New bank notes 'a fitting tribute'

The new South African banknotes, bearing the image of Nelson Mandela, would make South Africans remember their achievements. These were the words of President Jacob Zuma at a press briefing attended by dignitaries including SA Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Saturday.

Zuma said the gesture was “a befitting tribute” to Mandela who was a symbol of the country's struggle for freedom, human rights and democracy.

Jacob Zuma holds a new South African bank note at the South African Reserve Bank in Pretoria. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse. Credit: INLSA

“With this humble gesture, we are expressing our deep gratitude, as the South African people, to a life spent in service of the people of this country and in the cause of humanity worldwide,” Zuma said.

The banknotes would make South Africans remember and appreciate their achievements in order to continue the journey towards a more prosperous society, Zuma said.

Saturday marks the 22nd anniversary of Mandela's release from prison.

Marcus said the new notes would enter circulation later in the year. She said coins would not be affected at this stage.

The current banknotes, that feature the Big 5 animals, had been in circulation since 1992.

Marcus said officials consulted widely on the notes, speaking to a wide range of people including Mandela's former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Gordhan said the new notes would “help South Africa to remember Mandela” and “institutionalise the memory of where we come from”.

Earlier on Saturday, German international news agency DPA reported lack of details about the nature of the announcement which briefly spooked markets.

The rand tumbled about 2.5 per cent versus the dollar.

“Traders worried that the central bank of Africa's largest economy was about to make a drastic policy or personnel change while markets were closed,” DPA said.

However, the Mail and Guardian cited sources suggesting the announcement would likely be of a celebratory nature and possibly related to Mandela.

Following reassuring remarks from bank officials, who indicated that the news would not be about interest rates or resignations, the rand made a quick rebound. -Sapa