Mandela bank notes to be issued by South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A new set of bank notes featuring Nelson Mandela's image are to be issued by South Africa. 

The Mandela bank notes will be issued in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 rand, and will replace the current safari-themed notes that carry images of the "Big 5" animals: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo.

Mandela, 93, became South Africa's first democratically elected president in 1994. He was released from prison on Feb. 11, 1990 — 22 years ago today — after spending 27 years behind bars, many of them at the infamous Robben Island prison. 

More from GlobalPost: New cookbook features Mandela's favorite dishes

President Jacob Zuma said the bank notes were a "humble gesture" to express the "deep gratitude" of South Africans toward Mandela.

"It is a befitting tribute to a man who became a symbol of this country's struggle for freedom, human rights and democracy," Zuma said, speaking at the central bank in Pretoria.

"The bank notes will make us remember and appreciate our achievements in order to continue the journey towards a more prosperous society."

The South African Reserve Bank is in the process of producing the new bank notes, but a release date has yet to be announced.

Advance notice of a news conference at the central bank briefly rattled the markets, with traders on edge about South Africa's economy. 

The rand dropped 2.5 percent against the dollar, but rebounded after bank officials said the news would not be about interest rates or resignations, the South African Press Association reported.

GlobalPost special report: Mandela's village: South Africa's road from Qunu

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