SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL ANTHEM – IDOLATRY OR WORSHIP?
There is currently a message doing the rounds on social media (WhatsApp, email and Facebook) that South Africa’s national anthem, Nkosi sik’lele iAfrika, is based on ancestor worship, singing to an idol god called Nkosi, supposedly the tree god. This message maintains, in essence, that the worship of Nkosi resulted in Shaka Zulu slaughtering 6000 pregnant women. As a result, this message is then turned into one of fear, that this ‘idol worship’ could also result in white pregnant women (who represent apartheid) being ‘slaughtered’.
The message (in Afrikaans) reads as follows:
Ek was onder die indruk dat Nkosi Sikelele Afrika meen: GOD SEËN AFRIKA. Ek het nooit geweet die NKOSI is ‘n ander god waarvan gepraat word nie. HOE HET GOD opgetree teen Israel as hulle begin ander gode aanbid het? Ons is besig met afgodery en ons besef dit nie eers nie. Ons is in die moeilikheid by God.
Nkosi: Uit die gryse geskiedenis van Afrika leer ons reeds dat Nkosi die oudste seun is van Mina Mamo Wê, die vrou wat uit die boom gekom het. Nkosi is die eerste voorvadergees. Om te bid tot Nkosi, om te sing: Nkosi bewaar Afrika wanneer ons voor ‘n rugbywedstryd op aandag staan, is ‘n gruwel voor die aangesig van God. In Levitikus 20 sê Hy uitdruklik: Dit is ‘n gruwel voor die Here om dooies te raadpleeg. Jy mag nie die geeste van gestorwe voorvaders aanroep nie! Ons ondersteuning by geleenthede waar die voorvaders met die sing van hierdie lied vereer word, maak ons aandadig daaraan!
Ons stel ons God gelyk aan Nkosi – die groot voorvadergees.
Wat leer die godsdiens van Nkosi? Dit leer Ubuntu. Ek is mens deur ander mense. As dit met my sleg gaan is dit ander mense se skuld. Wanneer Shaka se ma sterf, roep hy die toordokters, die predikers en profete van Nkosi en vra: Wie se skuld is dit dat ek hartseer is? En hulle verklaar dat Nkosi die koning hartseer maak deur die swangerskap van vroue. In een nag van waansin laat Shaka 6000 swanger vroue en dragtige koeie lewend aan stukke kap, omdat hulle die oorsaak van sy hartseer is. Dit leer Nkosi hom. Dis die les wat hy leer van ‘n god wat vandag in ons land voorgehou word as gelykwaardig aan die ware God, nee, inderdaad, as net ‘n ander naam van die Ware God
Nkosi sê: Ek is mens voor ander mense en deur ander mense. As ek vooraan loop, is dit deur die toegewing van ander mense en daarom is ek beter.
Die leer van Nkosi is: As hulle wat die sinnebeeld van Apartheid is, doodgemaak is, sal die sonde uitgevee wees. Slag die swanger vroue, want hulle maak my hartseer, sê die koning. Vermoor die boere, want hulle laat my dink aan swaarkry – dis wat gesing word omdat dit geglo word.
Nkosi sê: Sonde is buite die mens. Maak die ander dood, want hy is die oorsaak van jou sonde. Die sonde kom van buite! Kan u vir u voorstel dat die ware God my sal straf vir ‘n ander se sonde? Dat die ware God ‘n ander mens sal blameer wanneer ek ongehoorsaam is en my dan toestemming sal gee om teen daardie ander mens my te verhef en hom dood te slaan? Nie my God nie! Maar Nkosi sal.
Nkosi sik’lele iAfrika, Ma’o phakamiso umkhondo lwayo
“God seen Afrika, kom lig die volk op na U…”
Letterlik vertaal: “Kom haal ons uit die sonde en neem ons tot by U.”
Nkosi-teologie – sonde is ander se skuld, daarom moet die voorvaders se wysheid ons red! Ons aanbid ‘n afgod – en ons weet dit nie !
It is deeply disturbing that people, claiming to be Christians, now resort to discrediting this beautiful worship song in order to promote a political agenda and further divide an already polarised society. Before looking at the words of the National anthem and what they actually mean, it is important to understand the origin and heart behind the song.
THE HISTORY BEHIND THE SONG
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (“Lord Bless Africa”) was originally composed as a hymn in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a teacher at a Methodist mission school in Nanceﬁeld, Johannesburg. He composed Nkosi as part of a repertoire of songs prepared for the students in his school. He based the melody on the hymn tune, ‘Aberystwyth’ by Joseph Parry, composing it in B-flat, with a four-part harmony supporting a repetitive melody characteristic of “both Western hymn composition and indigenous South African melodies.”
