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Southern Africa

South Africa
(Republic South Africa)

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED Union of South Africa, 4 November 1910 (2½d value only; full definitives, 1913).
Republic of South Africa, 31 May 1961


Until 1961, British.
From 14 February 1961, 100 cents = 1 rand.

The Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Orange Free State and Transvaal car together to form the Union of South Africa, with Dominion status, on 31 May 1910. The Union left the Commonwealth 31 May 1961 and became a republic (RSA).

From 1948 when the National Party came to power, South Africa's social and political structure was based on 'apartheid' or racial segregation. Opposition reached a peak in 1960 with the Sharpeville massacres, but despite this clamp down by the Government, rioting continued and a State of Emergency was declared in July 1985 in 36 Districts and nationwide on 12 June 1986.

This policy was reflected by continuous attempts to expel the South African representation from the Union Postal Union. Such attempts by the African bloc at the Union's Congresses failed for two main reasons. First, there was no mechanism with in the UPU Constitution for the expulsion of a member country and, secondly, South Africa remained a member of the United Nations and could renew its membership after each Congress merely by signifying that it would adhere to the revisions of the Constitution.

Effectively, the majority of the membership of the UPU banned South Africa in the 1980s, but it was reaccepted by the membership after a visit to that country by an appointed Committee in 1994.

The country's first multiracial general election had been held in April 1996 and the ANC gained 62% of the vote for the National Assembly and a similar percentage in theSenate. Nelson Mandela, who had been released from prison in 1991, became the first ANC President of the Republic. He was replaced by Thabo Mbecki on 16 June 1999.


Stamps of the pre-Union colonies were in use irrespective of origin throughout the Union from 18 August 1910 to 1 September 1913 (and were not demonetized until 31 December 1937).

Walfisch Bay (Walvis Bay)

FIRST STAMPS Cape of Good Hope from 1884.


1884, as Cape Colony.
1910, as South Africa.
1923, as South West Africa.
1977, as South Africa until it became part of Namibia in 1994.

Claimed by the Dutch in 1796, this British settlement of 1800 was annexed to Cape Colony on 12 March 1878 and was incorporated into the Union of South Africa in 1910. Stamps used here can be recognized by cancellation.

Governed from August 1992 by the joint South African-Namibian-Walvis Bay Administration Body until 28 February 1994, when South Africa renounced its claim to sovereignty over the enclave and it became part of South West Africa.

Used stamps of Cape from 1884 (original. oblit. barred oval 300).

Used stamps of South Africa from 1910 to 1922 (invalid after 31 January 1923).

Used stamps of South West Africa I January 1923-31 August 1977.

Since 1 September 1977 has used stamps of South Africa. From 21 March 1990 used the stamps of Namibia.

German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Sudwestafrika)


FIRST STAMPS March 1897.



Proclaimed a German protectorate on 24 April and flag raised 7 August 1884. Overrun by South African troops 1914-15.

Mail is known carried by casual ship between 7 August 1884 and 6 July 1888, when the first POs opened. Joined UPU in 1886. Used stamps of Germany from July 7 1888.

POs closed by captures August 1914-20 July 1915; PO at Olukonda was the last to fall.

The Western part of the UN alliance withdrew from the operation in March 1994. This left troops from India, Pakistan and Egypt that were easily overrun by the Somali factions.

South West Africa

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 1 January 1923. Issues were bilingual in English and Afrikaans, but since 1970 have borne the abbreviations SWA instead.


Until 1961, British.
From 14 February 1961, South African.

Ex-German colony mandated by the League of Nations to South Africa after World War I. Nazi activities by German settlers in 1934-5 led South Africa to administer it as a province. Despite United Nations' decisions to the contrary, this situation still obtains. Movements towards indepedence under the name Namibia have been blocked. The name Namibia has so far appeared only on stamps of sympathetic countries and on an issue of the United Nations publicly announcing by its inscription 'direct responsibility' for Namibia as a UN trust territory before independence.

Used stamps of South Africa from c. 19 September 1914 (at Luderitzbucht) to 1922 (invalid after 31 January 1923).


FIRST STAMPS 21 March 1990.


On independence, as South Africa. 1 October 1993, 100 cents = 1 Namibian Dollar (at parity with the South African Rand).

