The banknotes entered circulation Tuesday, preceded by an education and public awareness campaign, the South African Reserve Bank said Tuesday in a statement.
"Our currency is a unique symbol of our nationhood, with many of us handling banknotes every day. The Reserve Bank is proud to be able to honor South Africa's struggle icon and first democratically elected president in this way," Reserve Bank Gov. Gill Marcus.
The reverse of the notes features the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros, animals known as the "big five," on various denominations, the statement said.