Sontonga was a Tembu Xhosa of the Mpinga clan, born near Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape in 1873 and trained at Lovedale College. He wrote the opening stanza of the song in Xhosa, and the song was ﬁrst performed publicly in 1899 at the ordination ceremony of Reverend M. Boweni, the ﬁrst Tsonga to become a clergyman in the Methodist, or indeed any mission, church. In Johannesburg, Sontonga married Diana Mgqibisa and had a son. Enoch was a man of many talents; not just a teacher, but an accomplished poet, composer, choirmaster, lay preacher and an amateur photographer. He wrote the ﬁrst verse and chorus of NkosiSikelel’ iAfrika when he was 24, and later the same year, he composed the music. In 1927 seven additional Xhosa stanzas were added by the poet Samuel Mqhayi. The hymn became popular in South African churches and was taken up by the choir of Ohlange High School.
“Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika” was first recorded on 16 October 1923, in London, accompanied by Sylvia Colenso (the daughter of Bishop Colenso of Natal) on the piano. In 1927, the whole song was published in the form of a pamphlet by the Lovedale Press. The anthem was also included in the Presbyterian Hymn book (Incwadi yamaCulo aseRhabe) in 1929, an isiXhosa poetry book and in Umthetheli waBantu (an isiXhosa newspaper) on 11 June 1927.
‘Die Stem’ (the previous national anthem of South Africa) is a poem written by C. J. Langenhoven in 1918 and was set to music by the Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921. ‘Die Stem van Suid-Afrika’ was the co–national anthem with ‘God Save The King’/’God Save The Queen’ between 1938 and 1957, when it became the sole national anthem until 1994.
The South African government adopted both songs as national anthems in 1994, when they were performed at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration. They were merged in 1997 to form the current anthem. The new English lyrics were adapted from the last four lines of the first stanza of ‘Die Stem van Suid-Afrika’, with the changes made to reflect hope in post-apartheid South African society.
Original worship song
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (Lord Bless Africa)
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo (May her glory be lifted high)
Yiva imathandazo yethu (Hear our petitions)
Nkosi Sikelela (Lord bless us)
Thina lusapho lwayo (Us your children)
Yihla Moya, (Come Spirit)
Yihla Moya, yihla Moya,
Yihla Moya, yihla Moya,
Yihla Moya oyingcwele (Come Holy Spirit)
Nkosi sikelele (Lord bless us)
Thina lusapho lwayo. (Us your children)
Morena boloka sechaba sa heso, (Lord we ask You to protect our nation)
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, (Intervene and end all conflicts)
Morena boloka sechaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho.
O se boloke, o se boloke, (Protect us)
O se boloke morena se boloke,
Sechaba sa heso (Protect our nation)
Sechaba sa heso
Ma kube njalo! (Let it be so)
Ma kube njalo!
Kude kube ngunaphakade, (Forever and ever)
Kude kube ngunaphakade!
Xhosa: Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
(Lord bless Africa, Rise high, Her glory)
Zulu: Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
(Listen also to our prayers,
Lord bless us, her (Africa) family.)
Sesotho: Morena boloka setshaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setshaba sa heso,
Setshaba sa, South Afrika, South Afrika.
(Lord protect our nation, Stop wars and sufferings, protect it, Protect our nation,
The nation of South Africa, South Africa.)
Afrikaans: Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see, Oor ons ewige gebergtes, Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
(Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From the depths of our sea, Over our everlasting mountains, Where the echoing crags resound!)
English: Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land!
It is also important to note that the Holy Spirit is unique to the Christian faith and the fact that the original song contains prayers to the Holy Spirit also confirms that this song was always intended to pray to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Triune God served by Christians.
It is truly sad that a song that is loved by millions and has served to unite a divided nation is now being associated with idolatry, murder, racism, slaughter, suspicion and fear. All done in the name of Christ, who reconciled man with God and gave His Church a mandate to do the same (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation”). The author of this email, and everyone who has subsequently passed it on, should consider the spiritual dangers for those who sow suspicion and create fear (Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit”).
As Christians, we are called to:
Communicate LIFE – Proverbs 10:11 “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.”
Communicate RIGHTEOUSNESS – Psalms 35:28 “My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.”
Communicate WISDOM – Proverbs 10:31 “From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced.”
Communicate HEALING – Proverbs 12:18 “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Communicate UNDERSTANDING – Proverbs 2:6 “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Communicate JUSTICE – Proverbs 8:8 “All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.”
Communicate TRUTH – Proverbs 8:7 “My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.”
Communicate with CARE – Ecclesiastes 5:2 “Do not be quick with your mouth, … so let your words be few.”
Yes indeed, as 1Peter 3:10 says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.