Eastern Cape Province
These arms were registered by the State Herald on 25 March 1996. They are blazoned:
Arms: Argent, between flanches Gules, in base bars gemelles wavy Azure and in chief a tree-aloe issuant Vert, with three racemes Gules.
Crest: The shield ensigned of a leopard-skin headring proper with a demi-sun issuant Or.
Supporters: Two eland proper.
Motto: Development through Unity.
The central charge is an aloe; its species is not named, but it is most likely Aloe ferox, a tall and striking variety of aloe, or perhaps Aloe arborescens, which can reach a height of three metres. A ferox grows along a largely coastal zone stretching from the Western Cape to KwaZulu-Natal and inland as far as Lesotho. The inflorescence is shown as being red; this is a natural colour, but the flowers in fact range in colour from yellow to red. However, it is common in heraldry to intensify floral colours, or even to reduce purple flowers to red because gules is the strongest of the tinctures.
Reference is made in the official description to the healing properties of aloes, although the plant used for medicinal purposes is in fact Aloe vera, which does not grow so spectacularly. The plant symbolises perseverance and strength.
The three inflorescences sprouting from a single stem are held to symbolise unity among the different groups of people in the province. It is perhaps deliberately left unsaid which three groups are intended (see below).
The shield’s red flanks symbolise the soil, and the blue waves the Eastern Cape’s spectacular coastline. The expression “bars gemelles” means two horizontal stripes; alternating wavy blue lines and white/silver is the usual heraldic shorthand for water. Incidentally, the red flanks would seem to be derived from the ochre colouring in the arms of Transkei. The return to a regular heraldic colour in place of the unique ochre would seem to represent a rejection of what Transkeian independence stood for.
The leopard-skin headring in the crest represents traditional authority; headrings of this kind are worn by tribal chiefs and kings. The leopard is regarded in Nguni culture as a royal beast, and its skin is reserved for royal and chiefly use. The sun rising out of the headring is described as a symbol of prestige, power and the heritage of the province. “It symbolises the friendliness and positive attitude of its people,“ the official description continues. “It also represents a new era and a bright future of growth, development and prosperity.” A rising sun also appears in the arms of both East London and the University of Fort Hare.
The supporters are eland (Taurotragus oryx), by far the most widespread of the larger varieties of antelope in the Eastern Cape. Like most game animals it was hunted out of the region and has had to be reintroduced on nature reserves and game farms. This is the common eland, also known as the Cape eland or Livingstone’s eland. It is smaller than the closely related Derby eland, but the two species together constitute the largest of living antelopes. The Cape eland is also important in folklore, and often appears in the religious rock art of the Bushmen who were the province’s earliest human inhabitants. The bull eland is held to represent magnificence.
Although the majority of the province’s population is Xhosa-speaking, the motto appears in English because the provincial government favours this language as being politically neutral and common to most South Africans. English is used as a medium of instruction in senior primary and secondary schools formerly part of the Bantu education system; it would seem desirable to introduce vernacular instruction, together with the teaching of English as a second language from Grade 1.
About the province:
The Eastern Cape Province – one of four new provinces split from the Cape 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.
The new provice inherited two capitals constructed during the apartheid era with extensive accommodation for legislatures and ministries, namely Bisho (newly built for Ciskei on the outskirts of King William’s Town; it is now spelt as Bhisho) and Umtata (capital of Transkei since 1882, with extensive construction in the 1970s and ’80s; the name is now spelt as Mthatha). Because of its more central position, Bhisho was selected as the capital of the Eastern Cape.
The province was created from the magisterial districts making up Transkei and Ciskei, and from the eastern part of the Cape Province, 45 districts (several of these had names different from their principal towns; where necessary the towns are given in brackets):
Aberdeen, Adelaide, Albany (Grahamstown), Albert (Burgersdorp), Alexandria, Aliwal North, Barkly East, Bathurst (Port Alfred), Bedford, Cathcart, Cradock, East London, Elliot, Fort Beaufort, Graaff-Reinet, Humansdorp, Hankey, Indwe, Jansenville, Joubertina, King William’s Town, Kirkwood, Komga, Lady Grey, Maclear, Maraisburg (Hofmeyr), Middelburg, Molteno, Pearston, Port Elizabeth, Queenstown, Somerset East, Sterkstroom, Steynsburg, Steytlerville, Stutterheim, Tarka (Tarkastad), Uitenhage, Venterstad, Willowmore and Wodehouse (Dordrecht).
