It was mentioned by by out honourable President Jacob Zuma during his State Of The Nation Address a couple of days ago. This change was also mentioned by the City Press newspaper.
When South Africa was still being governed by the British Empire, it was obvious that our economy made use of their currency. When we claimed independence in 1961, and started to govern ourselves, we introduced our own currency and banknotes.
And in the 1990’s when South Africa finally become a democratic nation, our banknotes was changed to show the country’s natural heritage with images of the Big Five.
This made sense, because the previous designs, bearing the image of Jan Van Riebeeck, was ideologically indicative of a single culture. The intention new banknote design in a democratic South Africa was to reflect a cultural heritage common to all South Africans – The Big Five. This, I believe, was instrumental in allowing all South Africans to concentrate on the future, without being constantly reminded of all the hardships of Apartheid.
But now, for no apparent reason other than to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison, the South African banknotes are being changed again. The new notes will all reflect images of Nelson Mandela.
As with the Apartheid-era banknotes being biased towards the white European culture by bearing the image of Jan Van Riebeeck ,this new design with the image of Madiba points towards a single culture – Xhosa. Isn’t South Africa supposed to be culturally diverse?
In as much as I have the greatest respect for Madiba, and honour the part he played in bringing about democracy to South Africa, I don’t know if using his image alone on our currency is an altogether good idea.
The Big Five banknote design, as I mentioned earlier, is common to all South Africans, regardless of culture, creed or ethnic origin. It was neutral. It did not point to any single culture.
If the government really does want to change our banknotes, let them do so by re-designing the images of the Big Five and by introducing newer, better anti-counterfeiting features.
But the whole idea of changing the design of our banknotes is symptomatic of another problem that exists within South African Government – the tendency to fix things that are not broken, instead of concentrating on questions of substance, such as Crime, Education, Housing and Economic Infrastructure.
But I digress, and should rather put an end to this blog post, and leave that particular topic for another time.