Spelling error flagged on new South African banknotes

 ·9 May 2023

The new R100 banknote that was launched by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) last week has an apparent spelling error in the Xitsonga translation of ‘Reserve bank’.

This was realised when the release of the new note caused a stir amongst some Xitsonga-speaking communities who noticed the spelling change.

The old banknotes denoted the Xitsonga spelling of Reserve Bank as ‘Bangi-Nkulu’. However, on the new R100 note, the Xitsonga translation of the Reserve Bank was changed, with the second ‘N’ in Bangi-Nkulu dropped. The word now reads as Bangi Kulu.

The change is highlighted on the specimen below.

However, the Pan South African Language Board, responsible for the translation, says the extra ‘N’ was incorrect on the old notes – explaining that the ‘N’ is only used when referring to a person and not an institution.

There is a Xitsonga dialect spoken in the Malamulele area in the Limpopo province which doesn’t use the ‘N’ – even when it is supposed to be used – but other Xitsonga-speaking communities disagree with the change.

These other communities said that this explanation for the change is wrong, and removing the ‘N’ changes the whole meaning of the word – blaming the lack of consultation with language experts as the real cause of the misspelling.

Many members of the Xitsonga-speaking communities are calling for the Reserve Bank to revert to the old spelling, adding that it represents a very small dialect within the Xitsonga language (Malamulele area) and is not representative of the larger community.

Apart from the spelling error, the new banknotes also came with enhanced security features and new designs celebrating the country’s heritage.

The biggest changes to the notes are that the individual Big Five are now represented by their families. The note colouring is also slightly deeper – particularly the R50 notes, which lean more towards purple than the pink colouration before.

The new coin designs and specifications have been known since they were gazetted at the start of the year.

Read: SARS cracks the whip on tax compliance – and it’s making life more difficult for these taxpayers

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