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Republic of Botswana

Last modified: 2017-05-21 by bruce berry
Keywords: botswana | africa | bechuanaland | pula |
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[Flag of Botswana][Variant]2:3~ image by Mark Sensen and António Martins, 22 Apr 1999
Flag adopted 30 September 1966

See also:

Explanation of the flag

The colours on the flag correspond to those on the national coat of arms. The blue represents water (the motto on the national arms is PULA, meaning "let there be rain"). The white-black-white bands depict the racial harmony of the people as well as the pluralist nature of the society. They are inspired by the coat of the zebra, the national animal.
Nick Artimovich, 01 November 1996

The blue colour a symbol of rain, how lovely!
Heather Chalcraft, 27 Apr 2003

I returned today after ten days in Botswana. Flag flying is not very common and is mainly restricted to the government and the larger commercial organisations. Many of the flags which I saw were in a very sorry state of repair - a case of up the pole and forgotten! On further inquiry I learned that there is a law which requires government permission to be granted before the flag of Botswana can be flown. How effectively this is implemented (if at all) is unclear but it might explain the lack of flags. Certainly there were no flags available for purchase.
Bruce Berry, 14 April 1998

The colour shade for the blue used on the national flag is being discussed by the Cabinet.  There has been a problem with standardisation and so flags with various shades of blue (from different manufacturers) are seen and the government wants to change this.  As soon as I get the confirmed details, I will share them with you.
Bruce Berry, 10 May 2001

I just came across the following account of the origins of the Botswana flag and coat of arms in George Winstanley’s book, Under Two Flags in Africa: Recollections of a British Administrator in the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Botswana 1954 to 1972 (Colchester: Blackwater Books, 2000). George Winstanley arrived in the Bechuanaland Protectorate in1954. After being a District Administrator at several stations, he was transferred to Headquarters in 1962. He was a Clerk to the Legislative and Executive Councils and later Clerk to the Cabinet where he worked closely with Sir Seretse Khama where he helped to organise the first general election in 1965 and the second in 1969. On his retirement in 1972 he was Permanent Secretary for Agriculture.

Regarding the Botswana flag, he states:
"...But I became much involved in selecting a national anthem and in the design of the coat of arms and the flag... It was decided to hold competitions for all three to try and involve the population at large. I issued the necessary notices and received several entries for each category...” (p.235).  "The entries received in the flag competition were hopeless so I designed the flag myself.  I wanted to make it easy to draw hence the all the straight horizontal lines. The blue background of the flag represents water – vital to the country's agriculture - and the black central strip bordered with two white strips represents racial harmony" (p.236).

Regarding the coat of arms:
"The coat of arms proved more difficult. We received two good entries, one from Lady Fawcus (spouse of Sir Robert Peter Fawcus, HM Commissioner between 1963 and 1965) and one form Lady England (spouse of the then Director of Agriculture). However, the Cabinet decided that neither was suitable as it stood and asked me to arrange for the best in both to be combined. My wife made the sketch as directed and after Cabinet approval this was submitted to the College of Heralds in the UK who made more alterations and produced a final design. The two zebra symbolise the abundant wildlife in the country as well as alluding to black/white co-operation, the ivory tusk also refers to the wildlife, the ox head and the stalk of sorghum refer to agricultural resources, the interlocking cogwheels suggest the mineral potential and the wavy blue lines emphasise the importance of water in an arid country such as Botswana. The supporting word "PULA" - the Setswana word for 'rain' - suggests happiness and optimism" (p.236).
Gerald Noeske, 11 Sept 2004

Legislation on Botswana emblems

Act 25,1966

PART I Blazon of the Arms or Ensigns Armorial of Botswana

Argent three barrulets wavy in fesse azure between in chief three cog-wheels, one above engaged with two below and in base a bull's head caboshed proper, and for the supporters on either side a zebra the dexter supporting an elephant's tusk the sinister a stalk of sorghum proper. Motto "Pula".

