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Enoch Mankayi Sontonga
Sontonga.jpg
Background information
Born 1873
Uitenhage, Cape Colony
Origin Transvaal
Died 18 April 1905(1905-04-18) (aged 32)
Johannesburg, Transvaal Colony
Occupation(s) Music composer

Enoch Mankayi Sontonga (c. 1873 – 18 April 1905) was a South African composer, who is best known for writing the song "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (English: "God Bless Africa"), which, in abbreviated version, has been sung as the first half of the national anthem of South Africa since 1994. Previously, it had been the official anthem of the African National Congress since 1925.

Early life and education

Sontonga, a Xhosa, was born in the city of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape Colony. He trained as a teacher at the Lovedale Institution and subsequently worked as a teacher and choirmaster at the Methodist Mission school in Nancefield, near Johannesburg for eight years.

Career

The first verse and chorus of "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" was composed in 1897 and it was originally intended to be a school anthem. Some sources say he wrote the tune the same year, but others contend that the tune was written by Joseph Parry as "Aberystwyth" and that Sontonga merely wrote new words. It was first sung in public in 1899 at the ordination of Reverend Mboweni, who was the first Tsonga Methodist minister. Later the Xhosa poet Samuel Mqhayi wrote a further seven verses.

Sontonga died in April 1905.

Personal life

Sontonga married Diana Mngqibisa and had a son. His wife died in 1929.

Legacy

The song started to be more well known after John Langalibalele Dube's Ohlange Institute's choir used it. They played it at the South African Native National Congress meeting in 1912. It was sung after the closing prayer and the ANC adopted it as it's official closing anthem in 1925. It was recorded in London as "Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika" in 1923 and it was published by the Lovedale Press in 1927.

For many years, the site of Sontonga's grave was unknown, but it was finally located in the "Native Christian" section of the Braamfontein cemetery in the early-1990s. One of the reasons why the location of his grave remained a mystery is that it was listed under the name "Enoch" and not by his surname "Sontonga".

On 24 September 1996, Sontonga's grave was declared a national monument and a memorial on the site was unveiled by then-President Nelson Mandela. At the same ceremony, the South African Order of Meritorious Service (Gold) was bestowed on Enoch Sontonga posthumously.

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