The United Nations terminated the South African Trusteeship over South West Africa in 1967. An Administrator General was appointed in 1977 to govern the territory until independence. He began repealing all the legislation based on racial discrimination. Elections were held in 1978 for a Constitutional Assembly which was dissolved in 1982. A Transitional Government was installed in 1985 and Namibia became independent within the Commonwealth on 21 March 1990.


FIRST STAMPS 26 October 1976.


As South Africa.

Territories under the protection of Cape Colony in 1858-65, then abandoned. Annexed to the Colony in 1879-84, but reserved ti its black population from 1913. Transkei received internal self-government from South Africa in 1963 and was made an independent republic on 26 October 1976. It is not yet recognized by the UN or the UPU, but its stamps are accepted as valid for international mail.

The territory was reincorporated into the RSA on 27 April 1994. The Transkei Postal Service continued with RSA adhesives until June 1996 when it was fully incorporated into the RSA system.


FIRST STAMPS 6 December 1977.


As South Africa.

Tribal homeland territories of South Africa, lying west of Pretoria in the Rustenburg - Mafeking - Vryburg - Kuruman area, given autonomy in 1977. The territory was reincorporated into the RSA on 27 April 1994. The Postal Service of Bophuthatswana continued with RSA adhesives until June 1996 when it was fully incorporated into the RSA system.


FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 13 September 1979.


1979, as South Africa.

The Venda Territory Authority was established in 1969 and was granted internal self-government on 1 February 1973. Venda became fully independent on 13 September 1979.

The territory was reincorporated into the RSA on 27 April 1994. The Venda Postal Service continued with RSA adhesives until June 1996 when it was fully incorporated into the RSA system.


FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 2 December 1981.


1981, as South Africa.

Territorial authority within South Africa was established in 1961 and autonomous government was granted in 1972. Ciskei became fully independent on 4 December 1981. As in the case of Venda, this independence has not been accepted internationally, but stamps have been accepted for carriage of mail outside South Africa. The territory was reincorporated into the RSA on 27 April 1994. The Ciskei Postal Service continued with RSA adhesives until June 1996 when it was fully incorporated into the RSA system.


FIRST STAMPS 18 October 1889. Withdrawn 7 November 1894.
Separate stamps revived 2 January 1933.



Until 1961, British.
From 14 February 1961, South African.

Came under the joint protection of Britain and the South African Republic after 1884, then from 1902 solely under Transvaal (though not incorporated). On 1 December 1906 became a British protectorate, again administered from Cape Province. It was made a 'protected state' on 25 April 1967 and became an independent kingdom within the Commonwealth on 6 September 1968.

Used stamps of Transvaal 1894-1910. Used stamps of South Africa after 1910.





Free-booter Boer republic round the settlement of Vryburg set up on 10 January 1883. Annexed for Britain by Warren's Force, which reached Vryburg on 7 February 1885. Proclaimed part of British Bechuanaland as Crown Colony 30 September 1885.

Cancellation was by pen and ink. Stamps are known used by Warren's Force and cancelled at Kimberley in transit. Stocks withdrawn on 2 December 1885 were sold to Whitfield, King & Company of Ipswich.

Cape of Good Hope (Cape Colony)

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 1 September 1853.



To travellers in the 16th century the Cape was a landmark on the way to the Indies. Table Bay, a good watering place, was settled by a Dutch expedition under Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. Boer farmer commandos steadily subdued or pushed back the Bantu and Hottentot natives. When the French Revolutionary armies occupied the Netherlands in 1795, Britain took the Dutch colony under protection. It was returned to the Batavian Republic in 1803, but re-occupied in 1806 without disturbing the already traditional ways of the Boer farmlands. The Cape was given to Britain under the Treaty of Paris (1814). An influx of British settlers in 1820 and subsequently the adoption of English as the official language, the abolition of slavery in 1834 and the fixing of the territorial frontier drove the Boers into making the Great Trek northward. Cape Colony rapidly developed British institutions with responsible government by 1872. In 1910 it became part of the Union of South Africa.

