South Africa’s National anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika

The national anthem of South Africa is a shortened, combined version of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” and “The Call of South Africa” (known in Afrikaans as “Die Stem van Suid Afrika”).  A proclamation issued by the State President on 20 April, 1994 stipulated that both Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and Die Stem would be the national anthems of South Africa. The combined anthem came into effect on October, 1997, after the English words were added and the musical  re-arrangement done by Jeanne Rudolph.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika

Enoch Sontonga

Enoch Sontonga

Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist school teacher, wrote the first verse and chorus and also composed the music in “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (which means “God Bless Africa”) as a hymn in 1897. ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ was publicly performed in 1899 for the first time. Sontonga wrote the first verse in Xhosa. Samuel Mqhayi, a poet, contributed seven additional verses, also in Xhosa. In 1927 the Lovedale Press, in the Eastern Cape, published all the verses in a pamphlet form.

In 1942, Moses Mphahlele published a Sesotho version of the hymn. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was further popularised by Reverend JL Dube’s Ohlange Zulu Choir and the hymn proved to be a hit in church services across South Africa.

At the first meeting of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the forerunner of the African National Congress (ANC),  Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was immediately sung after the closing prayer. In 1925 the ANC officially adopted it as a closing anthem for its meetings. It was later adopted as an anthem at political meetings and sung as an act of defiance during the Apartheid years. It became known as the unofficial national anthem of South Africa.

In the national anthem the first verse is performed in Xhosa (first two lines) and Zulu (third and fourth lines).  The second verse is performed in Sesotho.

The Call of South Africa (Die Stem van Suid-Afrika)

C.J. Langenhoven

C.J. Langenhoven

Die Stem van Suid-Afrika is a poem written by Cornelis Jacobus (C.J.) Langenhoven in 1918. In 1919 a Cape newspaper, “Die Burger”, sponsored a compeition for the music, but initial attempts were unsatisfactory to Laneghoven. Suitable music was ultimately supplied by by Marthinus de Villiers in 1921.  It was first sung publicly at the official hoisting of the national flag in Cape Town in 1928 and was further popularised when the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) began to close its daily broadcasts with both “God Save the King” and “Die Stem”.

In 1936 the “Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings”, unanimously selected the poem by Langenhoven and the music of de Villiers as the winners of a compeition to find the best lyrics and music for an official National Anthem.  In 1952, an English translation was selected from more than 220 submisions.  It was only in 1957, however, that the government acquired the copyright and accepted “Die Stem” as the official National Anthem of South Africa.

Hear a performance of the national anthem of South Africa

The words of the national anthem of South Africa

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

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.

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.

National anthem of South Africa words, lyrics & translation

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika (Xhosa)
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo, (Xhosa)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Zulu)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.(Zulu)
God [Lord] bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high
Hear our petitions
God bless us, Your children
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, Setjhaba sa, South Afrika.
(Entire verse is performed in Sesotho)
God we ask You to protect our nation
Intervene and end all conflicts
Protect us, protect our nation, our nation, South Africa
South Afrika! South Africa!
Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
(Entire verse is performed in Afrikaans)
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.
(Entire verse is performed in English)

Credits and links

  • Tshenolo


  • Toto

    5 languages in one anthem, that's nice !!

  • NE

    God bless South Africa and all its people!

  • Abongile Juqu

    South Africa is very talented; I honor Mr. Sontonga and the rest of the crew. May god bless South Africa to be a freely politically, socially, economically, technologically and culturally.
    African states are struggling; we are the only country in Africa who can measure our success after democratic elections: Only 16 years in freedom but 75% success, unbelievable. 

  • Butz

    I'm a whitey, and there's something I'd like to raise. Pragmatically, it must be said, it probably far, far too late for it to serve anything more than a topic for dinner table discussion.
    Our South African national anthem really stirs my soul, particularly when it is performed by well-trained voices.Having said that, there's something that's been worrying me ever since it was announced to the nation. So worrying, in fact, that I'd now like to get it off my chest.Written at a time when reconciliation among all the country's cultural and political groupings was an “A” priority, and when concessions had to be made on all sides the post WTC convention in Kempton Park political think-tank came up with probably the best solution to a challenging question.But it wasn't the best option! And that's my view still today.Consider for a moment our national flag.What was presented to us was a compromise only in respect of some of the colours that are found there. Not a single old symbol was in evidence, no Union Jack, no Vierkleur, no ANC assegai or shield. None whatsoever. It was a brand new design. Be reminded of what then happened: It took virtually no time at all for the nation to embrace it lovingly. We draped ourselves in it and when hoisted on flag poles around the world it brought smiles and pride to our collective faces. Unquestionably ours. And hey, has there been any hint of dissent?That's why I feel a similarly brave choice could have been where it came to a new national anthem. If we had followed the lead of the flag designer we would within a couple of months have had an anthem for everyone to sing without elements in the crowd/audience participating only in part (or worse, not at all).First prize, in my book, would have been for its words to be in English only. That language option leads, by the shortest of heads, from an equally worthy alternative – lyrics in Xhosa and/or Zulu. Would I for one have any objections to the chosen song and lyrics being based on Nkosi sikele' iAfrika? Absolutely not!
    Our current anthem, stirring though it may be, is as they say in Afrikaans, “nóg vis nóg vlees”. Parts of it simply do not resonate in the national psyche.
    Ah, well! I've said what I wanted to.

