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South Africa to get new R500 note? No, old claim from 2009 resurfaces

IN SHORT: South Africa’s highest value banknote is R200. But after the Reserve Bank announced it would be issuing redesigned currency, a rumour about a new R500 note started circulating on social media. But the rumour is false, and has been for 14 years.

On 3 May 2023, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) announced it would be issuing redesigned and upgraded banknotes and coins the next day.

This would be the first upgrade of the currency in over a decade.

“The upgraded banknotes and coin have enhanced security features and new designs. The broad themes for the upgraded banknotes remain the same as the current banknotes, while the theme for the coin is deep ecology,” the bank said.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, remains the main feature of the banknotes. The notes and coins also have improved “feel features” to help blind and partially sighted people tell the difference between denominations.

The central bank’s announcement was widely covered in the news.

But soon after, a very old and thoroughly debunked rumour started to circulate on social media that a new R500 banknote would be introduced, along with the upgraded cash.

South Africa’s currency is the rand (R); R1 is equal to 100 cents. It’s issued in banknotes valued at R10, R20, R50 and R100, with the highest denomination of R200. 

“New Mone in SA,” a Facebook user posted on 4 May, along with a screenshot of a tweet from the account @ReservebankSA. The tweet reads: “We introduce to you the first sample of our possible new Five hundred Rand note.”

The note shows zebras on the one side and a stylised map of South Africa on the other. The tweet was also posted on a Facebook group page.

The claim has also found its way onto TikTok, with several videos posted in May, showing the “new” zebra-themed R500 note.


Note designed for competition in 2008 

The claim is false and has been doing the rounds on social media for over a decade. It first popped up in 2009, then resurfaced in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

It appeared again in June 2022 when Africa Check and several news outlets debunked it.

Using a reverse image search, we found that the R500 zebra note was first shared online in 2008.

It was posted on DeviantArt, a social media platform for artists and designers, by the user SouthernDesigner.

“This is a bank note I designed for the SABNS competition,” his caption reads. He probably meant SARB. 

The user also says: “You'll find if you search for South African bank notes that my design looks almost exactly like those in circulation. My R500 note was designed to fit the existing note line’s profile so that it could actually be put into circulation without it disrupting the flow of the already existing notes.”

In June 2022, the SARB took to its verified Twitter account to dismiss the tweet from @ReservebankSA.



The @ReservebankSA account no longer exists.

In its May 2023 announcement, the SARB was clear that the existing banknote values – R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 – would remain the same.

It also posted a video explaining how the currency upgrade would work:

The bank has not announced any plans to print R500 notes.

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