|Enoch Mankayi Sontonga|
Uitenhage, Cape Colony
April 18, 1905 (aged 32)|
Johannesburg, Transvaal Colony
Enoch Sontonga's "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", performed by a U.S. military band
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Enoch Mankayi Sontonga (c. 1873 – 18 April 1905) was the composer of "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (English: "God Bless Africa") from then Cape Colony (now part of Eastern Cape province), which has been part of the South African national anthem since 1994. It was the official anthem of the African National Congress since 1925 and is still the national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia. It was also sung in Zimbabwe and Namibia for many years.
Early life and education
Sontonga, a Xhosa, was born in the city of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape Colony. He trained as a teacher at the Lovedale Institution and subsequently worked as a teacher and choirmaster at the Methodist Mission school in Nancefield, near Johannesburg for eight years.
The first verse and chorus of "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" was composed in 1897 and it was originally intended to be a school anthem. Some sources say he wrote the tune the same year, but others contend that the tune was written by Joseph Parry as "Aberystwyth" and that Sontonga merely wrote new words. It was first sung in public in 1899 at the ordination of Reverend Mboweni, who was the first Tsonga Methodist minister. Later the Xhosa poet Samuel Mqhayi wrote a further seven verses.
Sontonga died in April 1905.
Sontonga married Diana Mgqibisa and had a son. His wife died in 1929.
The song started to be more well known after John Langalibalele Dube's Ohlange Institute's choir used it. They played it at the South African Native National Congress meeting in 1912. It was sung after the closing prayer and the ANC adopted it as its official closing anthem in 1925. It was recorded in London as "Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika" in 1923 and it was published by the Lovedale Press in 1927.
For many years the site of Sontonga's grave was unknown, but it was finally located in the "Native Christian" section of the Braamfontein cemetery in the early 1990s; one of the reasons why his grave could not be found is that it was listed under "Enoch" and not "Sontonga".
On 24 September 1996, Sontonga's grave was declared a national monument and a memorial on the site was unveiled by President Nelson Mandela. At the same ceremony the South African Order of Meritorious Service (Gold) was bestowed on Enoch Sontonga posthumously.
- Enoch Mankayti Sontonga, SAHistory.org.za, accessed July 2013
- Remembering Sontonga, SouthAfrica.info, accessed July 2013
- Joseph Parry's Te Deum: Premiere for lost composition, James McLaren, "012, BBC News, retrieved 22 June 2014