South Africa Table Mountain

The South African National Anthem
a fitting illustration of the country’s rainbow culture

The South African national Anthem is one of only a few national anthems that are written in different languages all having equal national language status.

Before South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994, the country had two anthems, an official and an unofficial one.


The official national anthem at the time was “Die Stem van Suid Afrika” or in short “Die Stem”, in the Afrikaans language.

The English version was called “The Call of South Africa”. Originally a poem written by famous South African author C.J. Langenhoven in 1918, it was musically composed into a song by Reverend M.L. de Villiers in 1921.

Find out more about South Africa's multi-language National Anthem:
Introduction,...

Workers at a Sasol plant in South Africa, the world's largest synthetic fuels producer - South African national anthem
Workers at a Sasol plant in South Africa, the world's largest synthetic fuels producer
Photo: Sasol, MediaClubSouthAfrica.com - South African national anthem

From 1936 to 1957, the years when the Union of South Africa was closely tied to Great Britain, "Die Stem" was the co-national anthem with "God save the Queen".

"Die Stem" or "The Call of South Africa" became popular when the South African Broadcast Corporation played both anthems at the end of each broadcast day, until 1957, when it became the sole national anthem until 1995.

During the apartheid years the national anthem "The Call of South Africa" was regarded as belonging to the apartheid regime and the coloured population of South Africa refused to acknowledge it.

They had their own unofficial hymn called "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika". Originally a church hymn, it was also sung as an act of political defiance during the apartheid years.

Construction of an upmarket residential development near the harbour in Durban - South African national anthem
Construction of an upmarket residential development near the harbour in Durban
Photo: Graeme Williams, MediaClubSouthAfrica.com - South African national anthem

“Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika” was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist mission school teacher.The words of the first stanza were originally written in isiXhosa as a hymn. Seven additional stanzas in isiXhoza were later added by the poet Samuel Mqhayi. A Sesotho version was published by Moses Mphahlele in 1942.

The hymn became popular through concerts held by the Ohlange Zulu Choir of reverend J.L. Dube held in Johannesburg. For decades “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika” was regarded as the unofficial national anthem of South Afrika, was a symbol of independence and resistance to apartheid, sung by the majority of the population and at all anti-apartheid rallies and gatherings.

Trainee diamond polishers at the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond training school - South African national anthem
Trainee diamond polishers at the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond training school
Photo: Chris Kirchhoff, MediaClubSouthAfrica.com - South African national anthem

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The original "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika",...

The first stanza and chorus is the part that was composed by Enoch Sontonga in the Xhosa language, the other 7 stanzas were later added by the poet Samuel Mqhayi, also in Xhosa. A Sesotho version was published by Moses Mphahlele in 1942.

First Stanza and chorus by Enoch Sontonga

Nkosi, sikelel' iAfrika;
Malupakam'upondo lwayo;
Yiva imitandazo yetu

Yihla Moya, Yihla Moya,
Yihla Moya Oyingcwele


Lord, bless Africa;
May her horn rise high up;
Hear Thou our prayers

Descend, O Spirit,
Descend, O Holy Spirit.


Nkosi, sikelel' iAfrika;
Malupakam'upondo lwayo;
Yiva imitandazo yetu

Yihla Moya, Yihla Moya,
Yihla Moya Oyingcwele

Lord, bless Africa;
May her horn rise high up;
Hear Thou our prayers

Descend, O Spirit,
Descend, O Holy Spirit.


The other 7 stanzas by Moses Mphahlele

Sikelela iNkosi zetu;
Zimkumbule umDali wazo;
Zimoyike zezimhlonele,
Azisikelele.

Sikelel' amadod' esizwe,
Sikelela kwa nomlisela
Ulitwal'ilizwe ngomonde,
Uwusikelele.

Sikelel'amakosikazi;
Nawo onk'amanenekazi;
Pakamisa wonk'umtinjana
Uwusikelele.

Sikelela abafundisi
Bemvaba zonke zelilizwe;
Ubatwese ngoMoya Wako
Ubasikelele.

