To most of us, our school uniform meant something memorable. On the wider plains of life, however, in war and in peace, on sports fields and in hospitals, (and in classrooms) uniforms, badges, flags, and coats of arms have an everyday presence that symbolize different groupings of humans, giving them an identity.

Our national Coat of Arms appears on every official government document, and in all governmental buildings and institutions. This represents a civilized development on the origins of coats of arms, which were heraldic designs on the armour used by knights in the Middle Ages to identify themselves, or their cause – or their king. Flags perform similar functions.

The Heraldry Act 1962 established a bureau for the registration of coats of arms, uniforms, badges, flags, and other such emblems. It falls under the authority of the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, but the bureau and its register are managed by the State Herald.

The registration of a so-called ‘heraldic representation’ entitles the owner (that is, the person or institution in whose name it is registered) to its exclusive use – he can interdict others from using something even confusingly similar.

A. Manufacture, sale and possession

  1. It is an offence to sell, or use for gain, or trade in any heraldic representation, or any imitation, without the written permission of its owner.1

  2. It is an offence to use a registered heraldic name, or a uniform, in such a manner as to indicate, falsely, that you are its owner, or a lawful user, or are a member of the relevant association or institution.2

B. The Heraldic Register

  1. It is an offence to make (or cause to be made) any false entry in the register.

  2. It is an offence to make any document falsely purporting to be a copy of an entry in the register.3

  3. If you make false statements or representations for the purpose of deceiving the State Herald in the execution of his duties under the Act, you commit an offence.4

C. Coat of Arms

  1. It is an offence to commit any act which displays contempt for the coat of arms of the Republic, or which is likely to ridicule it.5

  2. There are also family coats of arms. If you have the correct family name, the State Herald can certify your use of the coat of arms. It is an offence to make any representations about such a family coat of arms, if you do not have such a certificate.6 7

  1. Section 22(a). 

  2. Section 22(b). 

  3. Section 23. 

  4. Section 23(d). 

  5. Section 22A. 

  6. The provision in this regard (Section 23A of the Act) is not a model of clarity, let that be said. 

  7. Section 23A(1).