You may not be aware that the South African flag was designed by a middle-aged white Anglo-Saxon male called Fred.
Here’s the improbable, but true, story:
After the fall of apartheid a new South African flag was needed, and the new government decided to make the selection process as open, democratic, and fair as possible. The public was asked to submit designs, and thousands of designs were sent in by people ranging from school children to top artists and designers.
A very politically correct committee, consisting of representatives of all races, colours, creeds, languages, genders, and sexual orientations, was created to consider the designs. They came up with a short list of 10 designs which were then published everywhere. The public was then asked to vote on them, so that the most popular could be democratically adopted.
Unfortunately, the reaction of the public was uniformly and overwhelmingly negative. They didn’t like any of the designs. Not one. The most popular hardly got an approval rating extending into double digits. The democratic process had failed. The politicians were at a loss. A new flag was urgently needed for the rapidly approaching independence celebrations. So what was to be done?
This was when Fred Brownell, occupant of the obscure post of State Herald, came to the rescue. He was the only person in the country actually paid a salary to think about the design of the national flag, so naturally nobody had bothered to consult him.
Not often in the life of a State Herald is there a National Vexillological Crisis, but Fred rose to the occasion magnificently. He managed to convene a meeting of the leading politicians, held behind closed doors, and presented to them his own design for the flag. It was the same as the current flag, except for the black triangle at one side.
The political leaders agreed that it would do as well as anything else, but the Black parties insisted that it must have ‘some black in it’. Fred then took out his black marking pen and coloured in the black triangle, producing the present form of the flag.
The next problem was how to present the flag to the public, considering their reaction last time.
The politicians fell back on a tried and trusted method, hallowed by centuries of use. A notice was published in the Government Gazette, and an announcement was made by a minor public official, “This is the new South African flag.” End of story.
Of course, when they put it that way there was no problem. There was just the normal grumbling about government incompetence, and a couple of unprintable jokes about what the flag looked like. However, the South African public soon took the new flag into their hearts, and lived happily ever after.
I’m not sure what the moral of this story is.