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South African net tongue-tied

SABC1 slogan coming under fire from King Zwelithini

You say potato, I say potatoh

A popular catchphrase used to promote South Africa’s SABC1 channel is under attack — from no less than Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini.

“Ya Mampele” — slang for “the real thing” — was adopted in 1993 by SABC1 during its $8 million rebranding campaign, in which it replaced its upmarket image with a more street-friendly, “people’s channel” message.

But now the slogan is being criticized by Zwelithini as being “ungrammatical, incorrect use of the Zulu language.”

“What language is ‘Ya Mampele?’ It’s not Zulu, Xhosa or Swati, ” says Nhlamvu Sithole, a spokesman for the king. ” ‘Ya Mampela’ has no meaning. ‘Yangempela,’ which means ‘the real thing,’ is proper Zulu. That was the reason the king complained.”

Zulu linguists are supporting the king’s complaint, and SABC spokesman Paul Setsetse says the channel is reviewing the catchphrase, including looking at whether people find the term offensive or not.

But he emphasizes SABC1 didn’t create the slang, it just adopted what young people were already saying.

“Languages all over South Africa have evolved,” Setsetse says. “As South Africa grows, we are sure our cultures and languages will evolve with our people, and SABC1 is trying to ensure that it captures this.”

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