Reserve Bank clears air on Xitsonga language spelling issue on new R100 note

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has commented on the outcry about the Xitsonga spelling on the new hundred rand bank note that is currently being circulated, saying it has consulted with the language authorities before the changes were effected.

The bank’s monetary policy forum members had been in Polokwane, Limpopo, to engage with people about the upgraded currency to the public and presenting on the new designs and security features.

SARB says it’s important to upgrade the currency in every eight to 10 years, to make it difficult for criminals to counterfeit it. It says the new currencies have more security features, that members of the public should familiarise themselves with.

The bank says African languages on the bank notes are important as a way to preserve the languages as part of the South African heritage.

Outcry about the Xitsonga spelling on the new hundred rand bank note has created a debate among the Xitsonga speakers.

Acting Head of Currency Integrity Division, Kabelo Nkogoatse, says the removal of the second ‘N’ on the note changing it to ‘bangikulu’ was made after consultation with the Pan South African Language Board.

“What we can assure the public as the South African Reserve Bank, we consult widely especially when it comes to the use of languages. We have consulted the Pansalb, which is the institution for the language board and they are the ones who gave us the spelling for the Xitsonga language, and they have confirmed that the language has evolved and that’s how the language or the name of the Xitsonga language should be spelt.”

Chairperson of the Xitsonga National Language Board at the PanSALB Dr Arnold Mushwana  says the extra ‘N’ on the word ‘bangikulu’ would be incorrect as it’s only included when referring to a human being and not an institution or an object.

“We decided to do research and the research proved that the ‘N’ is not supposed to be there, on the word which do not fall under the class one of the noun classes. It should be only included if we are talking about human beings, which are falling under class one and all these other words like bangikulu, are not supposed to have the ‘N’ because the books that I am referring to, when they talk about the adjective stem, they are talking about kulu and tsongo without ‘N’, so we can account where the N are coming from.”

SARB currency integrity investigator, Gerald Mariemuthoo, says the security features of a bank note include the watermarks and features for blind and visually impaired people.

“Remember that on the current series of banknotes that it was the portrait of Nelson Mandela is since change to the animal which is unique to the denominations of that bank note. Further to that we’ve also included a true spin spark live through spin which is a color changing effect which is consistent with the security thread in the center of the banknote. In terms of the field features, you will find that the South African Reserve Bank the signature of Lesetja Kganyago.”

Some members of the public have expressed mixed reaction about the new currency designs.

SARB has also warned against people, who are cutting or chopping off the bank notes for decoration, like women, who put the pieces of the bank notes on their nails.

It also says people stop keeping coins or old bank notes in their homes, hoping that one day they can exchange them for more money, as it’s a myth.