The South African Rand is the currency of South Africa, and is issued by the South African Reserve Bank. The currency takes its name from the Witwatersrand (“White-waters-ridge”), the ridge where most of South Africa’s gold deposits were found and where Johannesburg was built. The Rand has the symbol “R” and is subdivided into 100 cents.
Coins are issued in 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R 1, R 2, and R 5 denominations. Banknotes include R 10, R 20, R 50, R 100, R 200 denominations.
The South African Rand is also legal tender in Swaziland and Lesotho, and is accepted in Namibia.
Detailed History of the South African Rand
The South African rand (sign: R; code: ZAR) is the currency of South Africa. The rand is subdivided into 100 cents (sign: “c”). The ISO 4217 code is ZAR, from Dutch Zuid-Afrikaanse Rand (South African rand). The rand is legal tender in the Common Monetary Area between South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Namibia, although the latter three countries do have their own currencies.
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.
How did the Currency came to be called Rand?
The rand takes its name from the Witwatersrand (literally “white waters’ ridge” in English), the ridge upon which Johannesburg is built and where most of South Africa’s gold deposits were found.
Exchange Rate History of the Rand to Dollar (1975 – 2000)
A rand was worth US$1.40 from the time of its inception in 1961 until late in 1971. Its value thereafter fluctuated as various exchange rate dispensations were implemented by the South African authorities. By the early 1980s high inflation and mounting political pressure combined with sanctions placed against the country due to apartheid started to erode its value. The currency broke above parity with the dollar for the first time in March 1982, and continued to trade between R 1 and R 1.30 to the dollar until June 1984, when depreciation of the currency gained momentum. By February 1985, it was trading over R 2 per dollar, and in July that year, all foreign exchange trading was suspended for three days to try to stop the depreciation.
By the time that State President P. W. Botha made his Rubicon speech on 15 August 1985, it had weakened to R 2.40 per dollar. The currency recovered somewhat between 1986–88, trading near the R 2 level most of the time and even breaking beneath it sporadically. The recovery was short-lived, however, and by the end of 1989, the rand was trading at levels more than R 2.50 per dollar.
As it became clear in the early 1990s that the country was destined for black majority rule and one reform after the other was announced, uncertainty about the future of the country hastened the depreciation until the level of R 3 to the dollar was breached in November 1992. A host of local and international events influenced the currency after that, most notably the 1994 democratic election which had it weaken to over R 3.60 to the dollar, the election of Tito Mboweni as the new governor of the South African Reserve Bank, and the inauguration of President Thabo Mbeki in 1999 which had it quickly slide to over R 6 to the dollar. The controversial land reform program that was kicked off in Zimbabwe, followed by the September 11, 2001 attacks, propelled it to its weakest historical level of R 13.84 to the dollar in December 2001.
Rand to Dollar Exchange Rate History ( Graph 1974 – 2004)
Value of the South African rand to the United States dollar from 1975 to 2015 by the blue columns. The percentage rate of change year-on-year is shown by the black line.