The rand
  • Since the rand was launched in 1961, inflation averaged 8% a year.
  • A basket of goods and services costing R100 in 1961, cost almost R9,700 by end-2020.
  • Sixty years ago, one rand could buy you ten loaves of bread, 15kg of mealie meal and five packs of cigarettes.
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Since the rand was launched sixty years ago, inflation has been sapping its buying power at a rate of 8% a year.

The rand was first introduced as a currency in South Africa on 14 February 1961, the year that the country became a republic and Queen Elizabeth ceased to be head of state.

British-styled currency (pounds, shillings and pence) were replaced by rands and cents at an exchange rate of approximately two rand for every one pound. (It’s currently R20 a pound.)

According to research by Statistics SA, in 1961, R1 could buy you: 

  • Ten loaves of 1kg white bread (store baked), at 9c each. Current price: R15,21 for 700g (sliced)
  • Three 5kg cotton bags of mielie meal, at 30c each. Current price for equivalent size: R49,27.
  • 1.5kg of fresh chicken, at 70c/kg. Current price: around R58,09 in 2020.
  • Three 340g tins of corned beef, at 29c each. Current price of a smaller 300g tin: R27.21.
  • Three dozen large eggs, at 34c a dozen. Current price: R37,60.
  • 5kg tomatoes, at 20c/kg then. Current price: R20,74c/kg.
  • 4kg apples, at 23c/kg. Current price: R15.76/kg.
  • More than one pound (450g) of pure ground coffee, at 87c/pound. Two 250g bags today will average R147,38.
  • Six pints (570ml) of beer, at 16c each (and 2c refund). Current price for 330ml lager: R14.56 (no refund).
  • Five packs of cigarettes, at 19c for a pack of 20. Current price: around R43.

Between 1961 and 2020, consumer prices increased by almost 97 times – which means is that a basket of goods and services costing R100 in 1961 would have cost almost R9,700 in 2020, says Statistics SA.

In the first year of the rand’s life, inflation remained tame, with the average rate for 1961 at below 2%. The highest inflation for the 1960s was 4.6%, recorded in 1966.

But in the 1970s and 1980s – particularly due to oil price hikes and a weak rand amid apartheid turmoil and sanctions – inflation climbed, almost reaching 20% in September 1986,

Annual inflation has averaged 8% in the period since the rand’s introduction. The average annual inflation rate for 2020 was 3.3%.

 The article has been updated to remove an incorrect reference to comparative price increases.

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