South Africa unveils new commemorative five-rand Mandela centenary anniversary coin

Background photo courtesy of the Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The Finance Ministry of South Africa have unveiled (19th January) the design that will be produced for the upcoming five-rand commemorative coin. The new 2018-dated coin is minted in celebration of the centenary anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, the first president elected in South Africa after the introduction of majority rule with all-inclusive presidential elections on the 27th April 1994.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918–2013) is remembered internationally as having become South Africa’s first post-apartheid president, the first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His memory is held in deep reverence within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, “Madiba,” and is regarded by many as the “Father of the Nation.”

Mandela was born into the royal family of the Thembu nation, who belong to the wider Xhosa peoples of Southern Africa in Mvezo, British South Africa. He studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of the Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg. Initially influenced by Marxism, Mandela secretly joined South Africa’s banned Communist Party (SACP), though he was committed to non-violent protest. In association with the SACP, he co-founded the militant ”Umkhonto we Sizwe” in 1961 and led a sabotage campaign against the government. In 1962, he was arrested for conspiring to overthrow the state and sentenced to life imprisonment in what is known as the Rivonia Trial.

Mandela succeeded F. W. de Klerk, the last state president of South Africa, who ordered him released from his incarceration on Robben Island (and later Pollsmoor Prison in 1990) after he served 27 years behind bars amid international and internal pressure. Together, Mandela and de Klerk negotiated an end to apartheid and organised the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela led the African National Congress to victory — becoming South Africa’s president. He served one term and was followed in 1999 by the man who served as his deputy.

Mandela died on 5 December 2013, at the age of 95, which was the result of a prolonged respiratory infection. Mandela married his third wife Graça Machel on his 80th birthday in 1998, whom he was survived by as well as three of his six children, 17 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren. His state funeral was held on the 15 December in Qunu, his homestead in the Eastern Cape Provence with approximately 90 representatives of foreign states in attendance.

Hover to zoom.

The coin honours the life of Nelson Mandela, who would have celebrated his centenary birthday on the 18th July 2018, features a familiar three-quarter left-facing portrait of Mandela alongside a latent image featuring the years 1918 and 2018. The new portrait coin replaces the Black Wildebeest, or Gnu, which was placed on this denomination in 2004. The reverse features South Africa’s coat of arms along with the text in both English, South Africa, and the Xhosa language, Aforika Borwa. Xhosa is South Africa’s second most populous home language after the Zulu language. The year of issue is seen at the top of the coin between the two text groupings. Since 1996, South Africa’s 11 official languages have been acknowledged annually in a rotation, with the words South Africa represented around the obverse of the coin in various combinations containing two languages per year.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
5 rand Bi-metalic 9.5 g 26 mm Circulation To meet demand




No date has been announced for the release of the coin, but the decree introducing the coin as legal tender specifies the date of its status to commence the 1st January 2018. The coin will circulate alongside the 2004, and to a lesser extent, the five-rand coins which were first introduced into circulation in 1994. It is expected that the commemorative coin will be issued in various collector qualities including Proof and Brilliant Uncirculated. For additional information on coins currently in circulation in South Africa and to learn more about the South African Mint’s language rotation schedule on circulation coins, please visit their website.

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