Die Stem van Suid-Afrika

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Die Stem van Suid-Afrika
English: "The Call of South Africa"
Volk en Vaderland 27 - Die stem van Suid-Afrika.png
Excerpt of "Die Stem" from the F.A.K.-Volksangbundel  [ af ]

Former national anthem of South Africa
Also known as"Die Stem" (English: "The Call")
Lyrics Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven, 1918 (1918) (English version: Collectively, 1952)
Music Marthinus Lourens de Villiers  [ af ], 1921 (1921)
Published1926 (1926)
Adopted3 June 1938 (1938-06-03) (jointly with "God Save the King") [1]
2 May 1957 (1957-05-02) (as the sole national anthem)
10 May 1994 (1994-05-10) (jointly with "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika")
Relinquished10 May 1994 (1994-05-10) (as the sole national anthem)
10 October 1997 (1997-10-10) (as the co-national anthem)
Preceded by"God Save the Queen"
Succeeded by"National anthem of South Africa"
Audio sample
"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" (instrumental, one verse)

"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" (Afrikaans:  [di ˈstɛm fan sœi̯t ˈɑːfrika] , lit."The Voice of South Africa"), also known as "The Call of South Africa" or simply "Die Stem" (Afrikaans:  [di ˈstɛm] ), is a former national anthem of South Africa. There are two versions of the song, one in English and the other in Afrikaans, which were used during much of the apartheid era. [2] [3] It was the sole national anthem from 1957 to 1994, [4] and shared co-national anthem status with "God Save the King" from 1938 to 1957. [1] After the end of apartheid in the early 1990s, it was retained as a co-national anthem along with "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" from 1994 to 1997, when a new hybrid song incorporating elements of both songs was adopted as the country's new national anthem, which is still in use today. [5]

National anthem Song that represents a country or sovereign state

A national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. The majority of national anthems are marches or hymns in style. The countries of Latin America, Central Asia, and Europe tend towards more ornate and operatic pieces, while those in the Middle East, Oceania, Africa, and the Caribbean use a more simplistic fanfare. Some countries that are devolved into multiple constituent states have their own official musical compositions for them ; their constituencies' songs are sometimes referred to as national anthems even though they are not sovereign states.

South Africa Republic in the southernmost part of Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho. South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th-largest country in the world by land area and, with over 57 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Bantu ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European, Asian (Indian), and multiracial (Coloured) ancestry.

South African English Set of dialects of the English language native to South Africans

South African English is the set of English dialects native to South Africans.


Mid-20th century recording of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" being performed by the South African Air Force Band.
Mid-20th century recording of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" being performed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation Symphony Orchestra
A computerised instrumental piano rendition of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika"
Synthesised MIDI-derived instrumental rendition of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika"
A computerised instrumental piano rendition of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika"
"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" played by a US military band during Nelson Mandela's state visit to Washington, DC in 1994.

Background and inception

In May 1918, C.J. Langenhoven wrote an Afrikaans poem called "Die Stem", for which music was composed in 1921 by Marthinus Lourens de Villiers  [ af ], a reverend. [6] [7] The music composed was actually a second version; the first did not satisfy Langenhoven. [8] It was widely used by the South African Broadcasting Corporation in the 1920s, which played it at the close of daily broadcasts, along with "God Save The King". It was recorded for the first time in 1926 when its first and third verses were performed by Betty Steyn in England for the Zonophone record label; [9] [10] it was sung publicly for the first time on 31 May 1928 at a raising of the new South African national flag. [7] In 1938, South Africa proclaimed it to be one of the two co-national anthems of the country, along with "God Save the King". [1]

Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven South African politician

Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven, who published under his initials C.J. Langenhoven, was a South African poet who played a major role in the development of Afrikaans literature and cultural history. His poetry was one of the then young language's foremost promoters. He is best known to have written the words for the national anthem of South Africa, "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika", which was used during the apartheid era. He was affectionately known as Sagmoedige Neelsie or Kerneels.

