Enoch Sontonga Biography
Enoch Sontonga whose full name is Enoch Mankayi Sontonga was born in 1873 in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape Colony, South Africa and died on 18th April 1905. He was the composer of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) which has been part of the South African national anthem since 1994.
It was the official anthem of the African National Congress since 1925 and is still the national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia. It was also sung in Zimbabwe and Namibia for many years.
Enoch Sontonga Career
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.
He composed ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) in 1987 and it was originally intended to be a school anthem. 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.
In 1912 the song became popular after John Langalibalele Dube’s Ohlange Institute’s choir used it. They played it at the South African Native National Congress meeting. It was sung after the closing prayer and the ANC adopted it as its 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.
On 24th September 1996 his grave was was declared a national monument and a memorial on the site was unveiled by President Nelson Mandela. At the same ceremony the South African Order of Meritorious Service (Gold) was bestowed on Enoch Sontonga posthumously.
Enoch Sontonga Family
He married Diana Mgqibisa and had a son. Diana died in 1929.