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Suid-Afrikaanse Rand
South African Rand

Current rand notes (2012 - )

For the old (apartheid era) South African notes, click here.

In October 2012, the South African Reserve Bank announced that new rand notes would be released shortly, featuring updated security features and a new uniform obverse (front) for all notes — an image of Nelson Mandela, considered by most South Africans (both black and white) to be the father of the post-apartheid new South Africa. Despite spending 27 years in jail, Mandela's presidency (1994-1999) was marked by a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness.

The notes have been nicknamed the "randela".

The new notes maintain the colour schemes of the old rand notes, with the exception of the R200 note, which was considered too similar to the R20 note, and was changed to a yellow-orange colour. The new notes maintain the wildlife theme of the Big 5 (rhinoceros, elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard), although the animals are now portrayed on the reverse of the note. The new banknotes remain the same size as the current banknotes. New security features have also been added to the notes, including: watermarks, see-through perfect print registration (having an image partially displayed on the front and back of the note so that it appears whole when held up to the light), micro-printing, unique numbering, raised printing, features for the visually impaired, security thread, latent/hidden imaging and the use of colour-changing ink.

The notes were introduced on 6 November 2012.

Note Colour Scheme Obverse Reverse Language
Languages (English name)
Languages (local name)
R10 Green Nelson
Rhinoceros English Afrikaans, Swati Afrikaans, siSwati
R20 Brown Elephant English Tswana, Southern Ndebele Setswana, isiNdebele
R50 Red Lion English Xhosa, Venda isiXhosa, Tshivenda
R100 Blue Buffalo English Northern Sotho, Tsonga Sesotho sa Leboa/Sepedi, Xitsonga
R200 Yellow-Orange Leopard English Zulu, Sotho isiZulu, Sesotho

The green (R10), brown (R20) and red (R50) colour schemes of the old, apartheid-era rand notes were maintained, with blue and orange being introduced for the R100 and R200 notes. The old R2 and R5 notes were discontinued and replaced with coins. Old coins and notes remain legal tender.

As with the 2005 series notes, the South African Reserve Bank has maintained English on the front of all notes, with "South African Reserve Bank" in two official languages on the reverse, thereby using all 11 official languages across the notes. The orthography of some of the African languages has also changed since the last note issue.

Note Obverse (front) Reverse (back) Languages
R10 Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
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Text and language (reverse):
Suid-Afrikaanse Reserwebank (Afrikaans)
liBhangesilulu leNingizimu Afrika (Swati)
R20 Click to enlarge
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Text and language (reverse):
Bankakgolo ya Aforikaborwa (Tswana)
iBulungelo-Mali eliKhulu leSewula Afrika (Southern Ndebele)
R50 Click to enlarge
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Click to enlarge
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Text and language (reverse):
iBhanki enguVimba yoMzantsi Afrika (Xhosa)
Bannga ya Vhukati ya Afrika Tshipembe (Venda)
R100 Click to enlarge
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Click to enlarge
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Text and language (reverse):
Panka ya Resefe ya Afrika Borwa (Northern Sotho)
Banginkulu ya Afrika-Dzonga (Tsonga)
R200 Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Text and language (reverse):
iBhangle Lombuso laseNingizmu Afrika (Zulu)
Banka ya Risefe ya Afrika Borwa (Sotho)

For information on the old (apartheid era) South African notes, click here.

Nelson Mandela

Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918, in the village of Mvezo, in Cape Province, South Africa, into the Thembu Xhosa Royal Family. Rolihlahla (which means 'troublemaker' in Xhosa) became known by his tribal name of Madiba as he got older. He was given the name 'Nelson' when he began attending a Methodist school and was baptised.

Mandela went on to study law at the University of the Witwatersrand (before it became a whites-only institution), continuing his studies at Fort Hare University, before being expelled for participation in a student protest. Mandela completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of South Africa.

Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1942, and formed its youth league in 1944, becoming increasingly involved in the black struggle against apartheid. In 1961, Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation", abbreviated to MK) -- the armed wing of the ANC. Umkhonto we Sizwe's aims were to engage in acts of sabotage to exert maximum pressure on the government with minimum casualties: bombing military installations, power plants, telephone lines and transport links at night, when civilians were not present. Mandela noted that should these tactics fail, MK would resort to "guerrilla warfare and terrorism".

By 1962, Mandela was arrested, along with other ANC and Communist Party figures, for planning acts of sabotage and to overthrow the government. In October 1963 Mandela joined nine others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. Facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous 'Speech from the Dock' on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

On 11 June 1964 Nelson Mandela and seven other accused (Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni) were convicted, and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. All except Denis Goldberg, who is white, were sent to Robben Island (Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison).

