‘Time to dump Die Stem’Comment on this story
The EFF calls for Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika to remain as it was because it is adequate as the anthem of the people, writes Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
Does the inclusion of Die Stem in our national anthem help bring social cohesion? The EFF raised this debate during the presentations of government entities to the joint portfolio committee on communications and telecommunications and postal services.
Brand South Africa specifically indicated that they possess a capacity for empirical research to determine the life of brands in the country. The EFF asked if it could be scientifically confirmed that the inclusion of Die Stem brings social cohesion, since they were claiming to house the promotion of patriotism project.
This is because we believe there must be an open and constructive debate about the inclusion of the apartheid anthem in the post-democratic national cohesion project.
Does singing a song which commits the people as Afrikaners in an essentially racist project of exclusion and marginalisation bring cohesion, or is it simply masking the differences and the offensive history of Afrikaner and white dominion?
There is no debate that Die Stem was a violent song, violent against blacks and a song of commitment to the separatist and racist project of apartheid. It became a musical ritual of war: a commitment to kill and die for the white supremacist state. From the triumphalist imagery of ox wagons to the commitment to die for a fatherland, the song is a rendition of conquest.
Simply put, Die Stem represents a white supremacist consciousness: it is the “Dubula iK****r” of the Afrikaner nationalists. And that it has made it into the post-apartheid democratic project also represents the continued bossy nature of the Afrikaner racists who were at the negotiation tables of the mid-1990s.
Why do they insist on remembering and rehearsing their supremacist past? And why should all the blacks join in in this rehearsal?
Often people think an objection to the singing of Die Stem is a rejection of Afrikaner/white people, or that it is a question of rejecting Afrikaans as a language. But people rejected the message of the song. If languages were the issue, why couldn’t there have been another Afrikaans song included to create the multilingualistic product that became the national anthem?
The liberation struggle itself had many uniting songs that rehearsed commitments to killing and dying for a democratic South Africa. These are the songs that mobilised for violence against whites, and as many would know, Dubula Ibhunu is key among them. Yet the post-apartheid state integrated “Dubula iK****r”, but on the other hand, its courts banned Dubula iBhunu.
This signifies the protection that white subjects enjoy in South African law and its judicial imagination. It tells of that white fear of blacks which has been the basis of an original claim to separatist systems of rule in the entire continent – the idea that natives are too many, let us throw them in the Bantustans or keep them outside with a high and long wall, as Israel does in Palestine.
Black people’s fears are, however, of no significance. They extend themselves until there is nothing left in them. The democratic state, through inclusion of Die Stem, demands blacks to mock themselves for whites to feel part of the South African new nation. In singing the song, blacks practise self-mockery and self-subjugation.
There is no worst form of zombification of the human spirit than this one: black people singing themselves out of their native land with passion, which means they are patriots of not belonging. In the name of national unity, blacks mock themselves so that whites do not have to feel threatened.
Some argue that Die Stem is a heritage of South Africa and, on this basis, it deserves to be in the national anthem. But so are the acts of Eugene de Kock.
Both are heritages of violence against blacks. Heritage alone does not qualify it as worthy of being part of the new democratic project.
It is not the heritage value of the song, but its message and representation that makes it belong to the museum: the prison of old ideas.
Enoch Sontonga’s Nkosi Sikelela, together with Moses Mphahlele’s Morena Boloka, is a genius protest and thus a unifying song which became the anthem of multilingualism, representing the unity and commitment to Africa as a whole. The inclusion of English and Afrikaans meant that it was inadequate, half-done.
The new democratic project took the prayer of the African child, in it removed her plea for the Holy Spirit and substituted it with a “Kill the k**r” song. This replacement must be counted as a violent silencing of the black voices that spoke back to power. It hangs them in suffocation with Die Stem, producing barrenness in the black voice. In the new anthem, Sontonga and Mphahlele silence themselves through Die Stem.
This means Nkosi Sikelela is there in the new national anthem to be silenced. In its integration with Die Stem, it experiences castration and attains a state of impotency where it opens itself up to a direct loss of its meaning, a direct promotion of violence in a song that asks for the end of violence where the very languages of power attain the final say.
EFF calls for Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika to remain as it was because it is adequate as the anthem of the people. It is an intellectual heritage of liberation and the battle for a more human continent in peace with itself. It prays not only for South Africa, but the African continent and its people, wherever they are in the world.
Can whites live with this? Can they appreciate an anthem that is in Xhosa and Sesotho to also represent them? Or it is only adequate, complete and full when it includes their European languages?
Mayibuye iNkosi Sikelela, let it be what it was and be on its own.
*Ndlozi is EFF MP and national spokesman.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.