Y and its borders feature the colours of the ruling African National Congress. Some perceive the 'Y' as splitting, or driving through, the red, white and blue flag that was the first symbol of colonial settlement in South Africa.
The vast majority of South Africans are unaware of the fact that the South African flag is protected from misuse by law. According to the laws governing the use of the flag, it may not touch the floor, be used as furniture covering or be printed on commercial items without permission first being obtained from the government.
The National flag shall be rectangular in the proportion of two in the width to three to the length; per pall from the hoist, the upper band red (chilli) and lower band blue, with a black triangle at the hoist; over the partition lines a green pall one fifth the width of the flag, fimbriated white against the red and blue, and gold against the black triangle at the hoist, and the width of the pall and its fimbriations is one third the width of the flag.