Marcus first to use Mandela banknotes

6 November 2012

It’s her signature that appears on them, so it’s fitting that Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus was the first person to use South Africa’s new Nelson Mandela banknotes, doing her fruit and vegetable shopping at a Pretoria green grocer on Tuesday.

The new banknotes, featuring an image of the former president on the front and images of the country’s “Big Five” wild animals on the reverse, went into circulation on Tuesday.

The new notes – in the same R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 denominations – have upgraded, state-of-the-art security features, as well as enhanced features for the visually impaired, including raised print on both sides.

Marcus was shopping at the Housewives Market at Glen Gables shopping centre in Lynnwood Ridge, Pretoria – a store she has frequented for over 30 years. Jose Luis de Freitas, the shop owner, said: “I feel very excited and grateful.”

Security features

The public, Marcus said, should look out for several security features on the new notes, including the raised print, and a change to the colour of the note when lifted and exposed to the light.

“That is what we would like everybody to be familiar with, so they know that they have a real note,” she said, adding that the old notes, while currently in the process of being phased out – would be legal tender for as long as they remained in circulation.

For the visually impaired, the notes feature a different raised “flash” for each denomination, starting with one flash on the R10 and up to five flashes on the R200 note.

For eager South Africans wanting to get their hands on the new notes, these would start becoming available during the day.

“During the day, they will start to come through. They only started to load the new notes last night and this morning. They will start to come through,” Marcus said as she was about to pay De Freitas.

‘A new image that builds us’

According to international best practice, banknote security features are upgraded roughly every seven years.

“So there’s a difference in doing a redesign, which we’ve done,” Marcus said. “The new note has been in design for 20 years, while the previous [design] was done in 1992.

“We felt it was time to reflect a new image that builds us. Everyone is excited about the new notes.”

Marcus added that Mandela was happy with the new notes.

“Madiba does represent something special, not just in South Africa but in the world. He’s really an extraordinary man, and this is a way in which we pay tribute to him. He’s delighted about it. I think it’s a great day for South Africa.”

Asked about whether the use of cards was bypassing the use of cash, the governor said this was not the case.

“Although there’s a move to the use of cards, what you’re seeing is that the use of cash has not diminished, in fact it grows. So we are still giving a 10% plus increase in the use of cash.”

In December 2011, there was about R102-billion in notes in circulation in South Africa.