The South African national anthem incorporates English, Afrikaans and the language groups of Nguni and Sotho, which are meant to cover, IsiZulu, IsiNdebele, SiSwati, isiXhosa, SeTswana, SePedi and SeSotho.
Dr Maxwell Kadenge of the Wits University linguistics department said this may indicate that speakers of TshiVenda, XiTsonga are not seen as important.
He explains: “Language symbolises power, and when you exclude some languages in the linguistic landscape, such as a national anthem, you are disempowering the speakers.”
He said, with the languages already having a relatively small numbers of speakers, a sense of marginalisation and invisibility could be heightened by exclusion from the national anthem.
“That doesn’t look good, especially considering the image of the rainbow nation that is supposed to include everyone,” he added.
On the matter, DA shadow deputy minister of arts and culture, Dr Allen Grootboom, said: “The DA believes that national symbols can contribute to nation-building and the establishment of a common national identity. South Africa’s national anthem, the national flag and the coat of arms are powerful symbolic representations of the country’s transition to a representative democracy and our collective commitment to building a society that truly has a place for all.”
He argued: “What is important is that South Africans are able to identify with the national anthem even though their specific language might be not be included.”
The Nguni and Sotho sections of the anthem were composed by Enoch Sontonga in 1897, while the words to the Afrikaans section, Die Stem, were a poem by C. J. Langenhoven written in 1918 and turned into a musical composition by the Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921.
Die Stem was the country’s national anthem from 1957 until 1994 and was merged with the other sections in 1997 to complete the national anthem.
On Heritage Day last week, the party’s national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Die Stem was a heritage of oppression and indignity.
“It is a song of oppressors, racists and mass murderers. Nkosi Sikelela must be sang in the same way as our people did when they were praying for a land free from oppression during colonial and apartheid years,” Ndlozi said .
He called for all colonial and apartheid symbols that still occupied places of prominence to also be removed.