Nkosi Sikeleli Africa

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National Symbol Description: 

Lyrics

A proclamation issued by the then State President, Nelson Mandela, on 20 April 1994 in terms of the provisions of Section 248 (1) together with Section 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1993 (Act 200 of 1993), stated that the Republic of South Africa would have two national anthems. They were Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and The Call of South Africa (Die Stem van Suid-Afrika). In terms of Section 4 of the Constitution of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996), and following a proclamation in the Government Gazette No. 18341 (dated 10 October 1997), a shortened, combined version of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and The Call of South Africa is now the national anthem of South Africa.

It is the only neo-modal national anthem in the world, by virtue of being the only one that starts in one key and finishes in another. The lyrics employ the five most populous of South Africa's eleven official languages - isiXhosa (first stanza, first two lines), isiZulu (first stanza, last two lines), seSotho (second stanza), Afrikaans (third stanza) and English (final stanza).

History of the National Anthem:
  • The National Anthem was proclaimed in 1997.
  • It is a shortened, combined version of two anthems (‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ and ‘The Call of South Africa’/’Die Stem van Suid-Afrika’); sung between 1994 and 1997.
  • It is unique in that it is sung in five languages.
  • ’Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist mission schoolteacher.
  • The poet Samuel Mqhayi later added seven additional stanzas in isiXhosa.
  • A Sesotho version was published by Moses Mphahlele in 1942.
  • ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ became a popular church hymn that was later adopted as an anthem at political meetings and was sung as an act of defiance during the apartheid years.
  • ’Die Stem van Suid-Afrika’ is a poem written by CJ Langenhoven in May 1918, with music composed in 1921 by the Reverend ML de Villiers.
  • It was first sung publicly at the official hoisting of the national flag in Cape Town on 31 May 1928.
  • It was not until 2 May 1957 that government pronounced Die Stem as the official national anthem of South Africa.
  • In 1952, the official English version, ‘The Call of South Africa’, was accepted for official use.
 
Protocol on respecting the National Anthem
  • The National Anthem should be recited with appropriate respect.
  • All should stand to attention with their hands placed at their sides while singing the National Anthem.
  • Civilians should take their hats off as a sign of respect.

 

Words

This is the official version of the national anthem, combining Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and Die Stem/The Call of South Africa, with a translation in English given in brackets:

South African National Anthem

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

(Xhosa and Zulu)

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.

(Sesotho)

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

(Afrikaans)

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

(English)

English translation of Xhosa and Zulu version

Lord bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high
Hear our petitions
Lord bless us, your children

English translation of Sesotho version

Lord we ask You to protect our nation
Intervene and end all conflicts
Protect us, protect our nation
Protect South Africa, South Africa

English translation of Afrikaans version

Out of the blue of our heavens
Out of the depths of our seas
Over our everlasting mountains
Where the echoing crags resound

Audio: