The South African National Anthem


This is a picture of Enoch Mankayi Sontonga who, though he only lived 32 years, somehow managed to bottle over a century of suffering into South Africa’s magnificent national anthem.

I’ve always been moved by the song and did a little reading on the net from here an edited version of the words of which appears below.

Sontonga was born in the Eastern Cape in about 1873. He wrote the first verse and chorus and also composed the music in 1897. It was first sung in public in 1899 at the ordination of Rev Boweni, a Shangaan Methodist Minister.

Sontonga’s choir as well as other choirs sang this song around Johannesburg and Natal. This song made a strong impression on all audiences. On 8 January 1912, at the first meeting of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the forerunner of the African National Congress, it was immediately sung after the closing prayer. In 1925 the ANC officially adopted it as a closing anthem for its meetings.

The song spread beyond the borders of South Africa and has been translated and adapted into a number of other languages. It is still the national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia and has also been sung in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa for many years. In 1994 it became part of South Africa’s national anthem.

Here are the words in the original Xhosa.

Nkosi, sikelel’ iAfrika

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

Yihla Moya, Yihla Moya,
Yihla Moya Oyingcwele

Here is an early English translation of the words.

God Bless Africa

Original Lovedale English Translation

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

Descend, O Spirit,
Descend, O Holy Spirit.

The song acquired the following additional verses from Samuel E Mqhayi in 1927.

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 mayst 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.

You can hear the song here.

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2024 years ago

It is indeed a great anthem.