A 43-year-old Pietermaritzburg woman was arrested on Thursday, 19 October 2023, for allegedly producing and selling counterfeit money.
The Sunday Times reports that her method involved scanning authentic notes, printing them using her home printer, and touching them up with nail polish and dyes.
She cannot be named because she roped her 17-year-old son into the scheme.
Umgungundlovu crime intelligence, Mountain Rise police, Pietermaritzburg’s K9 unit, and Mi7 security officers found a Canon Pixma colour printer, a cellphone, R600 in counterfeit R100 notes, R2,000 in fake R200 notes, and various inks and dyes at her home.
An anonymous police source told the Sunday Times that the woman started counterfeiting after she and her husband lost their jobs during the Covid-19 lockdown, from which they never recovered.
She allegedly sold stacks of fake notes with a face value of R1,000 for R250 and, according to the source, only used counterfeit money to buy essentials.
Another source reportedly said the counterfeit notes are very convincing.
“It’s unbelievable that those notes were printed on a standard printer,” they said.
“It’s quite understandable that shop owners were fooled when she handed these notes over. It was hard to tell the difference from the real thing.”
The woman appeared in court on Monday, 23 October, and the matter was adjourned to 13 November.
In May 2023, South African Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago unveiled new banknotes with improved security features to prevent counterfeiting.
Kganyago said the production of fake cash “tarnishes the credibility of the currency, thereby impacting negatively on the growth of an economy”.
The notes entered circulation on 4 May 2023, and their design retains the portrait of Nelson Mandela on the front, with images of the Big Five and their young on the back of their respective denominations.
David Madondo, South Africa’s deputy finance minister, said counterfeiting could result in high inflation.
“Not only is there a risk that the public could lose confidence in the currency, but there is a greater risk that substantial counterfeiting could generate an increase in the supply of money, thereby causing inflation,” he said.
“These upgrades are an important development in reducing the potential cost of counterfeiting and preserving the integrity of the rand.”
The new notes were also rolled out to Namibia, Eswatini, and Lesotho, where the rand is considered legal tender alongside their respective currencies.
According to Kganyago, South Africa usually refreshes its banknotes every six to eight years, which aligns with international best practices to prevent counterfeiting.
However, the notes with the previous design bearing Mandela’s image were issued 11 years ago, while a commemorative series was printed in 2018.