Chancers in South Africa are already shopping with fake Mandela banknotes, barely two weeks after the new money entered circulation, officials said Thursday.
“When new notes are introduced there are always endeavours to see whether they can be counterfeited or copied,” said Gill Marcus, governor of the South African Reserve Bank.
The country’s central bank has acknowledged “isolated cases” of counterfeiting of the new banknote series featuring former President Nelson Mandela.
The “Randela” - a nickname that combines the national currency the rand and the name of South Africa’s first black president - is the latest monument to the 94-year-old.
His smiling face features on the front, while the back retains the images of one of the big five animals - lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant - which also featured on the old money.
Neighbouring Zimbabwe, which also accepts rand, has meanwhile launched a road show to raise awareness of the new notes as the country is “flooded” with fakes, its Reserve Bank has said.
But even police there are at a loss to spot the counterfeits. “We are not familiar with the new banknotes ourselves,” said Zimbabwe police spokesman Andrew Phiri. South Africa’s Reserve Bank has advised the public “to look, feel and tilt the banknote” to test if they are real.
Revered statesman Mandela held office between 1994 and 1999. He currently lives out his retirement in his childhood rural village Qunu, in the Eastern Cape province. His is the first black face to appear on South African money.