National anthem of South Africa

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National anthem of South Africa
National anthem of South Africa, p. 1.gif

National anthem of  South Africa
Also known as "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (first segment)
English: "God 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
Music Enoch Sontonga, 1897
Martin Linius de Villiers, 1921 (arranged by M. Kumhalo and Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, 1995)
Adopted 10 October 1997; 20 years ago (1997-10-10)
Audio sample
"National Anthem of South Africa" (instrumental)

The current national anthem of South Africa was adopted in October 1997 and is a hybrid song combining new English lyrics with extracts of the hymn "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (English: "God Bless Africa") and the Afrikaans song "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" (English: "The Call of South Africa").


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", an Afrikaans-language song that chronicled the Voortrekkers and the Great Trek.

When apartheid came to an end in the early 1990s, "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" was 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 status.

"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. "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 van Suid-Afrika" (English: "The Call 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 Call of South Africa") was composed of 8 stanzas (The original 4 in Afrikaans and 4 in English - a translation of the Afrikaans). It was seldom sung in its entirety with the first stanza being the most widely known and sung.

The South African government adopted both songs as dual national anthems in 1994, when they were performed at Nelson Mandela's inauguration.[6]

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.[7]


South Africa's dual national anthems were merged in abridged forms on 10 October 1997[8] to form its current national anthem. 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.[8] 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][8] 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.[8]


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,[9] with some calling for the verse to be removed because of this connection.[10] 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 South Africa.[11][6][7]


Language Lyrics English translation[12]
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. ^ a b Carlin, John (2008). Playing the Enemy. New York: Penguin. pp. 147, 153. ISBN 978-1-59420-174-5. 
  7. ^ a b Carlin, John (2008). Playing the Enemy. New York: Penguin. pp. 173–178. ISBN 978-1-59420-174-5. 
  8. ^ a b c d Allen, Siemon (15 October 2013). "flatint: The South African National Anthem: a history on record". BlogSpot. Retrieved 17 April 2018. 
  9. ^ Haden, Alexis (27 December 2017). "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika named best national anthem in the world". The South African. 
  10. ^ Haden, Alexis (18 April 2017). "EFF calls for removal of Die Stem on 120th anniversary of Enoch Sontonga's death". 
  11. ^ "EFF 'missing the plot' on Die Stem - HeraldLIVE". 27 September 2015. 
  12. ^ Official South African government translation:

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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