The History Of The South African National Anthem: Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, God Bless Africa


An announcement was made by the then State President on 20th 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), which states the South African republic would have two national anthems. These anthems were Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and The Call of South Africa. In terms of the 4th Section of the Constitution of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996), and following an announcement in the Government Gazette No.18341 (dated 10th October, 1997), a very short and combined version of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and The Call of South Africa is now the national anthem of South Africa.

The Call of South Africa was a poem which was written by C.J Langenhoven in May 1918. The anthem was later written and composed by the Reverend M.L de Villiers in the year 1921.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation, SABC, played both God save the King and Die Stem to close their daily live broadcasts and led to the public becoming aware of it. It was first sung in public at the official hoisting of the national flag in Cape Town on 31 May 1928, but it was not until 2nd May, 1957 that the government proclaimed Die Stem had been accepted as the official national anthem of South Africa. In the same year, the government also obtained the copyright and this was confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1959. In 1952, the official English version of the national anthem, The Call of South Africa was accepted for official use.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, who was a missionary school teacher of the Methodist Church. The words of the first stanza were originally written in the Xhosa church as a hymn. Seven additional stanzas in Xhoza were later included by the poet, Samuel Mqhayi. A Sesotho version was later published by Moses Mphahlele in 1942. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was popularised at concerts held in Johannesburg by Reverend J.L Dube’s Ohlange Zulu Choir.

It later became a popular church hymn, then was adopted as an anthem at political meetings. It was sung as an act of boldly resisting opposition during the years of racial separation policy. The first stanza is generally sung in Xhosa or Zulu which is followed by the Sesotho version. Apparently there are no standard versions and translations of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and the words vary from place to place and from occasion to occasion.

Press Play To Watch The Lyric Video:

South African national anthem: ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (The Call of South Africa)’
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (Xhosa)
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo (Xhosa)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Zulu)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho Iwayo. (Zulu)
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, (Sesotho)
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, (Sesotho)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, (Sesotho)
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika, South Afrika. (Sesotho)
‘Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (Lord, Bless Africa)’

Uit die blou van onse hemel, (Afrikaans)
Uit die diepte van ons see, (Afrikaans)
Oor ons ewige gebergtes, (Afrikaans)
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.


What will be the lyrics if translated into standardized English?

Lord bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high,

Hear our petitions
Lord bless us, your children.

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

Out of the blue of our 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.

Fun fact: The anthem became a pan-African liberation anthem and was later adopted as the national anthem of five countries in Africa including Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe after independence. Zimbabwe and Namibia have since adopted a new national anthems. The song is currently the national anthem of Tanzania, Zambia and since 1994, a portion of the national anthem of South


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