The hall was full like a tin of sardines. Inside the people were hot and stuffy. Some people were getting excited,— some were losing their tempers.
The people in the hall belonged to different political organizations.
Some belonged to AZAPO, others to the UDF. Many were just worried about the problem they came to talk about—black education. Should the students go back to school this year or should they carry on with the boycott?
There was more shouting, more arguments. Then the meeting ended. Everybody stood up. There was silence. No more fighting. And then with fists in the air, the people joined together to sing the beautiful, sad words of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica. It is a song that brings people together.
SONG FOR THE NATION
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica is loved by millions of people in South Africa. Most people believe that Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica is the national anthem of South Africa — even if they learnt otherwise at school.
It is the song of a new nation, struggling to sing it’s song. The song cries for an Africa where there is no more hunger, poverty, apartheid and suffering.
“When the ANC was still young, it’s leaders decided to end all their meetings with this song. Many other organizations decided to do the same,” said a famous teacher and writer, D.D.T. Jabavu. He said these words in 1934. His words are still true today.
THE MAN BEHIND THE SONG
A man by the name of Enoch Sontonga wrote the first verse of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica in 1897. He was a teacher in the township of Klipspruit.
“Enoch Sontonga had a gift for song,” said Jabavu. ” He sang with his pupils and he sang in the church. He sang wherever he was invited to sing—weddings, parties, churches, anywhere.”
Sontonga wrote many songs. He wrote songs everywhere and on anything. He wrote most of his songs on pieces of paper—even Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica. Later he collected them all in an old exercise book.
A SONG FROM A HEAVY HEART
Enoch Sontonga wrote Nkosi Sikale iAfrica 70 years ago. The words of the song tell how hopeless African people felt at that time. They had lost nearly all of their land. The guns of the white men were too strong. As Jabavu said, the song comes from a heavy heart.
Enoch Sontonga died in 1897. But the song was only sung in public for the first time two years later. It was sung at a big church party when a man called Boweni became a priest in the Methodist Church.
Afterwards church and school choirs began to sing the song. But one choir really loved the song. The choir was the Ohlange Zulu Choir. They sang the song all over the Witwatersrand. They sang the song wherever they went.
SAMUEL E. MQHAYI
But the song was not yet finished. It only had one verse. A Xhosa poet decided to help. His name was Samuel E. Mqhayi. Like Enoch Sontoga, he was a school teacher. He was a very clever man and a great writer.
In 1927 Samuel wrote seven more verses. He finished the great work that Sontonga had started. He died on July 29,1945 in a small township near King Williams Town.
A SONG FOR AFRICA
The people of South Africa are not the only ones who love Nkosi Sikele iAfrica. The people of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania have also taken it as their national anthem. In Zimbabwe they call it “Ishe Komborera Afrika.”
There is not much else we can tell you. And so for all those who have asked and for everybody else, we leave you with the words of the most beautiful song in the world—a song that touches you deep inside and makes you feel that you belong.