Since 1997, the South African national anthem has been a hybrid song combining new English lyrics with extracts of the hymn “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” and the former anthem “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika” (The Call of South Africa). It is the only neo-modal national anthem in the world, by virtue of being the only one that does not finish in the home key. The lyrics employ the five most widely spoken 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).
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist school teacher. It was originally sung as a church hymn but later became an act of political defiance against the apartheid government. Die Stem van Suid-Afrika is a poem written by C.J. Langenhoven in 1918 and was set to music by the Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921. Die Stem was the co-national anthem with God Save the King/Queen from 1936 to 1957, when it became the sole national anthem until 1995. The South African government under Nelson Mandela adopted both songs as national anthems from 1995 until they were merged in 1997 to form the current anthem.
(Xhosa) Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
(Zulu) Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
God [Lord] bless Africa
Raise high Her glory
Hear our Prayers
God bless us, we her children