Scrap Die Stem, says EFF

The EFF wants the Afrikaner verse of Die Stem to be scrapped from the national anthem. AAISHA DADI PATEL reports.

“It is an injustice to ask black people to sing Die Stem. Asking them to sing it is asking them to mock themselves,” EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said on Wednesday.

This comes after an incident in which outspoken pro-Afrikaner singer Steve Hofmeyer – known for his use of the racist slur “k—ir” in song – sang only the Afrikaans portion of the anthem at music festival Innibos last week.

This morning, Safm’s Sakina Kamwendo hosted Ndlozi and Afriforum deputy CEO Ernst Roets to debate the role of the national anthem and whether singing Die Stem is wrong.

Ndlozi said the difference between Die Stem and Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is that the one was about oppression while the other was about inclusivity.

“Die Stem talks about oppression. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is a truly democratic [song] which says that people who live in South Africa belong in it. There is no other meaning to it.

“Die Stem was a tool of the Afrikaner white supremacists. It was a symbolic of exclusivity. For you to ask me as a black person to sing it, you are asking me to hate myself,” he said.

Ndlozi’s placed the origins of Die Stem in the Anglo-Boer War and said it concerned the conquest and the colonisation of South Africa, and the subjugation of black people. Die Stem had been sang by soldiers and police officers before they killed black people durin apartheid, he said.

He proposed that a different Afrikaans song be used in the anthem instead. “If we want to include English and Afrikaans, can’t we use some other song besides Die Stem?” he asked.

But Roets said that the context for Die Stem was the battle against colonialism

“It seems that [Ndlozi] believes only black people can fight against colonialism,” he said.

“He’s saying that Die Stem should be removed from the national anthem because including it is forcing black people out. But the contrary can also be said – removing Die Stem sends a message to white people, saying we know we’re 20 years down the line and now we’ve decided Mandela is wrong, and in removing it we’re forcing white people out,” he added.

Roets said that white people were “doing a lot for nation building” and were welcomed when it came to paying taxes but being shut out when they wanted to “sing a song”.

One caller said that the national anthem is representative of Nelson Mandela’s reconciliation attempts, post-apartheid. “Breaking down what Mr Mandela stood for to only sing one part, is taking us backwards. We don’t need this arrogance. Mr Mandela used his humility as a sword,” he told Kamwendo.

“Our anthem retells our victory over apartheid. It’s a victory we’re proud of. We cannot stoop so low as [Hofmeyr] and his ilk,” said another.

“It goes deeper than freedom of speech. It’s that you aren’t doing your bit for reconciliation, the way Mandela did. People sing our anthem with gusto, and it should stay like that,” said a listener.

Others were more sceptical about questions of national unity however.

“We can only reinforce unity provided there is any in the country to begin with,” read one SMS.

One listener cautioned against discarding Die Stem as this would alienate Afrikaaners.

And another argued that this argument, between the EFF and Afriforum, would never be resolved.