The rand has a long and rich history, which not everybody knows about. Below, you will find an in depth discussion of the South African rand – a monetary system that has been used not just in South Africa but also (in the past) in South West Africa and in bantustans such as Venda. The name ‘rand’ is a shortening of the word ‘Witwatersrand’ which means ‘white waters edge’. This is a reference to the cliff or ridge that Johannesburg was built. This ridge is significant for the region’s monetary system because it is a key source of gold deposits.
The move to a decimal system
Prior to the adoption of the rand, the currency in South Africa was the South African pound. The pound was challenged by many people who wanted to move to a decimal coinage system. Indeed, in 1856, a Decimal Coinage Commission was created to investigate the move to a decimal system and to prepare the country for this move. in 1961, just three months before the creation of the independent State of South Africa, South Africa switched over to the decimal rand. In order to smooth the transition over, a character called ‘Decimal Dan’ was created. Accompanied by a catchy radio jingle, he taught South Africans how to use the new decimal currency system.
The value of the rand throughout history
The rand started off being worth around $1.40 and it continued at this value until around 1982. In the 1980s, when other countries started to intensify their political pressure on South Africa, and to boycott travelling there and purchasing South African goods, the rand began to fall in value. Between 2013 and 2015, the rand was subject to further falls in value, and during that period a dollar was the equivalent of between 15 and 17 rand. This was largely due to investors in Asia withdrawing their support for markets in South Africa and other countries across the world as well.
The design of the rand
Throughout its history, the South African rand has celebrated the flora and fauna of South Africa. Lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, cape buffalo and elephants have features prominently on the coins and notes ever since the creation of the currency in 1961. One key change, however, has been the change in the human figure featured on the obverse of the notes. The earliest notes featured the Dutch colonial administrator Jan van Riebeeck alongside various aspects of South Africa’s economy such as diamonds, mining and infrastructure. However, from 2012 onwards (the Fifth Issue of the rand), the notes all featured Nelson Mandela. There has also been a change in the language used on the rand. The earliest rand notes and coins used only English and Afrikaans. However, from 2005 onwards, the region’s other languages have been incorporated into both the coins and notes. Now, the rand features Swahili, Zulu, Sotho, Tsonga, Xhosa and other indigenous languages. Afrikaans does not always feature. These coins and notes also feature several security features. For example, almost imperceptible changes of colour across the body of a coin or note enable it to be determined whether or not it is authentic.
So there you have it, the history of the rand, which spans more than 6 decades and which continues to grow and develop. These historical changes are reflected in the changing design of the coins and notes, in which indigenous languages and images of Mandela came to the fore, replacing images of Dutch colonial times. The history of the rand is one that has been very much influenced by political changes as well as economic fluctuations in the market. If you would like to learn more about the status of the rand, and think about investing with or in rand, then CMC Markets has all of the advice that you need. Online trading is an excellent way to make money whilst travelling in South Africa, for example, or you may wish to work internationally with South African investors