Armoria academica

UNIVERSITY OF ZULULAND, KwaDlangezwa, KwaZulu-Natal.

Afrikaanse blasoen

University of Zululand

The arms are blazoned:

Arms: Gyronny of twelve argent and azure, at nombril point, on a bezant, a pall sable.

Crest: A fish eagle displayed, proper.

Wreath and mantling: Argent and azure.

Motto: Diligentia Cresco.

Arms explained:
The university provides the following explanation of this device:

“The golden disc, divided into three symbolises the physical, intellectual and spiritual aspects of humankind.

“The blue and white rays represent the knowledge and learning radiated by the University.

“The black and red helmet is associated with courtesy while the fish eagle conveys the idea of alertness.

“The motto, ‘By diligence I grow,’ serves as an inspiration to both students and staff members.”

To these notes can be added that the crest-bird, the African fish eagle (Haliæetus vocifer) is widespread in subsaharan Africa. It is best known as a catcher of fish, but it is also known to prey on flamingos and other water birds, to steal prey from other birds, and to eat carrion.

It is a large bird, closely related to and similar in both size and appearance to the American bald eagle (Haliæetus leucocephalus), national bird of the United States of America.

The bird made its first appearance in heraldry in the arms of the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia, and is still to be found in the arms of that state’s successor, as the crest of the Republic of Zambia.

In granting the fish eagle to Northern Rhodesia the heralds in London found it necessary, because of the close resemblance between the two species, to add to the bird a representation of a freshly caught fish, since its habit of snatching fish from the surface of a body of water is characteristic of this species.

However, ignorant commentary on the significance of the fish led to its being labelled a “rotting, dead fish”, and symbolic of colonial oppression.

At the insistence of Zambia, the fish (far from being dead, since frequently shown TV and video footage reveals that it is wriggling and very much alive until the eagle bites its head off, having settled on a tree branch) was dropped from the crest of that independent state.

Possibly for this reason the fish has likewise been omitted the crest of the University of Zululand. This is a pity, since the fish eagle so displayed is indistinguishable from the eagle that appears as the sole supporter of the arms of the United States.[1]

It also unfortunate that in this drawing of the university’s arms, the eagle is rather inadequately portrayed. Photographs of fish eagles can be seen here, here and here, and a distribution map appears on this page.

About the university:
The University of Zululand was established in terms of the Extension of University Education Act of 1959, which purported to extend tertiary education to the previously under-served ethnic homeland regions of South Africa.

The Act was rightly labelled by its opponents as the “Bush Colleges Act”, since its intention was to deepen racial segregation in tertiary education by building brand new institutions solely for black students in rural areas, thereby “justifying” the exclusion of black students from the established universities in the major centres – notably the English-speaking universities which had traditionally been less exclusive, racially,[2] than their Afrikaans-medium equivalents.

The name KwaDlangezwa was given to the post office on the original campus (now the main one of three campuses), to commemorate a regiment of King Shaka’s warriors that had been stationed in the vicinity.

Teaching on the campus began in 1960 with 41 students (36 of them men) in two faculties, education and arts, and an academic staff of 14. Officially opened in March 1961, the institution was called Zululand University College and was affiliated to the University of South Africa. It attained academic autonomy in January 1970, when it became the University of Zululand.

In 1973 there were 979 students (284 women) and 100 academic staff in six faculties: arts science, education, economic and political sciences, law and theology. The architecture of the campus buildings makes use of traditional Nguni motifs.

Intended to serve the Zulu-speaking population of Natal and, when that homeland state was formed, KwaZulu, it has not limited its recruitment of students to this ethnic group, but has taught entrants from many parts of South Africa and elsewhere.

The university has three campuses: its main campus is between Empangeni and Mtunzini in Zululand, and not far from Richards Bay. The university also teaches classes at Ulundi (which was the capital of KwaZulu) and the Cecil Renaud campus in the Durban metropolitan area.

The university’s own website is here.

Afrikaanse blasoen:
Die wapen mag in Afrikaans so geblasoeneer word:

Wapen: Gegeer van twaalf stukke, silwer en blou, die punte ontmoet in nombrilpunt, waarop ’n goue penning, belaai met ’n gaffel van swart.

Helmteken: ’n Visarend, vlerke afwaarts vertoon, in sy natuurlike kleure.

Wrong en dekkleed: Silwer en blou.

Leuse: Diligentia Cresco.

Die leuse vertaal as: “Deur ywer en vlyt groei ek.”

[1] A different illustration of the arms of the United States can be seen on International Civic Arms.

[2] The level of accommodating black students at the universities of Cape Town, the Witwatersrand and Natal was not high, considering the population of the country, but it was significantly higher than in their contemporaries. While Rhodes University did not admit many black students, it was working in collaboration with the largely black University College of Fort Hare.


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  • Sources: Information provided by the university, and historical notes from the Standard Encyclopædia of Southern Africa.

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    Comments, queries: Mike Oettle

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