Time for a new unifying anthem?

2009-07-04 00:00

OPERA queen Sibongile Khumalo has called for a new national anthem, saying the current one is “not the unifying catalyst it was intended to be”.

Her call adds to a growing wave of controversy over the anthem, most recently over the decision to sing a curtailed version at the Confederations Cup soccer tournament.

Fifa and the SA Football Association came under fire after the Afrikaans verse based on Die Stem was cut. Government said the decision was not politically motivated. It was later established that the decision was based on the 90-second time limit on anthems imposed by Fifa.

Arguing in her column for a national newspaper yesterday for a review of the anthem, Khumalo said there is no doubt that there are many who accept the current anthem as it is.

Yet, she said, there are just as many who struggle with it in its entirety, adding that our anthem was a “cut and paste exercise in the name of reconciliation”.

“The unease is evident on both sides … the anthem is not the unifying catalyst it was intended to be,” Khumalo wrote.

According to Khumalo, this suggests it is time to think of a new song, a monumental anthem that speaks to the aspirations of the future, even as it acknowledges the past.

A historian and former professor at the University of Zululand, Jabulani Maphalala, said he is in full support of her call.

He said the marrying of the anthems was an unnecessary compromise to allow for a smooth governmental transition of 1994.

“There is just no comparison in the two anthems. One is a prayer, the other talks about living and dying to defend the country based on racial system,” said Maphalala.

He believes one language is sufficient in a national anthem as it is in other countries, though he conceded that this might be viewed by others as tribalism.

“The decision on how to choose the language should be based on majority.

“If figures by Statistics SA are anything to go by, isiZulu is right at the top with 21%.”

Khumalo is not the first celebrity to speak her mind about the anthem.

Afro-pop diva Thandiswa Mazwai’s recent Facebook comment sparked controversy and left a few people a little hot under the collar after her refusal to sing the part of the anthem based on Die Stem at a reading campaign function as part of a Youth Day celebration.

She later wrote on her Facebook profile that “I hate f***ing national anthem.

“How can it be that the anthem and prayer for Africa is now so blatantly joined with the anthem which systematically raped this land and its people of all its value and pride?”

Adding: “How do we join these two songs and then sing them with such fake pride in this supposed new South Africa? I can’t.”

Mazwai explained to her Facebook friends that she was put on the spot by a friend who asked her to sing the Afrikaans part of the anthem at the event.

However, Mphalala said he doesn’t understand what the furore is about and said he doesn’t see what is wrong with going back to the original creation, which was in Xhosa.


THIS is the official version of the national anthem, combining

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika and Die Stem/The Call of South Africa

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika

Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,

Yizwa imithandazo yethu,

Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,

O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,

O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,

Setjhaba sa South Afrika — South Afrika.

Uit die blou van onse hemel,

Uit die diepte van ons see,

Oor ons ewige gebergtes,

Waar die kranse antwoord gee,

Sounds the call to come together,

And united we shall stand,

Let us live and strive for freedom,

In South Africa our land.

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