Sikelel'ulimo nemfuyo;
Gxota zonk'indlala nezifo;
Zalisa ilizwe ngempilo
Ulisikelele

Sikelel'amalinge etu
Awomanyano nokuzaka,
Awemfundo nemvisiswano
Uwasikelele.

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika;
Cima bonk' ubugwenxa bayo
Nezigqito, nezono zayo
Uyisikelele.

Bless our chiefs
May they remember their Creator.
Fear Him and revere Him,
That He may bless them.

Bless the public men,
Bless also the youth
That they may carry the land with patience
and that Thou may bless them.

Bless the wives
And also all young women;
Lift up all the young girls
And bless them.

Bless the ministers
of all the churches of this land;
Endue them with Thy Spirit
And bless them.

Bless agriculture and stock raising
Banish all famine and diseases;
Fill the land with good health
And bless it.

Bless our efforts
of union and self-uplift,
Of education and mutual understanding
And bless them

Lord, bless Africa
Blot out all its wickedness
And its transgressions and sins,
And bless it.

Sikelela iNkosi zetu;
Zimkumbule umDali wazo;
Zimoyike zezimhlonele,
Azisikelele.

Sikelel' amadod' esizwe,
Sikelela kwa nomlisela
Ulitwal'ilizwe ngomonde,
Uwusikelele.

Sikelel'amakosikazi;
Nawo onk'amanenekazi;
Pakamisa wonk'umtinjana
Uwusikelele.

Sikelela abafundisi
Bemvaba zonke zelilizwe;
Ubatwese ngoMoya Wako
Ubasikelele.

Sikelel'ulimo nemfuyo;
Gxota zonk'indlala nezifo;
Zalisa ilizwe ngempilo
Ulisikelele

Sikelel'amalinge etu
Awomanyano nokuzaka,
Awemfundo nemvisiswano
Uwasikelele.

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika;
Cima bonk' ubugwenxa bayo
Nezigqito, nezono zayo
Uyisikelele.

Bless our chiefs
May they remember their Creator.
Fear Him and revere Him,
That He may bless them.

Bless the public men,
Bless also the youth
That they may carry the land with patience
and that Thou may bless them.

Bless the wives
And also all young women;
Lift up all the young girls
And bless them.

Bless the ministers
of all the churches of this land;
Endue them with Thy Spirit
And bless them.

Bless agriculture and stock raising
Banish all famine and diseases;
Fill the land with good health
And bless it.

Bless our efforts
of union and self-uplift,
Of education and mutual understanding
And bless them

Lord, bless Africa
Blot out all its wickedness
And its transgressions and sins,
And bless it.


Zulu army on the attack - South African national anthem
Zulu army on the attack
South African national anthem

In 1994 the South African government under Nelson Mandela adopted both, “The Call of South Africa” (or ”Die Stem”) and “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika” as the national anthems of South Africa. Sung in Xhosa, Zulu, English and Afrikaans, they shared equal recognition.

In 1997 the two anthems were merged into one national anthem carrying the name of “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika”. The lyrics employ the five most popular 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 historical Fort Klapperkop in Pretoria - South African national anthem
The historical Fort Klapperkop in Pretoria
copyright © Cristel Veefkind - South African national anthem

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South Africa's official National Anthem “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika",...
    Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika
    Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,

    Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
    Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
    Xhosa

    Zulu
    Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
    O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,
    O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
    Setjhaba sa South Afrika - South Afrika.
    Sotho
    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
Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,

Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa South Afrika - South Afrika.
Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.


Translated in English, the South African National Anthem reads as follows;

Lord, bless Africa,
May her spirit rise high up.
Hear thou our prayers,
Lord bless us.

Lord, bless Africa,
Banish wars and strife.
Lord, bless our nation,
Of South Africa.

Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From our deep seas breaking round,
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.
Lord, bless Africa,
May her spirit rise high up.
Hear thou our prayers,
Lord bless us.

Lord, bless Africa,
Banish wars and strife.
Lord, bless our nation,
Of South Africa.

Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From our deep seas breaking round,
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.





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Family enjoying a beach holiday in South Africa

Aerial view of Cape Town and Table Mountain in South Africa

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