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Armoria patrić

Free State Province

Lebatoa la Freistata

Provinsie Vrystaat

Free State Province

These arms were registered by the State Herald on 7 May 1999. The official blazon reads:

Arms: Per chevron inverted, Or and Vert, the head of an Orange River Lily (Crinum bulbispermum) with three blossoms and four buds slipped proper and a chief dancetty, the peaks terminating in merlons, Azure; the shield ensigned of a circlet Or, embellished with representations of cut diamonds Argent, enamelled Azure against the upper and Vert against the lower facets, heightened of four heads of maize Argent, leaved Or, alternating with as many ears of wheat of the last.

Supporters: Two cheetahs proper.

Special compartment: A representation of the Free State plains proper.

Motto: Katleho ka kopano.

The central charge is the Orange River lily, so named because early explorers like Burchell observed large numbers of them growing on the seasonally inundated banks of the Orange or Gariep River. The species is now known to occur along all the tributaries of the Orange – including the Vaal River – and has been recorded from most parts of the Free State, the southern areas of the former Transvaal province, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Lesotho and the Northern Cape. It was the official flower of the Orange Free State Province.

This large, stately flower – now classified as belonging to the Amaryllidaceć, but previously classified under Liliaceć – always grows in swampy areas which become dry in winter. Its deciduous habitat ensures its survival. Flowering occurs from October to December and seed is set in quantity. As in all Crinums, the seed has a spongy impervious outer layer which allows it to float. Germination is rapid but the plants take many years to reach the flowering stage. In spite of this it is a popular garden plant and was introduced into cultivation in England in the 18th century. Flowers are from white to pink, with a red stripe down the centre of the petals. The name Crinum is derived from the Greek krinon, meaning lily.

The green in the base of the shield alludes to the grazing that made the Free State attractive to early stock herders – the Khoikhoi who first introduced cattle to this part of the subcontinent, the Sotho-speaking herdsmen who settled in this region about a thousand years ago, the Trekboere who first ventured into the Free State following the Difaqane[1] and the Griqua[2] who lived along the Orange River.

The upper part of the shield resembles the koppies typical of many parts of South Africa, including the Free State. They were formed in the geological past by the erosion of rock layers that left isolated hilltops of dolomite rock.

The embellishment of the coronet comprises alternating maize cobs and wheat ears. The eastern parts of the Free State, especially along the Caledon River valley, form one of only two regions of South Africa favourable to the cultivation of wheat, while the northern areas of the Free State fall into the so-called Maize Quadrangle, an area extending into the former Transvaal Province which is highly favourable for maize cultivation.

The band of the coronet features diamonds, an allusion to the diamonds mined at Koffiefontein, as well as to the alluvial diamonds still occasionally found along the Orange River. There could also be an ironic reference to the Kimberley diamond fields, which were claimed by the Oranje Vrij Staat in the 1870s and to which it was later proved the Boer republic had a stronger claim than was acknowledged by the arbitrator in the diamond fields dispute.

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the world’s fastest animal on land, and can reach speeds of up to 95 km/h over a short distance. Its natural range covers much of the African continent as well as parts of Asia, although it has been reduced in numbers and the Asian subspecies is endangered. It has long been regarded as a special animal in the Free State, and the provincial rugby team is called the Free State Cheetahs.

The compartment demonstrates the geological strata that characterise the Free State plains, and also includes two koppies. The green of the lowest layer reflects the lush vegetation of river valleys.

The motto translates as “Success through unity.”

These arms appear on an official government website here

About the province:
The Free State Province formally came into being on 27 April 1994, when all-race elections were held for the first time in South Africa. It is headed by a Premier, elected from and by the Provincial Legislature, who is supported by an Executive Council whose members must be members of the legislature.

Although it was formed out of the former Orange Free State Province, the Thaba Nchu district of Bophuthatswana and the non-independent homeland state of QwaQwa, it is nonetheless the province of South Africa that has changed the least in terms of surface area. It had the same area in 2000 as its predecessors had had in 1910 and in 1890.

Including these two “homeland” areas, the province comprises the 51 magisterial districts of:

Bethlehem, Bethulie, Bloemfontein, Boshof, Bothaville, Brandfort, Bultfontein, Clocolan, Dewetsdorp, Edenburg, Excelsior, Fauresmith, Ficksburg, Fouriesburg, Frankfort, Harrismith, Heilbron, Hennenman, Hoopstad, Jacobsdal, Jagersfontein, Koffiefontein, Koppies, Kroonstad, Ladybrand, Lindley, Marquard, Odendaalsrus, Parys, Petrusburg, Philippolis, Reddersburg, Reitz, Rouxville, Sasolburg, Senekal, Smithfield, Thaba Nchu, Theunissen, Trompsburg, Ventersburg, Viljoenskroon, Virginia, Vrede, Vredefort, Welkom, Wepener, Wesselsbron, Winburg, Witzieshoek and Zastron.

When the 1994 elections were held the new province was provisionally called Orange Free State. However it was not long before the Provincial Legislature decided to drop the word “Orange” from its name because of its colonial connotations.

[1] The Difaqane (as it is called in Sesotho) or Mfecane (its isiNguni name) was a period of warfare and destruction that erupted in the early part of the 19th century and devastated large parts of the Free State. Survivors of the destruction fled, leaving vast empty areas that were then settled first by the Tswana-speaking followers of Moroka (in the Thaba Nchu district) and subsequently by Voortrekkers.

[2] The Afrikaans-speaking Griqua were only the last of a succession of Khoikhoi groups to live on the banks of the Orange River. Originating on the Western Cape coast, they had, by the time they had settled on the river’s banks in the eastern part of what is now the Northern Cape and in the south-western Free State, adopted a lifestyle very like that of the Boer Trekkers, being largely Christian, wearing Western clothing, having firearms, riding horses and using ox-drawn trek wagons.

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  • Scan courtesy of Bruce Berry.

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