Postal History
The first message recorded as having been passed from one vessel to another by leaving it under Post Office Tree (Mossel Bay) was in 1601. Letters are known from c. 1619, but the earliest government postal system was set up by the Dutch in Cape Town on 28 September 1791. Prepayment was an early feature of the British system. Country POs linked by horse riders spread from 1816; by 1855 there were more than 100. Named 'Paid' hand-stamps were introduced in 1817, 'Ship Letter' and 'Packet Letter' hand-stamps a little earlier. Monthly steam packets to England were introduced in 1850, railway TPOs in 1883. Early triangular stamps were obliterated with a triangle of bars incorporating the initials CGH. Circular town date stamps, introduced in the 1850s, were placed alongside. The number of POs had risen to 500 by 1864 when the Cape numeral series of 'killers' was introduced to cancel the 'rectangulars'. Cape Colony joined the UPU in 1895 and adopted Imperial Penny Postage on 1 September 1899.

Griqualand West

FIRST STAMPS Cape of Good Hope from 1871.




Much disputed territory with a long history of strife between Griquas, Boers, the London Missionary Society and diamond prospectors, Griqualand West was annexed in October 1871and administered as a British Crown Colony until incorporated into Cape Colony in October 1880.

Used stamps of Cape from October 1871 to 1877 including a MS overprint of September 1874 peculiar to Griqualand West. Oval date stamps are known of Diamond Fields, Du Toits Pan, De Beer's N R, and Kimberley. Stamps of Cape overprinted 'G' were issued in March 1877.

In October 1880 the remaining stamps overprinted 'G' were withdrawn from Kimberley and reissued to POs in Cape Colony for use.

New Republic

FIRST STAMPS January 1886.



Part of Zululand set up in 1884 as an independent state by secessionist Boers. A reduced area was demarcated and recognized by Britain in 1886. Annexed to South African Republic in 1888, transferred to Natal in January 1903.

Stamps had local validity only; letters leaving the Republic needed, in addition, stamps of Transvaal or Natal.


FIRST STAMPS 26 May 1857.



A British settlement was founded in 1824 and by 1835 its small town had been named D'Urban (later Durban) after the governor of the Cape. Piet Retiefs breakaway from the Great Trek brought the Boers to Natal in 1837. After their massacre by Dingaan's Zulus and the reprisal at Blood River, the settlement was contested by British, Boer and Zulu in a three-cornered struggle that ended in annexation to Cape Colony in 1844. The Boer population trekked out to Transvaal in 1848. Natal became a separate colony in 1856. Zululand was incorporated in 1897, New Republic and Blood River Territories after 1902. Natal has been a state of South Africa since the Union of 1910.

Postal History
Private posts were run between stations of the American Missionary Service, while an external service to Cape Town by casual ship was started in 1846 by the Natal Witness with receiving offices at Pietermaritzburg and Durban. From 1849 an overland post route was operated every two weeks via Harrismith and Wynberg to Colesburg and the Cape. The first official inland horse-post began on 1 February 1850, but inland communications remained uncertain and slow until the coming of the railways in 1880. Regular monthly sailings to the Cape and England began in the 1860s. From 1872 both regular Cape packet services continued to Durban. A route via Mauritius existed in 1864-8, and in the 1870s there was a short-lived link via Zanzibar and Aden. From 1890 both western and eastern routes were continous.

Three local handstruck marks (for Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Lady- smith) are known from 1852. Date stamps incorporating the town name were used on covers from 1860, though stamps were obliterated with numeral cancellers. Combined numbered and dated marks followed, using the same numbers: the locations of 1-73 in these series are recorded.


FIRST STAMPS 1 May 1888.



The Zulus exterminated their native rivals c.1820. After early clashes with British and Boers there continued an uneasy peace punctuated by border cattle raids from c.1840, until missionary interference and diplomatic incompetence provoked the Zulu War. In 1879 a British resident was appointed. On 9 May 1887 Zululand was declared British and on 31 December 1897 it was annexed to Natal.

Postal History
A postal service was started on 1 May1888, Zululand being included with Natal in the UPU from that date. A PO had already been established at Eshowe in 1887. There were 21 POs open during the period of separate stamp issues. Use ceased on 30 June 1898, after which stamps of Natal were used.

Orange Free State

FIRST STAMPS January 1868.