The demarcation commission also awarded Griqualand East (magisterial district of Mount Currie, towns of Kokstad and Matatiele; part of the Cape Province until 1976 and subsequently awarded to Natal) to the Eastern Cape, but this has been disputed by KwaZulu-Natal and the matter is not finally resolved, both provinces having erected administrative structures for these two districts.
Provision has been made for the possible division of the province into eastern and western halves, but the present Eastern Cape Government is against this idea, partly because of disagreement over how it should be divided. The current Premier has raised the question again, but no decision has yet been taken.
Because it includes both Ciskei and Transkei, the province has large underdeveloped areas.
Name of the province:
The languages chiefly spoken in the Eastern Cape are isiXhosa (see Ciskei for a discussion of this), English and Afrikaans, which is why the province’s name is given in these three languages.
“Koloni”, meaning colony, is the Xhosa name for the old Cape Province/Colony, and “mpuma” means east (see Mpumalanga; the prefix “le-” means “of”). “Phondo” is the Xhosa for “province” (the prefix “i-” is the definite object).
Careful consideration was given to adopting a new name for the province once it had been in existence for about a year, but despite a number of practical proposals (especially including the name Kei Province, since this river is in the middle of the province), it was decided to keep the name Eastern Cape.
Complaints by Xhosa-speaking residents that the name “Koloni” was demeaning and insulting to black people were considered by the black-dominated provincial government, but the name has not in fact been changed. Suggestions that “Koloni” be changed to “Kapa” are pointless, since Kapa, while occasionally used of the whole former Cape Colony/Province, actually refers to Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula (see also Western Cape).
Languages of the province:
Xhosa is by far the majority language in the province as a whole. English is spoken by relatively large numbers of city dwellers, and by a higher proportion of farmers than in many other parts of the country, but is outnumbered by Afrikaans. English, however, is favoured politically because of the association of Afrikaans with apartheid. Xhosa-speakers east of Port Elizabeth usually have English as their second language, but west of the city they often speak Afrikaans instead.
The province’s population was formerly legally classified according to race: black (literally “Bantu”, covering abeNguni and minority black groups), white and Coloured.
Coloured is used in other countries to indicate people who are part black, part white, but in South Africa it indicates a community, or a grouping of communities, which is chiefly of brown- or yellow-skinned origin, although most Coloured people have some white ancestry and many have some black. The term was used statistically in the Cape Colony to include all who spoke either English or Afrikaans but were not part of the “European” group. The usage has its origin in a classification of the Dutch East India Company under which such people were classified as “vrij zwarten” (free blacks).
It includes people of Asian descent, especially those of Malay origin (Indonesian or Peninsular Malay), but also those of Khoikhoi and Bushman origin. In the rural areas of the western part of the province, most Coloured inhabitants fall into this latter category (Khoikhoi or Bushman) and are Afrikaans-speaking; they also make up the majority of the population in these parts.
 There is much debate over the acceptability of the term Coloured. It is regarded politically correct either not to refer to people of this group with this word, or to say “so-called Coloured”, but there are also many who claim to be Coloured and proud of it.
 The term Khoikhoi (also written as Khoekhoe or Kwekwena) means “men of men”. It is applied to the descendants of Tshu-Khwe Bushmen (still to be found along the Botswana/Zimbabwe border near Hwange) who acquired cattle and trekked southwards, first to the Orange or Gariep River and subsequently to the Eastern and Western Cape coastal regions. The Khoikhoi were previously known (insultingly and incorrectly) as Hottentot.
 It is fashionable to refer to Bushmen as San, since “Bushman” (“Bosjesmannen” in Dutch) was originally a taunt used to describe the rough shelters used by these Stone Age hunters. However, “San” is also a taunt, used by Khoikhoi to dismiss the hunter-gatherers as being “almost animals”. A conference of surviving Bushman/San bands in Namibia in 1995 agreed to use the term Bushman for their ethnic group. The term Khoisan is used to indicate people of either Bushman or Khoikhoi origin.
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Comments, queries: Mike Oettle