A new government Coat of Arms was introduced on South African passports on Monday, the department of home affairs said.

Spokesperson Mantshele Wa Ga Tau said the new Coat of Arms was in line with the democratic dispensation of the Republic of South Africa's corporate identity.

"It seeks to instil a greater sense of pride and dignity to the South African citizens and passport holders."

The first batch of passports bearing the new Coat of Arms would be issued to applicants who applied after mid-November 2007.

"All passport holders in possession of passports bearing the old Coat of Arms need not panic as these passports will remain valid until their expiry date," said Wa Ga Tau.

"During this transition phase, temporary passport applicants will still receive passports with the old Coat of Arms in order to exhaust the existing stock," he said.

According to the department this was the first step towards a more efficient home affairs department.

"This transition is one step towards building the new Home Affairs which is a modern, efficient and cost effective service organisation responsive to the needs of South African citizens, foreign residents, and visitors to our country," said Wa Ga Tau. - Sapa