PART II Design of the National Flag of Botswana

Five horizontal stripes having colour and width as follows, that is to say taken from the top:
1st Stripe - azure blue having a width equal to 9/24ths of the total depth of the flag.
2nd Stripe - white having a width equal to 1/24th of such depth.
3rd Stripe - black having a width equal to 4/24ths of such depth.
4th Stripe - white having a width equal to 1/24th of such depth.
5th Stripe - azure blue having a width equal to 9/24ths of such depth.

PART III  Design of the Standard of the President of Botswana

An azure blue flag with a black circular disk (having a diameter equal to 12/24ths of the depth of the flag) superimposed on the centre of the flag, a white circular disk (having a diameter equal to 10/24ths of the depth of the flag) superimposed on the centre of the black disk and the coat of arms superimposed on the white disk.
Source: Government document about Botswana Emblems.
Santiago Tazon, 27 Apr 2001

This agrees with what I posted recently based on Album 2000 information. However, I drew the white disk on presidential flag sized 11/24 (as I had no numbers there).
Željko Heimer, 30 Apr 2001

Construction sheet

[Botswana flag construction sheet] image by Željko Heimer, 18 Mar 2001

The construction sheet is provided along the edges of the figure so (9+1+4+1+9):36. The image at FOTW agrees with this, either Mark Sensen was aware of this data or he had a good artistic feeling.
Željko Heimer, 18 Mar 2001

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual, London, 2012) [loc12] provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each National Olympic Committee was sent an image of their flag, including the PMS shades, by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) for their approval. Once this was obtained, the LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specifications may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the National Olympic Committee believed their flag to be.

For Botswana : PMS 277 blue and black. The vertical version is simply the flag turned through 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 Oct 2012

Botswana flag as a casket cover

I found in "Courrier International" (#524, 16 November 2000) a rather odd story involving the Botswana flag.
The original paper reporting the story is from the Spanish newspaper "El Pais". A colour picture shows the casket of "El Negro de Banyoles" just before the funeral ceremony hold in Gaborone on 5 October 2000.

Who was "El Negro de Banyoles"?
Ca. 1830, two French adventurers-naturalists living in Cape Town, Jules and Edouard Verreaux, unearthed the corpse of a tribal chief shortly after his funeral and stuffed it using taxidermy methods. In 1888, the Catalan veterinarian Francisco Darder, then curator of the zoo of Barcelona, bought the stuffed corpse, known as "the Bechuana", and exhibited it later in the Darder Museum he founded in 1916 in Banyoles (province of Gerona) to display his naturalist's collections. "El Negro" became a source of fascination and legends for the inhabitants of the city.
In 1991, the physician Alphonse Arcelin, of Haitian origin, asked the municipality to remove the corpse from the Museum. The corpse was removed from the Museum during the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games to avoid a risk of boycott by African countries.
In 1996, the Spanish government decided to avoid an international crisis and asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find a solution. Since the warrior had lived in Southern Africa, and even if his real ethnical origin is unknown, the government of Botswana decided to claim and re-bury the corpse. The warrior had probably lived in what is now South Africa, but South Africa was not considered a suitable solution because of its political situation.
In September 2000, the corpse was removed one night from the Museum and sent to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, and buried during an official ceremony in  Tsholofelo. Since it was not possible to decide whether the warrior was a Tswana, a Bushman (Khoisan) he was re-buried as an "African".
Ivan Sache, 26 Nov 2000

Botswana flag on stamps

Botswana offers but one example of an actual Flag on Stamp, namely the commemorative issue for the tenth anniversary of the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland; this features the flags of all three of the countries (I believe that the university has subsequently split into its component parts, but I may be wrong on this). There are a few issues which show the Botswana state arms, and while these are not specifically flag related I have included them for the benefit of those of us who might be interested in political or state heraldry; these issues are identified with an (H) after the topic.

241 Human Rights Year 1968 Arms of Botswana & Human Rights Emblem (H)
242/43 " " As above, but with different arrangements and positioning of symbols
284 Fifth Anniversary 1971 Arms & map of Botswana (H) of independence
317 Tenth Anniversary 1974 Map & flags of the three of University of countries Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland.
Ron Lahav, 28 Jun 2005