The rand (sign: R; code: ZAR) is the currency of South Africa. The rand has the symbol "R" and is subdivided into 100 cents, symbol "c". The ISO 4217 code is ZAR, from Dutch Zuid-Afrikaanse Rand (South African rand). It takes its name from the Witwatersrand ("Ridge of White Waters" in English), the ridge upon which Johannesburg is built and where most of South Africa's gold deposits were found.
The rand is the currency of the Common Monetary Area between South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. Although Namibia withdrew from this union, the rand is still legal tender there.
Historical users of the South African rand included South-West Africa and the nominally independent bantustans under the apartheid system: Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda.
Coins were introduced in 1961 in denominations of ½, 1, 2½, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents. In 1965, 2-cent coins replaced the 2½-cent coins. The ½-cent coin was last struck for circulation in 1973. The 2-rand was introduced in 1989, followed by 5-rand coins in 1994. Production of the 1- and 2-cent coins were discontinued in 2002, primarily due to inflation having devalued them, but they remain legal tender. Shops normally round the total purchase price of goods to the nearest 5 cents (in favour of the consumer).
In an effort to curb counterfeiting, a new R5 coin was released in August 2004. Security features introduced on the coin include a bi-metal design (similar to the €1 and €2 coins, the Thai 10 Baht coin, the British £2 coin and the Canadian $2 coin), a specially-serrated security groove along the rim and micro-lettering.
The first series of rand banknotes was introduced in 1961 in denominations of 1, 2, 10 and 20 rand, with similar designs and colours to the preceding pound notes to ease the transition. They bore the image of, what was believed at the time to be Jan van Riebeeck, the first V.O.C. administrator of Cape Town. It was later discovered that the image was not in fact Van Riebeeck at all. Like the last pound notes, they came in two variants, one with English written first and the other with Afrikaans written first. This practice was continued in the 1966 series which included the first 5 rand notes but did not include the 20 rand denomination.
The 1978 series began with denominations of 2, 5 and 10 rand, with 20 and 50 rand introduced in 1984. This series saw a major design change. In addition, the series has only one variant for each denomination of note. Afrikaans was the first language on the 2, 10 and 50 rand, while English was the first language on 5 and 20 rand. The notes bore the image of Jan van Riebeeck. The 1 rand note was replaced by a coin.
In the 1990s, the notes were redesigned with images of the Big Five wildlife species. 10, 20 and 50 rand notes were introduced in 1992, retaining the colour scheme of the previous issue. Coins were introduced for 2 rand and 5 rand, replacing the notes of the previous series, mainly because of the severe wear and tear experienced with low denomination notes in circulation. In 1994 notes were introduced for 100 and 200 rand.
In 2003, the 5 rand coin changed to a bi-metal coin after 9 years.
The 2005 series has the same principal design, but with additional security features such as colour shifting ink on the 50 rand and higher and the EURion constellation. The obverses of all denominations are printed in English, while two other languages are printed on the reverses, thus making use of all eleven official languages of South Africa.
In 2010, the South African Reserve Bank and commercial banks withdrew all 1990 series R 200 banknotes due to relatively high quality counterfeit notes in circulation.
In 2011, the South African Reserve Bank issued 100-rand banknotes which were defective because they lacked fluorescent printing visible under UV light. In June, printing of this denomination was moved from the South African Bank Note Company to Crane Currency’s Swedish division (Tumba Bruk), which reportedly produced 80 million 100-rand notes. The South African Reserve Bank shredded 3.6 million 100-rand banknotes printed by Crane Currency because they had the same serial numbers as a batch printed by the South African Bank Note Company. In addition, the notes printed in Sweden were not the correct colour, and they were one millimetre short.
On 11 February 2012, President Jacob Zuma announced that the country would be issuing a complete set of banknotes bearing Nelson Mandela's image. They were entered into circulation on 6 November 2012.
In 2013, the 2012 series was updated with the addition of the EURion constellation to all five notes.