  • akeem

    hey whitey i think u are clearly a racicst man go out of this country and go and get your own anthem.

  • Wynandbez99

    You have obvioysly not noted the colours of the ANC flag – Green, Gold (yellow) & Black – the centre colours of the new flag. Enough siad… (But a very interesting perspective you have) At first I felt the same, untill I thought about it again, listened to the new anthem again and decided I love it! The only problem for me is that I learnt it phonetically, know the meaning when I look at the translation, but don't really know what each individual word means. It is lik ea stranger in my own country.

    And just in case some clever arsehole like racist akeem says I am racist, I just want to point out that I was a sperm just before My mother's egg got fertilised (no control over this) then I grew inside her (no control over this) and then, lo and behold, I was born (absolutely no control over this). So, the fact that I am white and living in Africa is to NO doing of my own!

  • croock

    you are right, those languages just show the dominance of thos tribe over minority tribes. it is a nice song but it does not represent all of us not even what they call blacks. we should come with a new just instrunental national atherm, no vocal

  • Mag

    i do not see any different between you and what you call racist man. you are too emotional and childish.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s a huge shame that the anthem is not secular.

  • Kristi

    To say things are peachy for all South Africans would be blantantly untrue. But we
    did not have a civil war post 1994 – a miracle in itself. Worth
    pondering how? 

  • Blackmamba1818

    I am foreigner married to a South African who is of a different culture and colour from me, we are so proud when we hear our daughter sing the anthem so clearly at the tender age of 4! Your perspective on the anthem and flag is inspirational.

  • Jafter

    Youth of 1976 was fighting afrikaans in South Africa as an apartheid language
    so do you think now we can sing it as an national anthem, we are now free we
    need to forget the strangle of our brother and sister. I believe and understand
    SA is a rainbow Nation we need to be united.

  • Rajan

    Hey Akeem, I would like to know how old u r, and if u r actually a South African citizen to start of with. I am a 3rd generation South African, of Indian origin. I work for the SAPS and actually joined the police in the apartheid era. I am one of many, across the racial spectrum, who literally shed blood, sweat and tears to ensure the 1st democratic elections in 1994 actually took place. I was at that time the father of a 2 year old, yet I, and people like me, voluntarily risked our lives on a daily basis in the townships of KZN just to ensure that someone like you can have this platform to air your views.
    My appeal to you then, is to use the freedom that people like me risked our lives for, not to condemn your fellow South Africans, but to try and embrace the diversity that each of us brings to this wonderful country.
    Take a road trip around this country and view the beauty of the Tsitsikama Forest in EC, Table Mountain in Cape Town, Oribi Gorge in KZN etc. Then ask yourself how is it possible to have such ugly thoughts as yours in such a beautiful country?

  • sally

    Hate racist people. Love the anthem

  • nina

    i love this anthem

  • nina

    not bad at all

  • nina

    i like it very much

  • nina

    by the way who are u guys?

  • nina

    who is Toto?

  • nina

    i know

  • nina

    i command u to answer me right now? Toto

  • nina

    u talk bullshit. Jafter

  • Zipora

    You can never truly represent everyone and besides we all have a little of “every tribe and tongue” in us – we’re South African and we can remain proudly individual in our unique hybrid ethnicity but we should no longger refer to ourselves as the individual culture – if we did this we would no longer focus and point out our differences but rather our similarities and commonalities. I love our anthem and our flag – it reflects South Africa well!
    From a South African with Indian, Scottish and Italian heritage ;-)

  • Tanisha

    I have one of the unique parents, my dad’s south African and my moms Tanzanian. Both national anthems, I mean the Tanzanian and South African have the same tune with different lyrics.

  • Chingola

    I grew up in Zambia, which was Northern Rhodesia when I flew there aged 5. My parents lived and worked there for 28 years, and I truly feel part of my identity is African. When Zambia got independence in 1964 we were taught the new national anthenm in school which is in English, but to the tune of Nkosi sikeleli Africa. They chose English as the official language in Zambia because there are so many different tribes and languages that to chose one was unfair.
    The words as far as I can remember are:

    Stand and sing of Zambia, proud and free,
    Land of hope and joy in unity,
    Victors in the struggle for the right,
    We won freedoms fight,
    All one proud and free.

