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 Voice of South Africa")
LyricsEnoch Sontonga, 1897
C. J. Langenhoven, 1918
Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, 1995 (1995)
MusicEnoch Sontonga, 1897
Marthinus Lourens de Villiers, 1921 (1921) (arranged by M. Khumalo and Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, 1995)
Adopted1997 (1997)
Preceded by"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" and "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika"
Audio sample
"National anthem of South Africa" (instrumental)

The National Anthem of South Africa was adopted in 1997 and is a hybrid song combining new English 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 Call of South Africa"), which was used as the South African national anthem from the late 1930s[1] to the mid-1990s. The committee responsible for this new composition included Anna Bender, Elize Botha, Richard Cock, Dolf Havemann (Secretary), Mzilikazi Khumalo (Chairman), Masizi Kunene, John Lenake, Fatima Meer, Khabi Mngoma, Wally Serote, Johan de Villiers, and Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph.[2]

The anthem is often referred to by its incipit of "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", but this has never been its official title, which is simply "National Anthem of South Africa".


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 lyrics are sung in these languages regardless of the native language of the singer. The first half was arranged by Mzilikazi Khumalo[3] and the latter half of the song was arranged by Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, who also wrote the final verse.[3][4] The fact that it shifts (modulates) and ends in a different key (from G major to D major), a feature it shares with the Italian and the Philippine national anthems,[5] makes it compositionally unusual.



From the late 1940s to the early 1990s, South Africa was governed by a system known as apartheid, a widely condemned system of institutionalized 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 Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921.[6] "Die Stem" (English: "The voice of South Africa") was the co-national anthem[7] 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 eight stanzas (The original four in Afrikaans and four 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.[8][9] 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.[10] "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.[11]

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.[12]


The practice of having two national anthems proved to be a cumbersome arrangement as performing both of them took as much as five minutes.[13] This was rectified when South Africa's dual national anthems were merged in abridged forms in early 1997[14] to form the current national anthem. The new national anthem was performed at an opening of the South African parliament in February 1997,[15] and was published in the South African Government Gazette on 10 October 1997.[14] 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 (which was the average length of other countries anthems being used for reference).[14] 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 of the country's population 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" South African society.[4][14] 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,[4] and thus not acceptable to South Africans of other religions, particularly Muslim South Africans.[14] A new verse found in neither song was also added. 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.[14] As such, the English portion of the new South African national anthem was the one which had its lyrics changed from the previous version.[14]


In recent years, the South African national anthem has come under criticism for its Afrikaans verse as it was originally part of the national anthem of South Africa that was used during the apartheid era,[16] with some such as the Economic Freedom Fighters - who are reputed for their xenophobic attitudes towards non-black people, and in particular white farmers (who are majority Afrikaans) - calling for the verse to be removed, supposedly because of this connection.[17][18][19][20] 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.[21][11][12]


First verse, first two lines in Xhosa (with translation)

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,

Lord bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high,[22]

First verse, last two lines in Zulu (with translation)

Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho Iwayo.

Hear our prayers
Lord bless us, your children.[22]

Second verse in Sesotho (with translation)

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,
Protect South Africa, South Africa.[22]

Third verse in Afrikaans (with translation)

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,

From the blue of our skies,
From the depths of our seas,
Over our everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound,[22]

Fourth verse in English

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "South Africa Will Play Two Anthems Hereafter". The New York Times. New York. 3 June 1938. p. 10. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  2. ^ Breakfast, Swellendam Guesthouse B&B | Augusta de Mist | Garden Route Accommodation | Bed and (13 April 2015). "The South African National Anthem: a history on record". Swellendam Country House | Hotel | B&B | Augusta de Mist | Garden Route Accommodation | Bed and Breakfast. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b "National anthem of South Africa". 1997. p. 4. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "The national anthem is owned by everyone". South African Music Rights Organisation. 17 June 2012. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  5. ^ "South Africa – National Anthem of South Africa (Die Stem van Suid-Afrika/Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika)". Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  6. ^ "SA National Anthem History". Retrieved 21 October 2007.
  7. ^ "The Presidency: National Anthem". Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  8. ^ "Master of His Fate".
  9. ^ Keller, Bill. "Symbols/The New South Africa; The First Emblems of Unity: A Little Something for Everyone".
  10. ^ and, Bill Keller. "THE SOUTH AFRICAN VOTE: THE VOTING; Blacks Seizing Their Moment: Liberation Day".
  11. ^ a b Carlin, John (2008). Playing the Enemy. New York: Penguin. pp. 147, 153. ISBN 978-1-59420-174-5.
  12. ^ a b Carlin, John (2008). Playing the Enemy. New York: Penguin. pp. 173–178. ISBN 978-1-59420-174-5.
  13. ^ Jr, Donald G. McNeil (28 March 1996). "Johannesburg Journal;Will Rugby Embrace, or Crush, a Dainty Flower?" – via
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "South African Parliament Opening".
  16. ^ " - Connecting People Through News".
  17. ^ "The surreal moment when a Harlem choir sings Die Stem for Winnie".
  18. ^ Haden, Alexis (27 December 2017). "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika named best national anthem in the world". The South African.
  19. ^ Haden, Alexis (18 April 2017). "EFF calls for removal of Die Stem on 120th anniversary of Enoch Sontonga's death".
  20. ^ "Die Stem adulterates Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika – EFF".
  21. ^ "EFF 'missing the plot' on Die Stem". The Sowetan. 27 September 2015.
  22. ^ a b c d e "Official South African government translation". Retrieved 11 June 2018.

External links[edit]