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Gauteng Province

Gauteng Province

Gauteng’s arms were unveiled outside the Provincial Legislature in Johannesburg for the first time on 17 July 1995. They may be blazoned:

Arms: Upon a Nguni shield azure reinforced with four thongs on either side argent, a pick or upright.

Crest: A crown composed of a torse argent and or embellished with alternating symbols of iron argent and bees or, showing two half-symbols and one whole, with two bees between.

Supporters, compartment and motto: Two lions rampant proper standing upon two gold bars; between the two bars a third; the motto inscribed upon the three bars reading: Unity in diversity.

Arms explained:
The province’s name means “place of gold”, and only the Sotho name is used, despite the many other languages spoken in the province. (“Sotho” embraces not only North and South Sotho but also Tswana.) The word is derived from the Sesotho gauta (gold), which in turn comes from the Dutch and Afrikaans goud, plus the locative suffix -ng. Nguni uses a slightly altered form of the name, iRhauteni, but its pronunciation is almost the same. The first sound is the guttural G of Sesotho, Afrikaans and Dutch.

The name is in Sesotho, because it lies slightly to the east of centre in the Sotho-speaking interior of the country, which largely coincides with the Highveld and the mountainous uplands of Limpopo Province. However, ever since the discovery of gold in 1886 the Witwatersrand has experienced an influx of migrant labour from many parts of South Africa (within its present boundaries) and from further afield. The province is home to people of many languages, but among those communities the speakers of Zulu form a majority, and when speakers of Xhosa, Swazi and Ndebele are added to that figure it makes for a majority of Nguni-speakers – hence the choice of a Nguni shield shape, rather than that traditional among the Sotho-speaking peoples.

The Nguni shield comes in three forms: the traditional Nguni war shield is the height of a man; the Zulu war shield is is about 600 mm long; and the Nguni stick-fighting shield (used in the traditional exercise of young men) is little more than 300 mm long. But all three have the same shape, more or less. It is cut from cowhide and supported by a framework of sticks, which are removed for travelling and re-inserted for use. The framework is bound to the shield with cowhide thongs which are often in a contrasting colour and produce the characteristic pattern of short rectangular bars across the shield.

However, the colours of blue, silver and gold are distinctly Western, and avoid the cowhide colours traditional for African shields, which points to the existence of many immigrant communities from other parts of the world (especially Europe) who live there.

Gauteng is in fact the most polyglot of all South Africa’s provinces. It is the only one where all 11 of the country’s official languages are spoken, and a large number of European languages are spoken by sizeable communities.

The pick symbolises the mining activities on which the wealth of the province have been built. A pick also appeared in the arms of Southern Rhodesia and the Republic of Rhodesia, which was also built on mining activities – or at least the expectation of great wealth.

In the crest, the iron symbols point to other activities, especially the iron and steel works of Pretoria and the Vaal Triangle, but also to manufacturing and heavy engineering, while the bees both symbolise economic activity and reinforce the golden element in the arms. They also allude to Pretoria, which has bees not only in the city arms but in those of Pretoria University.

The crest is referred to as a crown, but its base is clearly a torse, or crest-wreath. Also unusual (in fact highly irregular in heraldry) is the use of two metals in the torse. This is perhaps deliberate, to underline the mineral wealth of the region.

The lions (Leo leo) are there first and foremost because the region was inhabited by lions when white settlers first arrived there at the time of the Great Trek (and for a considerable time afterward), but also because the lion appears in the arms of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek and Transvaal Province, and in the emblems of the Transvaal Colony.

The provincial sporting bodies based in Johannesburg (as opposed to those in Pretoria) have traditionally used lions in their badges. Before 1994 the Southern Transvaal Cricket Union used the arms of the ZAR for its own emblem, and the Transvaal (now Gauteng) Rugby Union has for many years used a lion as its badge. The professional team run by the GRU is now known as the Gauteng Lions. Members of this team and of the Free State team, the Cheetahs, combine as the Cats to play in Super 12 rugby.

The gold bars forming the compartment again allude to the region’s gold mining activities – it is the world’s largest producer of gold, and has been so for well over a century. They appear to have been derived from the three gold weights in the arms of Johannesburg.

The motto is in English because it is seen as a neutral medium of communication.

About the province:
The province – previously part of the Transvaal 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 by and from the Provincial Legislature, who is assisted by an Executive Council drawn from the Legislature.

The province was initially called PWV – this name arose in economic statistics, which grouped the Witwatersrand with Pretoria and the Vaal Triangle as the economic hub of the country and its most densely settled conurbation. One of the first acts of the Provincial Legislature was to adopt the name Gauteng.

It comprises the districts of:

Hammanskraal, Cullinan, Bronkhorstspruit, Pretoria, Krugersdorp, Randburg, Kempton Park, Delmas, Randfontein, Roodepoort, Johannesburg, Germiston, Brakpan, Springs, Alberton, Nigel, Carletonville, Westonaria, Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging and Heidelberg.

It is the smallest in area of all the provinces – less than half the size of Mpumalanga, the next smallest – but by far and away the largest in population. Its Provincial Legislature has twice as many seats as KwaZulu-Natal, the most densely populated of the rural provinces.

It is hard to understand why Sasolburg (south of the Vaal River in Free State) was omitted from the province, since – together with Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark – it is an integral part of the Vaal Triangle.

Yet at the same time the population concentration is so large that it could be reasonably argued that it should be split into three – Witwatersrand, Greater Pretoria and Vaal Triangle, with the outlying districts of Hammanskraal, Cullinan and Bronkhorstspruit being allocated to the provinces lying nearest.

Power has been concentrating in Gauteng since the foundation of Pretoria in 1855, and especially since the discovery of gold, but it is worth noting that even before the Great Trek it had been a node of power. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele kingdom of Zimbabwe, had his capital in the vicinity of Pretoria shortly before the start of the Great Trek.


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  • Image courtesy of Bruce Berry.


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