Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika
was composed in 1897 by Enoch
Sontonga, a teacher at a Methodist mission school in
Johannesburg. It was one of many songs he composed, and he was apparently a keen singer
who composed the songs for his pupils.
The words of the first stanza were originally written in
Xhosa as a hymn. In 1927 seven additional Xhosa stanzas were later added by Samuel Mqhayi,
Most of Sontonga 's songs were sad, witnessing the suffering
of African people in Johannesburg, but they were popular and after his death in 1905
choirs used to borrow them from his wife.
Solomon Plaatje, one of South Africa's greatest writers and
a founding member of the ANC, was the first to have the song recorded. This was in London
in 1923. A Sesotho version was published in 1942 by Moses
The Rev J L Dube's Ohlange Zulu Choir popularised Nkosi
Sikelel' iAfrika at concerts in Johannesburg, and it became a popular church hymn that was
also adopted as the anthem at political meetings.
For decades Enoch
regarded as the national anthem of South Afrika by the oppressed and it was always sung as
an act of defiance against the apartheid regime.
A proclamation issued by the State President on 20 April 1994
stipulated that both Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and Die
Stem, The Call of South
Africa, would be the national anthems of South
In 1996 a shortened, combined version of the two anthems was released as the new
National Anthem, Official
There are no standard versions or translations of Nkosi
Sikelel' iAfrika so the words vary from place to place and from occasion to occasion.
Generally the first stanza is sung in Xhosa or
Zulu, followed by the Sesotho