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The latest on pound to South African rand exchange rates
Check out today’s exchange rate, as well as our historic rates year on year.
For more information about the history of the South African rand, read on.
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The lowdown on the South African rand
The South African rand was introduced on 14th February 1961, replacing the South African pound at a rate of two rand to one pound. To make the transition a little easier, the government introduced a mascot called Decimal Dan, known as the ‘rand-cent man’, to familiarise everyone with the new currency.
South African rand takes its name from the Witwatersrand, meaning ‘ridge of white waters’ in English. It’s the name of the ridge that Johannesburg is built on, and where most of South Africa’s gold deposits were originally found.
A look back at British pound to South African rand rates
Up until 1968, the South African rand exchanged at a rate of around 2 rand to 1 pound. After this, it fluctuated quite steadily between around 1.4 and 1.7, right up until 1982. The rising political pressure against South Africa’s apartheid began to weaken its value after this, with the currency breaking parity with the dollar in March of 1982, and reaching back over 2 rand to the pound. By February of 1985, the rate had reached more than 2.5 rand to the pound, and by July of that year, all foreign exchange change was suspended for three days to try to stop further devaluation. When State President PW Botha made his Rubicon speech praising the continuation of apartheid on August 15, 1985, the rand weakened to over 3 to the pound, shooting up to over 4 by the end of the year.
Between 1986 and 1989, the rand recovered a little. However, this was pretty short lived and by 1990, the rand had reached over 5 to the pound.
The 1990s bring changes across South Africa
As uncertainty about the future of South Africa under apartheid grew, the rand continued to steadily depreciate, reaching over 8 to the pound by 1998. The inauguration of President Thabo Mbeki and the election of Tito Mboweni as the governor of the South African Reserve Bank in 1999 saw the rand continuing to slide, reaching over 11 to the pound. In 2001, Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform program and the September 11 attacks in New York City saw the rand fall even lower to R19.5 to the pound by December 2001.
Investigation and recovery
The depreciation of the rand in 2001 was so sudden that it led to a formal investigation and, in turn, a dramatic recovery. By the end of 2002, the rand was back trading at around R14 to the pound, and had reached around R10.5 by the end of 2004.
The second half of 2006, however, saw the rand weaken again to around R15 to £1. There were a number of factors that contributed to this, including South Africa’s current account deficit which was worsening to a 36 year high, inflation, which was at a five year high and the Eskom electricity crisis. However, in the time since 2006, the South African rand has begun to stabilise again, although it has steadily been rising since 2011.