    Can`t remember the rest of the words, but it was 50 years ago.

    Have just heard that Nelson Mandela has lost his voice, so I`m going to try and learn the SA anthem to sing at Xmas party on 13/12/14. Perhaps other people could do the same? Maybe form a choir? I know it`s hard, but I`m prepared to give it a go.
    Happy Xmas, or Newton`s birthday, depending on your faith, or lack of it.

  • chingola

    Sorry, a few senior moments in above post, I can spell anthem, and party is this year, not next!

  • james bedu kojo graham

    It is quite funny south africa has a huge problem in fact it is bigger than aparheid.

    the mere mention of the name south africa people jump straight to the apartheid era.

    azania is such a beautiful land and it is the greatest tragedy that sa fell victim of a horrendous political and sociological policy.

    all of africa including azania have one common factor, the invasion of the white europeans.

    their visit to the continent dramatized the way african societies were to evolve from the 1800s to the mid 20 th century.

    The good side of the contact was the transfer of western technology and the bad side has been the entranchement of tribalism and segreagation among the same africans or black persons.

    There are over 200 anthems, as a musician I have analyzed them all but only four have a dramatic effect on me personally that of spain germany australia and south africa.

    south africa and australia stand out 1st and 2nd for their hanuting power and the genuiness of the anthem and the lyrics.

    On the piano nkosi sikilele makes the composers weep with admiration at the tonality of the music powertunes.

    The country needs to be renamed azania just like rhodesia became zimbabwe.the dominion of south africa sounds too colonial and the name of town and cities are still sounding like one is in holland or britain.

    there is no doubt that the black, indian, asian heritage of the country must be acknowledged and transcribed by naming towns and villages after their own nomencloture noted by historians and sociologists.

  • james bedu kojo graham

    The south african government must as a a matter of urgency set up a special public relations company to promote a better image of south africa through the media and the internet so that foreignerw might better appreciate the land down under.

    The south african story must inspire the rest of the world and especially the african comtinent.

  • makekemba mpho

    the south African government must include 11 official languages to cater all people. the fact that they only included 5 languages is not enough as we don’t have 5 languages in south Africa. all languages of south Africa are equal so we must sing them all not just the most spoken ones. it also create a chance for others to learn the languages.

  • James Bedu Eric Kojo Graham

    It is high time that South Africa made French a Special Associative Language at Par with the Emglish and Afrikkans Language.

    it beats my Imagination as to Why Le Francais has been marginalized over the past few decades in Afrique du Sud.

    The Current Language Policy is Quite Good but adding Spanish Portuguese and German as well might not be a Bad idea to make South African Workers Students and Professionals more Competitive and able on the Globalized Marketplace and Situation.

    There is time for everything but Frankly the location of Azania is clear for all Persons to See the Possibility of a great Land of European and African Languages.

    it is quite Interesting to See the European Perspective on South African Affairs Since the 1980s and with the end of the Apartheid System Trade Links have kept up with Good feeling and Reason.

    it is Quite Clear that Most South Africans are tired of Foreign Interference in their medium But the Truth is that with the Influx of Chinese Persons and Investors Azania will never be the Same because the Eyes of the World have been on the Country Since the 1980s Leading up to the World Cup of Year 2010.

    Religious and Acdemic Freedom is Guaranteed in South Africa and let me assume that the Existence of Extreme Groups In South Africa is a misdeamour like the AwB and let me add that even such Extreme Groups like the Urgud of the Israelis in the 1940s was inhuman.

    the Current Israeli war machine is a disgrace to the Jewish State and I am appalled by the disturbances in the Gaza Strip.

    The way i see it Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet is now a War Criminal who ought to br brought to the Hague for Prosecution and hatred of the Legitimate People of Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

    Shame unto Israel and even I a fervent supporter of the Jews see their oppresive Policy of Zionism and now South Africa and the rst of the African Union must declare a High Resolution Condemning the State of Israel Once and For all in the Comity of Nations.

    Putting up a wall is a type of Apartheid against Palestinians and on TV one only sees Children Women and Old People Struggling to make a life for themselves.

    One Day there will be a Palestinian State and Israel will have to accept it without Netanyahu and Jews will have the Right to live in that State and to travel Freely to that State and move as they Wish and apart from that Palestinians will also go round the World seeking their Rights as Jews Did in 1948.

    Palestinians are Human Beings and Israel must be condemned without demerits and if need be expelled from the Community of the United Nations and face Sanctions like Apartheid South Africa did in the 1960s and 1970s.

    The Middle East Conflict may end but everyone must remember that the region faces other challenges as well and that will be elaborated in another academic Electronic thesis on this very platform and medium.

    Benjamin Netanyahu and his goverment Cabinet will one day answer for h will One day answer for their War Crimes.Inshallah and Shallom.