On Wednesday, the report was made public. You must know which one I’m talking about – it’s all anyone can talk about. And while I’m interested in many aspects of it, for me the choice of language on uKhozi FM was… enlightening.

You see, two weeks ago, the phrase for ‘state capture’ was ukugwamanqa kombuso. Let me unpack it for you:

ukug(w)amanqa: the gathering together of a group of people in a single place; the surrounding of an object on all sides

umbuso: the state (more on this isiqu in another post)

So what we’re talking about with this phrase is the act of surrounding and capturing the state. Some hunting or military metaphors, but fairly clear – much like ‘capture’ in English. And that’s the phrase that was used on all nights except Wednesday, when another phrase suddenly popped up: ukuqhwagwa kombuso. Let me unpack that one too:

ukuqhwaga: to take something by force; to deprive someone of something; to compel someone to do something by force; to bully.

This is the passive of that verb, meaning that the whole phrase means ‘the act of experiencing compulsion, deprivation and bullying of the state (by an unmentioned agent)’. As in many other places, isiZulu uses the passive here to denote that the action is being experienced, and that someone else is responsible for it – in this case, to quote the ‘Capture of the State’ report, “laba bafana bakwaGupta”.

What’s really of interest here is that a specific word was changed, and another used in its place. Does this mean that the state is now being painted as a victim of bullying, as opposed to the victim of a hunt or an army encircled (and about to be wiped out)?

Yesterday, in the uKhozi FM headlines, gwamanqa was back. Hm. I wonder who’s making these decisions.