The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) governor Lesetja Kganyago has clarified that the new banknotes rolled out last week do not have a spelling error. Instead, the old notes were wrong.
Some Xitsonga-speaking communities pointed out an alleged spelling error on the country’s new banknotes, which were put into circulation on 4 May.
On the old banknotes, the Xitsonga translation of the ‘South African Reserve Bank’ was written as ‘Bangi-Nkulu’.
The new notes have this translation as ‘Bangi Kulu’.
Some Xitsonga speakers say the spelling on the new banknotes is incorrect because removing the ‘N’ before ‘kulu’ changes the word’s meaning and excludes certain Xitsonga dialects.
However, the Pan South African Language Board, responsible for translations on the SARB banknotes and coins, said the extra ‘N’ was incorrect on the old notes.
The ‘N’ should only be used when referring to a person, not an organisation, like the SARB.
Xitsonga National Language Body Chairperson Dr Arnold Mushwana told 702 that, through recent research, the organisation realised that the extra ‘N’ could not be accounted for and asked SARB to correct the spelling on the new notes.
He said language is dynamic and, especially African languages, are still developing.
Kganyago said the SARB is “not the owners or masters of language”. This is why it consults with the Pan South African Langauge Board on the language that appears on its notes and coins.
The board also advised the Reserve Bank to rotate the languages it uses across the notes and coins to avoid favouring one language over another.
Therefore, not all the new banknotes have the Xitsonga translation.
According to Kganyago, the Reserve Bank approached the board again when it started working on the new banknotes and coins. This was when the board informed them that they issued a new Xitsonga standard of code in 2022.
According to this code, the ‘N’ before ‘kulu’ was unnecessary when referring to the SARB.