South African banknotes will bear the likeness of anti-apartheid icon and first black president Nelson Mandela, said the country’s president Jacob Zuma.
The release of the new notes, the date of which has not yet been announced, will commemorate Mandela’s 93rd birthday.
Saturday also marked the 22nd anniversary of Mandela’s release from Robben Island prison.
Mandela, who served 27 years in prison for his anti-apartheid activities, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected president the following year.
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 at a news conference at the central bank in Pretoria.
Current South African banknotes depict the so-called ‘Big Five’ animals -- lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo – and have been in circulation for twenty years.
South African Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus said coins will not bear Mandela’s image yet.
Finance minister Pravin Gordhan said the new banknotes will help South Africa to remember Mandela and institutionalize the memory of where we come from.
Interestingly, South African markets were spooked ahead of the announcement because of uncertainly over what kind of statement would be released at the Central Bank.
According to German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), the South African rand currency fell about 2.5 percent against the U.S. 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.
The rand rebounded quickly after the news about Mandela was disclosed.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.