Reserve Bank Busts ‘Spelling Blunder’ Myth on New Notes

Lesetja Kganyago
  1. The South African Reserve Bank, headed by Governor Lesetja Kganyago, has clarified that the change in the Xitsonga translation of “Reserve Bank” on the new banknotes from “Bangi Nkulu” to “Bangi Kulu” is not a spelling error but a correction of a previous mistake.
  2. The Pan South African Language Board and Dr. Arnold Mushwana, chair of the Xitsonga National Language Body, affirmed the correctness of the new version, explaining that the language is dynamic, especially in the context of evolving African languages.
  3. Despite the controversy and the differences in spelling, the value of the notes remains unaffected. Governor Kganyago emphasized that this incident has sparked a valuable debate highlighting the linguistic diversity in South Africa.

In a recent development, the South African Reserve Bank, under the leadership of Governor Lesetja Kganyago, has clarified the ongoing controversy regarding an alleged spelling mistake on the newly printed South African banknotes. According to Governor Kganyago, the new notes are not erroneous but rather correct an oversight that had been present in the previous editions.

The controversy arose among Xitsonga-speaking South Africans who spotted what they believed to be a spelling error in the Xitsonga translation of “Reserve Bank” on the newly released banknotes. Previously, the translation read “Bangi Nkulu” on the R100 note. However, in the new print, the second ‘N’ has been omitted, making it “Bangi Kulu.”

This change sparked a debate among some Xitsonga speakers, many of whom were of the opinion that the previous version was correct, and the new rendering was mistaken. The issue was escalated to the Pan South African Language Board, the institution responsible for official translations.

The Language Board responded by asserting that the previous version, featuring the extra ‘N’, was actually incorrect. They explained that the usage of ‘N’ was only appropriate when referring to a person, not an institution, hence the need for the revision on the new notes.

In a conversation with 702, Dr. Arnold Mushwana, chair of the Xitsonga National Language Body, supported the position of the Language Board. Dr. Mushwana emphasized that the new banknotes are accurate, while the previous versions had been misspelled. “The error was in the old banknotes. The current ones are correctly written,” he stated.

Dr. Mushwana acknowledged the ongoing debate, emphasizing the dynamic nature of languages, particularly African languages, which are still evolving. He explained that as academics and researchers, they are tasked with correcting errors as they are discovered. Dr. Mushwana concluded by confirming that the term “Bangi Kulu” on the new banknotes was indeed correct, while the earlier “Bangi Nkulu” was a mistake.

Responding to the controversy, Governor Kganyago humbly admitted that the Reserve Bank was not the authority on language matters. “We are economists, we compile data, that’s our job. When it comes to language, we follow the government’s protocols,” he expressed.

These protocols involve consultation with the Pan South African Language Board, the designated “avatar of language.” The Board advises on language usage and wording across all the official languages of the country. Given that South Africa recognizes 11 official languages, soon to be 12, it is not feasible to include all languages on every note. Consequently, the Reserve Bank has adopted a rotation system based on the Language Board’s advice.

Despite the differences in spelling, Governor Kganyago assured that the value and validity of the notes would not be affected. Banknote collectors may even find it intriguing to have versions of the notes with both translations. He further commented that the debate stirred by the alleged “error” has spotlighted a significant discussion on language diversity in South Africa.

“What these notes have done is get the Xitsonga speakers to talk about this. It highlights the diversity of South Africa and its languages,” Kganyago concluded, drawing attention to the rich linguistic diversity of the nation.

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