The Boer settlements north of the Orange River, founded c. 1828 and which grew as a result of the Great Trek, were recognized as an independent country in 1854. Despite previously friendly relationships with Cape Colony, it sided with Transvaal in the Second Boer War. Annexed to the British Empire on 24 May 1900 after Lord Roberts had occupied Bloemfontein, its name was changed temporarily to Orange River Colony. It has been a state of the Union since 1910.

In the 19th century most obliteration was by barred numeral or barred alphabetical cancellers, nearly all of which have been located and listed. In 1868-74 mail between Orange Free State and Cape Colony (and mail via Cape Colony going overseas) needed stamps of both countries in combination of rates.

The Free State became a British colony as Orange River Colony in 1900.

Orange River Colony

FIRST STAMPS see Orange Free State.

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED August 1900 (overprinted on Cape of Good Hope).


1868, sterling.

Formerly Orange Free State, this colony combined with other territories to form the Union of South Africa in 1910. Subsequently, the stamps of the territories were freely used throughout the Union; these were replaced by stamps of the Union in 1913.

Transvaal (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek)

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED August 1869. (Their delivery appears to have been delayed, and they were sold direct to collectors for cash to pay the printer, a very early example of the practice).



Four Boer republics were founded by Voortrekkers who crossed the Vaal in 1836.

The Boers defeated the Zulus at Blood River in 1838, thereby avenging the treacherous slaughter of Retief and his followers in 1837. The Boers and the Zulus drove the Matabele beyond the Limpopo. The independence of the republics was recognized in 1852 and they united as the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic) in 1858. Bankrupt and faced with imminent Zulu attack in 1877, this was annexed to Britain as Transvaal. Misrule led to revolt in December 1880 (First Boer War); Britain was defeated in battle and forced to restore independence to the ZAR ('Second Republic'). The country became divided between the ruling Calvinist Boers and the rich unrepresented taxpaying 'Uitlanders' of the newly discovered Gold District (Rand). The Second Boer War broke out on 12 October 1899, and Transvaal was again annexed on 31 May 1902. It became a state of the Union in 1910.

Postal History
Mail is known from 1859; handstruck town marks from 1864; and by 1866 there were 12 POs dependent on Potchefstroom. A full government service was started on 31 August 1869. Control was moved to Pretoria in 1870 and a mail-cart service instituted to Orange Free State and Natal About 30 POs were given numeral obliterations in 1874. Until Transvaal joined the UPU in 1893, stamps of the transit country were needed in addition on mail destined for overseas.

Second Boer War (1899-1902) Brought about by the intransigence of both Briton and Boer, this conflict was notable for its fluid guerrilla tactics and the bitterness with which it was fought. Boer prisoners were confined In Ceylon, Bermuda and St Helena. Censorship of mail was widespread for the first time. Much mail was captured, detained, or damaged in transit, and covers of the period are widely collected and studied by postal historians. Several places changed hands more than once, occasioning overprints (V.R.I., signifying Victoria Regina Imperatrix, was often used to show British occupation). During the numerous sieges stamps were produced locally in emergency.


Town in Bechuanaland besieged 12 November 1899 by the Boers, relieved 17 May 1900.

FIRST STAMPS 24 March - 17 May 1900.


Town in British Bechuanaland which changed hands twice.

FIRST STAMPS during brief Boer occupation November 1899, and during British occupation May 1900.


Town in northern Transvaal to which Kruger's government withdrew from Pretoria.

Authorized Boer provisionals, printed at the local newspaper office, were issued 20 March - 9 April 1901.


Town in eastern Transvaal occupied by British forces 6 September 1900.

Stamps of Transvaal surcharged issued September 1900.


Small town west of Pretoria invested by the Boers in June 1900 but relieved 22 June.

Stamps of Transvaal overprinted V.R.I. issued 23 June 1900.

Schweizer Reinecke

Town southwest of Pretoria besieged 1 August 1900 - 9 January 1901.

Stamps of Transvaal or Cape overprinted BESIEGED in rough uneven type were issued in August 1900.


Town in southern Transvaal near the Natal border.

Revenue stamps of Transvaal overprinted V.R.I. were issued in March 1902.


Town in western Transvaal, occupied by British troops, from which the Boers had removed all stocks of stamps.

Stamps of Transvaal requisitioned from a local firm and overprinted were issued in June - July 1900.

South Africa 1910
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