Samuel E. K. Mqhayi was born near Alice in the Cape in 1875. Mqhayi studied at Lovedale, worked as a teacher and journalist, was on the editorial staff of Imvo Zabantsundu, and published numerous books of Xhosa poetry and prose. He taught at Lovedale for some years but eventually left teaching because he opposed the way African history was presented.

Mqhayi wrote seven stanzas to Nkosi Sikelel' I-Afrika ("God Bless Africa") in 1927. It had been composed in 1927 by Enoch Sontonga, who also composed the first stanza. Writing about the song in 1934, D. D. T. Jabavu said, "Of late the Black races of the Union and the Protectorates have somehow by tacit assent adopted it as their recognised national anthem, sung before Royalty and on big public occasions." The anthem was adopted by the African National Congress (ANC) and is also today, in translation, the national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia.

Mqhayi's enduring influence is illustrated by the practice of Robert Sobukwe and Pearce L. Gqobose, now a Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leader in exile, who corresponded with each other by quoting passages from Mqhayi's poetry while both men were in prison in the mid-1960s (until stopped by the authorities). The South African Outlook devoted its issue of December 1975 to Mqhayi in the centenary of his birth. He died in 1945 at Ntab'ozuko, near King William's Town.

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