South Africa’s national anthem: what are the lyrics and why are there two separate songs?

3 August 2022, 10:20

South Africa’s national anthem: what are the lyrics and why are there two separate songs?
South Africa’s national anthem: what are the lyrics and why are there two separate songs? Picture: Alamy
Classic FM

By Classic FM

South Africa’s national anthem is a musical diamond, being the only neo-modal national anthem in the world. But what does that mean, and what are the lyrics?

South Africa’s national anthem combines new English lyrics with extracts from the 19th-century hymn ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ and the Afrikaans song ‘Die Stem van Suid-Afrika’,

‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (Lord, Bless Africa)’ is the official anthem of the African National Congress, while ‘Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The Call of South Africa)’ was the country’s national anthem during Apartheid.

When South Africa won the Rugby World Cup back in 1995, the songs were as usual heard alongside each other – and the powers-that-be decided to finally acknowledge both songs as national anthems. Two years later, they merged into one song.

Today, South Africa’s anthem is the only neo-modal national anthem in the world, meaning it is the only one that starts in one key and finishes in another.

Read more: The greatest national anthems in the world

What are the lyrics to South Africa’s national anthem?

South Africa’s national anthem features five of the most widely spoken of the country’s eleven official languages – Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English.

You can find all the lyrics below, along with an English translation beside each line.

Language: isiXhosa and isiZulu
Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless Africa)
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo, (Raise high Her glory)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Hear our Prayers)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo
(God bless us, we her children)

Language: Sesotho
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, (God protect our nation)
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, (End all wars and tribulations)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, (Protect us, protect our nation)
Setjhaba sa South Afrika - South Afrika. (Our nation South Africa - South Africa)

Language: Afrikaans
Uit die blou van onse hemel, (Ringing out from our blue heavens)
Uit die diepte van ons see, (From the depth of our seas)
Oor ons ewige gebergtes, (Over our everlasting mountains)
Waar die kranse antwoord gee, (Where the echoing crags resound)

Language: English
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.