Afrikaans West Germanic language, spoken in South Africa and Namibia

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It evolved from the Dutch vernacular of South Holland spoken by the largely Dutch settlers and the people of colour associated with them in what is now South Africa, where it gradually began to develop distinguishing characteristics in the course of the 18th century. Hence, it is a daughter language of Dutch, and was previously referred to as "Cape Dutch" or "kitchen Dutch". However, it is also variously described as a creole or as a partially creolised language. The term is ultimately derived from Dutch Afrikaans-Hollands meaning "African Dutch".

South African Broadcasting Corporation company

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is the public broadcaster in South Africa, and provides 19 radio stations (AM/FM) as well as five television broadcasts to the general public. It is one of the largest of South Africa's state-owned enterprises.

It was sung in English as well as Afrikaans from 1952 onward, [11] [12] with both versions having official status in the eyes of the state, [13] while "God Save the Queen" did not cease to be a co-national anthem until May 1957, when it was dropped from that role. However, it remained the country's royal anthem until 1961, as it was a Commonwealth realm until that point. [4] [1] The poem originally had only three verses, but the government asked the author to add a fourth verse with a religious theme. The English version is for the most part a faithful translation of the Afrikaans version with a few minor changes.

God Save the Queen National anthem of the United Kingdom and royal anthem of many Commonwealth realms

"God Save the Queen" is the national or royal anthem in a number of Commonwealth realms, their territories, and the British Crown dependencies. The author of the tune is unknown, and it may originate in plainchant; but an attribution to the composer John Bull is sometimes made.

Commonwealth realm Sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II or her successors as its monarch

A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in which Queen Elizabeth II is the reigning constitutional monarch and head of state. Each realm functions as an independent co-equal kingdom from the other realms. As of 2019, there are 16 Commonwealth realms: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom. All 16 Commonwealth realms are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states. Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth.


It is lugubrious in tone, [14] [15] addressing throughout of commitment to the Vaderland (English: Fatherland) and to God. However, it was generally disliked by black South Africans, [16] [17] who saw it as triumphalist and strongly associated it with the apartheid regime [18] [19] where one verse shows dedication to Afrikaners [20] and another to the Voortrekkers' "Great Trek". [21] [22] [14] [15] P. W. Botha, who was the state president of South Africa during the 1980s, was fond of the song and made his entourage sing it when they visited Switzerland during his presidency. [23]

Black people from South Africa were at times officially called Bantu by the apartheid regime. The term Bantu is derived from the word for "people" common to many of the Bantu languages. The Oxford Dictionary of South African English describes its contemporary usage in a racial context as "obsolescent and offensive" because of its strong association with white minority rule and the apartheid system. However, Bantu is used without pejorative connotations in other parts of Africa.

Apartheid system of racial segregation based on skin colour common in South Africa

Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap, which encouraged state repression of Black African, Coloured, and Asian South Africans for the benefit of the nation's minority white population. The economic legacy and social effects of apartheid continue to the present day.

Great Trek Boer migrations away from British control in the eastern Cape Colony (1836-1852)

The Great Trek was an eastward migration of Dutch-speaking settlers who travelled by wagon trains from the Cape Colony into the interior of modern South Africa from 1836 onwards, seeking to live beyond the Cape’s British colonial administration. The Great Trek resulted from the culmination of tensions between rural descendants of the Cape's original European settlers, known collectively as Boers, and the British Empire. It was also reflective of an increasingly common trend among individual Boer communities to pursue an isolationist and semi-nomadic lifestyle away from the developing administrative complexities in Cape Town. Boers who took part in the Great Trek identified themselves as voortrekkers, meaning "pioneers", "pathfinders" in Dutch and Afrikaans.


As the dismantling of apartheid began in the early 1990s, South African teams were readmitted to international sporting events, which presented a problem as to the choice of national identity South Africa had to present. Agreements were made with the African National Congress (ANC) that "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" would not be sung at rugby matches, [24] due to its connection to the apartheid system and minority rule (which led the ANC and other such groups at the time to view the song as offensive). [24] However, at a rugby union test match against New Zealand in 1992, the crowd spontaneously sang "Die Stem" during a moment of silence for victims of political violence in South Africa, [25] and although it was ostensibly agreed upon beforehand that it would not be played, an instrumental recording of "Die Stem" was played over the stadium's PA system's loudspeakers after the New Zealand national anthem was performed, and spectators sang along, sparking controversy afterwards. [26] [27] [28] [29] [30]

African National Congress political party in South Africa

The African National Congress (ANC) is the Republic of South Africa's governing political party. It has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa since the election of Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election, winning every election since then. Cyril Ramaphosa, the incumbent President of South Africa, has served as leader of the ANC since 18 December 2017.