Mandela spent the next 27 years of his life in prison.

In his earlier years in prison, Mandela and others were forced to break rocks and work in lime quarries, where they were forbidden from wearing sunglasses -- the glare from the lime quarries permanently damaged Mandela's eyes. While in prison, Mandela studied law through the University of London. He also founded "the University of Robben Island" along with other prisoners, whereby each prisoner gave lectures in their area of expertise, leading to lively debate on matters of religion, morality and politics. Mandela also learned Afrikaans in order to better communicate with the prison wardens; wardens later recounted that despite his harsh treatment, Mandela was polite and respectful to the wardens, even speaking to them in Afrikaans when he could (thereby learning the language), and talking to them about their families. Mandela earned their respect, if not their support.

Over the years, Mandela was transferred between several prisons, visited by several politicians (mostly liberal white South African politicians), and all the while, his stature in South Africa grew. By the 1980s, the slogan "Free Nelson Mandela" was ubiquitous in the West, and Mandela was the symbol of the struggle against apartheid. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher urged South African President PW Botha to release Mandela several times during the 1980s -- in 1985 President Botha offered Mandela his release from prison on the condition that he "unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon". Mandela rejected the offer, saying:

"What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."

As Communism fell in Eastern Europe and the South African economy suffered under sanctions and internal strife, apartheid became increasingly untenable. Mandela was released from prison unconditionally by new South African President FW de Klerk on 11 February 1990. The period between his release and the first multiracial elections in April 1994 were marked by negotiations between the ANC and the governing National Party, violence between ANC (supported by mostly Xhosa and Venda) and Inkatha Freedom Party (mostly Zulu) supporters, and unrest among right-wing white organisations opposed to the end of apartheid and white rule. Although FW de Klerk was still the president of South Africa and controlled the economy and, more importantly, the army and police (mostly white), Mandela was increasingly regarded as South Africa's 'president in waiting'. Mandela negotiated with senior figures in the Afrikaner political and military hierarchy, and with senior Zulu figures, convincing the former to work within the new democratic framework, and convincing the latter to work within the system and not embark on a secessionist war.

The election was held on 27 April 1994, with the ANC winning the national election and winning government in 7 of the 9 provinces (Western Cape, with its large white and coloured communities, elected the National Party, while KwaZulu-Natal elected the Zulu Inkhata Freedom Party). Mandela was inaugurated South Africa's first black leader on 10 May 1994, and presided over a government of national reconciliation, with former president FW de Klerk appointed First Deputy President, and Thabo Mbeki (ANC) appointed Second Deputy President; political rival and partner Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party was appointed Minister for Home Affairs.

Having seen other post-colonial African economies damaged by the departure of the white 'professional class', Mandela worked to reassure South Africa's white population that they were protected and represented in the new South Africa. Mandela attempted to create the broadest possible coalition in his cabinet, with de Klerk as First Deputy President while other National Party officials became ministers for Agriculture, Energy, Environment, and Minerals and Energy.

As a sign of South Africa's re-entry into the international community from its pariah status, South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The national rugby team (the all-white Springboks) had previously been a hated symbol among black South Africans, who considered it a 'white sport' and a symbol of white political, economic and political power. Mandela encouraged all South Africans, especially blacks, to support the Springboks (who were mostly white Afrikaners), a concept anathema to many. Mandela himself wore a Springbok jersey in a gesture which united the country. After being excluded from world competition during apartheid, while being considered the strongest rugby team in the world, South Africa won the 1995 World Rugby Cup, and President Mandela -- wearing a Springbok jersey and cap -- presented the Webb Ellis Cup to South African captain François Pienaar (Mandela was wearing Pienaar's Number 6 jersey). This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans; as de Klerk later put it, "Mandela won the hearts of millions of white rugby fans".

After the adoption of a new constitution in 1996, Mandela — approaching his 80s — began to withdraw from politics, resigning as ANC President in 1997 and retiring from office in 1999. Mandela had never planned on seeking a second term of office. In his mid-80s and with his health failing, Mandela retired from public life in June 2004.

In 2012, the South African Reserve Bank honoured the former activist, prisoner, president and peacemaker by adding his image to all South African rand banknotes.

On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, at the age of 95, and was buried in the village of his childhood: Qunu, Eastern Cape.

For information on the old (apartheid era) South African notes, click here.

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