At the time that South Africa’s multi-racial system of government was adopted, there were two anthems in use among the people, divided by the old racial lines. “N’kosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (God Bless Africa), written and composed by Enoch Mankayi, was popular with the black population and was used as an anti-Apartheid anthem. The white South Africans had been using “Die Stem van Suid Afrika” (The Call of South Africa) since the 1920s on an unofficial basis, and was made the country’s official anthem in 1957. Even though the latter anthem was seen as too closely tied to the apartheid system by the majority black population, it was decided in the interim to make both anthems the national anthem, “God Bless Africa” was usually played in its entirety followed by the complete “Die Stem”.
In 1997, the two anthems were combined, and the lyrics reflect South Africa’s multi-racial status in that the lyrics employ five of the most popularly spoken of South Africa’s eleven official languages. The lyrics start with a few lines of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” in Xhosa, then Zulu, followed by Sesotho, then a few lines of “Die Stem” in Afrikaans, and finishing the anthem with another few lines from “The Call of South Africa” in English. (The English lines actually do not appear in the official English version of “Die Stem”, but are an abridgement of the last few lines of the first verse, with the words slightly altered to reflect South Africa’s new freedom).
The national anthem of South Africa is unique in a couple of aspects: first of all, as mentioned above, the anthem employs five different languages in the same version of the official lyrics, secondly, by virtue of the fact that it combines two disparate pieces of music, this anthem as well as Italy’s are the only two that end on a different key than they begins with.
Special thanks to: Ermano Geuer for some of this information.