I can’t sing Die Stem

2010-02-27 15:33

WHATEVER is happening to the education of the African child is

a matter of serious concern. The irony is, the more we all profess to be (South)

Africans, the more all the things associated with indigenous Africans die a slow


The following examples show that we should stop, reflect and change


We started off badly, I suppose. ­After all the sacrifices made in

the fight against apartheid, in typical African generosity we tampered with

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, a prayer/song that ­imbued all freedom-loving people

with deep fearlessness and invincible determination.

I must confess I was willing, in the name of reconciliation, to

sing the current bastardised version. How could I not, if the champion of

reconciliation was my hero, Tata Nelson Mandela? But guess what: I still can’t

bring myself to singing the part of Die Stem, not because I hate Afrikaans or

­Afrikaners. Die Stem remains a symbol of the oppression and suffering that

brings out a lump blocking my vocal cords each time I try to sing it.

In hindsight, we lost the golden opportunity to legitimately and

morally assert ­ourselves as blacks. We also denied whites the chance to

psycho-spiritually purge them­­­­­selves by dissociating themselves from


I expect white people to be saying “We’re happy with Nkosi Sikelel’

iAfrika because it’s a prayer song that inspired freedom and embraces love and

peace”, and not to be fighting for a relic of a political-cultural system

universally proclaimed a heresy.

Die Stem, if anything at all, was a political abuse of the

­Afrikaans language. “Die Taal” has an independent existence, though. Dealing

with Die Stem exclusively, however, should not imply that the English part of

our anthem is automatically acceptable. No! Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika should be our

only anthem.

Except in the countryside, indigenous African languages are

virtually extinct in the ­inner-city schools, especially the private and

previously white public schools.

English and Afrikaans remain first and second languages while, in

some cases, no African tongue features even as a third language. Ridiculous

reasons such as cost and a lack of availability of teachers are given for


The truth is, the majority of teachers in these schools are white

and presumably want the school kept largely white despite learners, in certain

cases, all being Africans.

The other truth is, there is order in white-led schools and this is

commendable. But the problem is that we have kids who cannot speak any African

language and parents who are proud of that.

There has been an outcry over the dearth of white soccer players.

Soccer at some stage was a favourite sport even in the white communities, and

still is, but only when it comes to watching and supporting European teams.

Bedrooms of “non-Africans” and brainwashed African kids resemble those of their

European counterparts.

The loss of interest in soccer among whites and Indians, in

particular, will become the experience of Africans in white-led schools. Soccer

is a rarity there because of the subtle strangulation of its development. It

does not matter how many kids want to play it. Conversely, traditionally white

sporting codes such as rugby, cricket and hockey are promoted by all means.

It is easy to blame whites or the government for these

developments. But what are you doing as a parent? How come we don’t push for the

provision and proper teaching of African languages, soccer/netball and

indigenous cultural activities beside the sickening Valentine’s and Guy Fawkes?

It’s a shame for government to subsidise education yet display a

meek approach to its transformation.

The government must make it compulsory for schools to ­offer, and

everyone to learn, an African tongue as a second language.

This will help those whose allegiance lies elsewhere to emigrate


- Mangole works at the rural development department and writes in his

personal capacity


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