Former President Nelson Mandela will become the first person to appear on the country’s banknotes since the dawn of democracy, President Jacob Zuma has announced.
“On behalf of Government and the people of South Africa, it is my honour and pleasure to announce that the new South African bank notes will bear the image of President Mandela, the President of a free, democratic South Africa,” Zuma said.
The announcement – which falls on the day that Mandela was released from prison in 1990 – was made at the Reserve Bank offices in Thswane on Saturday.
Zuma described Mandela as an “outstanding leader and patriot” that represented a group of exceptional men and women who demonstrated their love for South Africa in a time of repression.
The security features of bank notes are upgraded every seven to 10 years to assist in preventing counterfeiting. South Africa’s current note series was upgraded in 2005.
The new note series will have the same R10; R20; R50; R100 and R200 denominations, and sizes with the engraving of the former President’s face appearing on the different coloured currency. The reverse sides of the notes will carry an image of one of the country’s big five.
While the change will not extend to the country’s coin series, it will involve countries on the continent that use South African currency. The bank has no plans of producing a R500 note.
Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus hopes to have the new currency in circulation before the end of the year.
“We will advise South Africans of the changes when the notes come into circulation,” she said. A public outreach programme will be held to inform people of the changes.
After the introduction of the new notes, the current bank notes will still be deemed legal tender until they are phased out.
Marcus said the decision to change the country’s bank note series was taken following consultation with various stakeholders, including the President and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The former President was consulted in person and he “was delighted” about the news, said Marcus.
Winnie Mandela, Graca Machel as well as the rest of the Mandela family were also consulted. Other stakeholders included the Department of Arts and Culture and the National Council for the blind, among others.
The redesign of the notes is accompanied by the recapitalisation of the South African Note Company (SABN) which is being modernised with state-of-the-art printing equipment and the up-skilling of staff.
“We have confidence in the capacity [of the SABN] although there were challenges,” said the Governor, adding that the cost of the design has been incorporated into the upgrade of the note company which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank and is responsible for printing the currency of the country.
The cost of designing the bank notes is R2.5 million.
Gordhan said the introduction of the note, which the Bank is now in the process of producing – is the beginning of a generation-wide remembrance of Mandela.
The first new R50 note was handed over to the President.