Rugby union Team sport, code of rugby football

Rugby union, commonly known in most of the world simply as rugby, is a contact team sport which originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In its most common form, a game is between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts at each end.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Although it remained the official national anthem of the state during this time period, both the usage of it and the then-national flag began to dwindle whenever possible. For example, at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona that year, Schiller's "Ode to Joy", [31] as set to Beethoven's music, was used instead of it, along with a neutral Olympic-style flag instead of the South African flag at the time. [32]

"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika"'s future seemed in doubt as the country prepared to transition to majority rule, with many predicting that it would not remain after the transition into the new dispensation. [33] [34] In 1993, a commission sought out a new national anthem for South Africa, with 119 entries being suggested, [35] but none were chosen. Instead, it was decided to retain "Die Stem"'s official status after the advent of full multi-racial democracy which followed the 1994 general election. When the old South African flag was lowered for the last time at the parliament building in Cape Town, "Die Stem" was performed in Afrikaans and then in English as the new South African flag was raised. [36] After 1994, it shared equal status with "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", which had long been a traditional hymn used by the ANC. In 1995, "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" was sung by a black choir at the Rugby World Cup final match, [37] [38] as it had been done at the 1994 South African presidential inauguration in Pretoria, [39] first in Afrikaans and then in English.


The practice of singing two different national anthems had been a cumbersome arrangement during the transition to post-apartheid South Africa. On most occasions, it was usually the first verse of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" that was sung at ceremonies, in both official languages prior to 1994, with some English medium schools in what was then Natal Province singing the first verse in Afrikaans and the second in English. During this period of two national anthems, the custom was to play both "Die Stem" and "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" during occasions that required the playing of a national anthem. However, this proved cumbersome as performing the dual national anthems took as much as five minutes to conclude. [40] In 1997, with the adoption of a new national constitution, a new composite national anthem was introduced, which combined part of "Nkosi Sikelel 'iAfrika" and part of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" into a single composition in order to form a new hybrid song.


Since the end of apartheid and the adoption of a new national anthem in the 1990s, the status of "Die Stem" has become somewhat controversial in contemporary South Africa, [2] [41] [42] [43] due to its connection with the apartheid regime and white minority rule. [44] [45] [46] [47] [48]

Although elements of it are used in the current South African national anthem, in recent years some South Africans have called for those segments to be removed due to their connection with apartheid, [49] [50] [51] whereas others defend the inclusion of it as it was done for post-apartheid re-conciliatory reasons. [52] [53] [54] When "Die Stem" was mistakenly played by event organisers in place of the current South African national anthem during a UK-hosted women's field hockey match in 2012, it sparked outrage and confusion among the South African staff members and players present. [3] [55] [56] [57] [19] [58] [59]

The Afrikaans version remains popular with Afrikaner nationalists [60] and far-right organisations [61] such as the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, where it is sometimes performed at the funerals of such groups' members or at demonstrations by them. [62] [63] [64] [65] "Die Stem" was also the name of a far-right periodical during the apartheid era. [66]


A 1938 recording of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" being performed by the ASAF Choir, featuring the first and last verses.
"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika"'s all four stanzas sung in Afrikaans by a choir in the mid-20th century
"The Call of South Africa"'s all four stanzas sung in English by a choir in the mid-20th century
The lyrics of "The Call of South Africa" read a capella in English.
The lyrics of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" read a capella in Afrikaans.
The lyrics of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" read a capella in Afrikaans.
The lyrics of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika"'s first stanza read a capella in Dutch.
Die Stem van Suid-Afrika/The Call of South Africa
"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" [67] "The Call of South Africa"Literal translation of "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika"
First verse

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes
Waar die kranse antwoord gee.
Deur ons vêr verlate vlaktes
Met die kreun van ossewa.
Ruis die stem van ons geliefde,
Van ons land Suid-Afrika.
Ons sal antwoord op jou roepstem,
Ons sal offer wat jy vra:
Ons sal lewe, ons sal sterwe,
Ons vir jou, Suid-Afrika.

Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From our deep seas breaking round,
Over everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound,
From our plains where creaking wagons,
Cut their trails into the earth,
Calls the spirit of our country,
Of the land that gave us birth.
At thy call we shall not falter,
Firm and steadfast we shall stand,
At thy will to live or perish,
O South Africa, dear land.

From the blue of our heaven
From the depths of our sea,
Over our eternal mountain ranges
Where the cliffs give answer
Through our far-deserted plains
With the groan of ox-wagon
Rises the voice of our beloved,
Of our country South Africa
We will answer to your calling,
We will offer what you ask
We will live, we will die
We for Thee, South Africa

Second verse

In die murg van ons gebeente,
in ons hart en siel en gees,
In ons roem op ons verlede,
In ons hoop op wat sal wees.
In ons wil en werk en wandel,
Van ons wieg tot aan ons graf.
Deel geen ander land ons liefde,
Trek geen ander trou ons af.
Vaderland, ons sal die adel,
Van jou naam met ere dra:
Waar en trou as Afrikaners,
Kinders van Suid-Afrika.

In our body and our spirit,
In our inmost heart held fast;
In the promise of our future,
And the glory of our past;
In our will, our work, our striving,
From the cradle to the grave-
There's no land that shares our loving,
And no bond that can enslave.
Thou hast borne us and we know thee,
May our deeds to all proclaim
Our enduring love and service
To thy honour and thy name.

In the marrow of our bones
In our heart and soul and spirit
In the glory of our past
In our hope of what will be
In our will and work and wander,
From our crib to our grave
Share no other land our love,
No other loyalty can sway us.
Fatherland! We will bear the nobility
Of your name with honour:
Dedicated and true as Afrikaners,
Children of South Africa

Third verse

In die songloed van ons somer,
in ons winternag se kou,
In die lente van ons liefde,
in die lanfer van ons rou.
By die klink van huw'liksklokkies,
by die kluit-klap op die kis.
Streel jou stem ons nooit verniet nie,
Weet jy waar jou kinders is.
Op jou roep sê ons nooit née nie,
Sê ons altyd, altyd ja:
Om te lewe, om te sterwe -
Ja, ons kom, Suid-Afrika.

In the golden warmth of summer,
In the chill of winter's air,
In the surging life of springtime,
In the autumn of despair;
When the wedding bells are chiming,
Or when those we love do depart,
Thou dost know us for thy children
And dost take us to thy heart
Loudly peals the answering chorus;
We are thine, and we shall stand,
Be it life or death, to answer
To thy call, beloved land.

In the sunglow of our summer,
In our winter night's cold
In the spring of our love,
In the autumn of our sorrow
At the sound of wedding bells,
At the stonefall on the coffin.
Soothes your voice us never in vain,
You know where your children are.
At your call we never say no,
We always, always say yes:
To live, to die –
Yes, we come South Africa

Fourth verse

Op U Almag vas vertrouend
het ons vadere gebou:
Skenk ook ons die krag, o Here!
Om te handhaaf en te hou.
Dat die erwe van ons vadere
Vir ons kinders erwe bly:
Knegte van die Allerhoogste,
Teen die hele wêreld vry.
Soos ons vadere vertrou het,
Leer ook ons vertrou, o Heer:
Met ons land en met ons nasie
Sal dit wel wees, God regeer.

In thy power, Almighty, trusting,
Did our fathers build of old;
Strengthen then, O Lord, their children
To defend, to love, to hold-
That the heritage they gave us
For our children yet may be;
Bondsmen only to the Highest [lower-alpha 1]
And before the whole world free.
As our fathers trusted humbly,
Teach us, Lord to trust Thee still;
Guard our land and guide our people
In Thy way to do Thy will.

On your almight steadfast entrusted
Had our fathers built:
Give to us also the strength, o Lord!
To sustain and to preserve.
That the heritage of our fathers
For our children heritage remain
Servants of the almighty,
Against the whole world free.
As our fathers trusted,
Teach us also to trust, o Lord:
With our land and with our nation
It will be well, God reigns.

See also


  1. Sometimes given as: "Bondsmen only of the Highest". [68]

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