The National Anthem was proclaimed in 1997. It is a shortened, combined version of two anthems (‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ and ‘The Call of South Africa’/’Die Stem van Suid-Afrika’); sung between 1994 and 1997. It is unique in that it is sung in five languages.
’Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist mission schoolteacher. The poet Samuel Mqhayi later added seven additional stanzas in isiXhosa. A Sesotho version was published by Moses Mphahlele in 1942.
‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ became a popular church hymn that was later adopted as an anthem at political meetings and was sung as an act of defiance during the apartheid years.
’Die Stem van Suid-Afrika’ is a poem written by CJ Langenhoven in May 1918, with music composed in 1921 by the Reverend ML de Villiers. It was first sung publicly at the official hoisting of the national flag in Cape Town on 31 May 1928. It was not until 2 May 1957 that government pronounced Die Stem as the official national anthem of South Africa.
In 1952, the official English version, ‘The Call of South Africa’, was accepted for official use.
Protocol on respecting the National Anthem
1. The National Anthem should be recited with appropriate respect.
2. All should stand to attention with their hands placed at their sides while singing the National Anthem.
3. Civilians should take their hats off as a sign of respect.