South African Currency

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The South African currency consists of banknotes and coins, the rand (R) available in notes of: R 200, R 100, R 50, R 20, R 10 and coins of R 5, R 2 and R 1; could be broken down into 100 cents (c) available in coins of 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c.

The ISO code of the South African rand is “ZAR”, which is the acronym from Dutch words “Zuid-Afrikaanse Rand”; meaning South African rand.

History Of the South African Currency

The South African rand is a currency used within South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia; which together form a Common Monetary Area. The rand came to existence in 1961, of which a Dollar had a lower value to the rand; trading at Usd 1.40 to a rand. Unfortunately the rand only maintained such value until March 1982; of which it started dropping in value, trading at an equal value to the dollar and sometimes as low as R 1.30 to the dollar, due to increasing political pressure and racial segregation.

By February 1985, the devaluation increased, as a dollar was now worth R 2. From this point the rand went downhill in value, efforts by the government to stop the devaluation came to a brick wall, as it was clear in the early 1990s that the country was in the hands of the black majority and the uncertainty of South Africa only accelerated the depreciation. As of  19 of January 2006, the rand had dropped to as low as R 6 to a Dollar and by the end of 2014, the rand had weakened significantly at R 15.05 to a dollar. The rand now currently trades at R 13.53 to the US Dollar (23 August 2015 – 10:31).


In 1961, the first series of rand banknotes was introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 10, and 20 rand; they had similar colours and designs to the preceding pound notes. The notes were printed in two variants, one with English written first and the other with Afrikaans written first.

In the 1990s, the notes were redesigned with images of the Big Five wildlife species, but still retaining the colour scheme of the previous issue. In 2005 additional security features (colour-shifting ink on the 50 rand and higher pattern of symbols) were added. Due to high-quality counterfeit notes in circulation in 2010, the South African Reserve Bank and commercial banks withdrew all 1994 series R 200 banknotes.

In June 2011, printing of the R 100 banknotes was moved from the South African Bank Note Company to Tumba Bruk (a printing company for manufacturing of swedish Krona banknotes), which reportedly produced 80 million R 100 notes. This move was made, due to defects earlier made by the South African Reserve Bank, as the issued R 100 notes lacked fluorescent printing visible under UV light. On 11 February 2012, the president “Jacob Zuma” announced that the country would be issuing a complete set of banknotes bearing Nelson Mandela’s image and were in circulation on 6 November 2012.


Coins were also introduced in 1961 in denominations of  , 1, 2 , 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents. In 1989 the R 2 coin was introduced, followed by the R 5 coin in 1994. Due to inflation, the production of the 1 and 2 cent coins was discontinued, as they hardly had value, but they remain legal tender. A new R 5 coin was released in August 2004, with extra security features such as a bimetal design, a security grove along the rim and micro-lettering.


Currency Management

The South African Reserve Bank Act Number 90 of 1989 governs the management of currency by the South African Reserve Bank. Currency management includes the following functions:

  • Issue of banknotes and coin (Availability of banknotes and coin and new banknote and coin design).
  • Managing the quality of banknotes and coin in circulation.