National anthem of South Africa

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National anthem of South Africa
South African national anthem (1997), Government Gazette of South Africa.pdf
The South African national anthem as it appears specified in the South African Government Gazette

National anthem of  South Africa
Also known as "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (first segment) (English: "Lord Bless Africa")
"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" (second segment) (English: "The Call of South Africa")
Lyrics Enoch Sontonga, 1897
C. J. Langenhoven, 1918
Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, 1995 (1995)
Music Enoch Sontonga, 1897
Marthinus Lourens de Villiers, 1921 (1921) (arranged by M. Kumhalo and Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, 1995)
Adopted 1997 (1997)
Preceded by "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" and "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika"
Audio sample
"National anthem of South Africa" (instrumental)

The current national anthem of South Africa was adopted in 1997 and is a hybrid song combining new English lyrics with extracts of the 19th century hymn "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (English: "God Bless Africa", lit. "Lord Bless Africa") and the Afrikaans song "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" (English: "The Voice of South Africa"), which was formerly used as the South African national anthem from the late 1950s to the mid-1990s.

The South African national anthem is sometimes referred to by its incipit of "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", however this has never been its official title.


The fact that it shifts (modulates) and ends in a different key, a feature it shares with the Italian and the Philippine national anthems,[1] makes it compositionally unusual. The lyrics employ the five of the most widely spoken of South Africa's eleven official languages – Xhosa (first stanza, first two lines), Zulu (first stanza, last two lines), Sesotho (second stanza), Afrikaans (third stanza), and English (final stanza). The first half was arranged by M. Kumhalo[2] and the latter half of the song was arranged by Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, who also wrote the final verse.[2][3]



From the late 1940s to the early 1990s, South Africa was governed by a system known as apartheid, a widely-condemned system of institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination that was based on white supremacy and the repression of the black majority for the benefit of the politically and economically dominant Afrikaner minority and other whites. During this period, South Africa's national anthem was "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika", also known as "Die Stem", an Afrikaans language song that chronicled the Voortrekkers and their "Great Trek". "Die Stem" is a poem written by C. J. Langenhoven in 1918 and was set to music by the Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921.[4] "Die Stem" (English: "The voice of South Africa") was the co–national anthem[5] with 'God Save The King'/'God Save The Queen' between 1938 and 1957, when it became the sole national anthem until 1994. "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" (English: "The Voice of South Africa") was composed of 8 stanzas (The original 4 in Afrikaans and 4 in English - a translation of the Afrikaans with a few modifications). It was seldom sung in its entirety; usually the first stanza was the most widely known and sung sometimes followed by the last stanza.

When apartheid came to an end in the early 1990s, the future of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" was called into question.[6][7] It was ultimately retained as the national anthem, though "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", a Xhosa language song that was used by the anti-apartheid movement, was also introduced and adopted as a second national anthem of equal standing.[8] "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" was composed by a Methodist school teacher named Enoch Sontonga in 1897. It was first sung as a church hymn but later became an act of political defiance against the apartheid regime.

The South African government adopted both songs as dual national anthems in 1994, when they were performed at Nelson Mandela's inauguration.[9]

For the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Morné du Plessis suggested that the Springboks learn all the words of "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", and "they did so with great feeling", according to their instructor Anne Munnik.[10]


The practice of having two national anthems proved cumbersome as performing both of them took as much as five minutes.[11] This was rectified when South Africa's dual national anthems were merged in abridged forms in early 1997[12] to form its current national anthem. The new national anthem was performed at an opening of the South African parliament in February 1997,[13] and was published in the South African Government Gazette on 10 October 1997.[12] During the drafting of the new national anthem, it was requested by South African president Nelson Mandela that it be no more than 1 minute and 48 seconds in length.[12] The new English lyrics were adapted from the last four lines of the first stanza of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" (English: "The Call of South Africa"), with the changes made to reflect hope in post-apartheid South African society. Lines borrowed from the two previous national anthems were modified to be more inclusive, omitting overt reference to specific groups. Thus, lines from the apartheid-era national anthem's first stanza referencing the Voortrekkers' "Great Trek" were omitted, as "this was the experience of only one section of our community."[3][12] Likewise, the words "Woza Moya", used in "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" were also omitted, as the phrase is a specifically Christian reference, rather than a generically religious one,[3] and thus not acceptable to South Africans of other religions, particularly Muslim South Africans.[12] The English version of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" was less prominent than the Afrikaans version and thus could be changed with little objection or controversy.[12] As such, the English portion of the new South African national anthem was the one changed from the previous version.[12]


In recent years, the South African national anthem has come under criticism for its Afrikaans verse as it originally part of the national anthem of South Africa that was used during the apartheid era,[14] with some calling for the verse to be removed because of this connection.[15][16][17][18] Others defend the inclusion of the verse, pointing out that it is included in large part due to the wishes of the first post-apartheid South African president, Nelson Mandela, who intended its inclusion as a re-conciliatory measure for the post-apartheid future of South Africa.[19][9][10]


Language Lyrics English translation[20]
Xhosa Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,
Lord bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high,
Zulu Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
Hear our prayers
Lord bless us, your children.
Sesotho Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika, South Afrika.
Lord we ask you to protect our nation,
Intervene and end all conflicts,
Protect us, protect our nation,
the nation of South Africa, South Africa.
Afrikaans Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From the depths of our seas,
Over everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land.

See also


  1. ^ "South Africa – National Anthem of South Africa (Die Stem van Suid-Afrika/Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika)". Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  2. ^ a b "National anthem of South Africa". 1997. p. 4. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "The national anthem is owned by everyone". South African Music Rights Organisation. 17 June 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  4. ^ "SA National Anthem History". Retrieved 21 October 2007.
  5. ^ "The Presidency: National Anthem". Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  6. ^ "Master of His Fate".
  7. ^ Keller, Bill. "Symbols/The New South Africa; The First Emblems of Unity: A Little Something for Everyone".
  8. ^ and, Bill Keller. "THE SOUTH AFRICAN VOTE: THE VOTING; Blacks Seizing Their Moment: Liberation Day".
  9. ^ a b Carlin, John (2008). Playing the Enemy. New York: Penguin. pp. 147, 153. ISBN 978-1-59420-174-5.
  10. ^ a b Carlin, John (2008). Playing the Enemy. New York: Penguin. pp. 173–178. ISBN 978-1-59420-174-5.
  11. ^ Jr, Donald G. McNeil (28 March 1996). "Johannesburg Journal;Will Rugby Embrace, or Crush, a Dainty Flower?" – via
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Allen, Siemon (15 October 2013). "flatint: The South African National Anthem: a history on record". BlogSpot. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  13. ^ "South African Parliament Opening".
  14. ^ " - Connecting People Through News".
  15. ^ "The surreal moment when a Harlem choir sings Die Stem for Winnie".
  16. ^ Haden, Alexis (27 December 2017). "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika named best national anthem in the world". The South African.
  17. ^ Haden, Alexis (18 April 2017). "EFF calls for removal of Die Stem on 120th anniversary of Enoch Sontonga's death".
  18. ^ "Die Stem adulterates Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika – EFF".
  19. ^ "EFF 'missing the plot' on Die Stem". The Sowetan. 27 September 2015.
  20. ^ "Official South African government translation". Retrieved 11 June 2018.

External links

  • National Anthem Toolkit
  • The National Anthem
  • National Anthem of South Africa – Streaming audio, lyrics and information
  • Audio recording of the National Anthem (instrumental only, MP3 file)
  • Brief introduction to the anthem and notation
  • The South African national anthem in MIDI format
  • The South African national anthem in MP3 format
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