Best and worst South African Presidents for the rand

South Africa’s rand performed the best under Thabo Mbeki’s presidency between 1999 and 2008 and the worst under Nelson Mandela, who was President between 1994 and 1999.

The rand weakened from under R4.00 to the US Dollar in 1994, when South Africa’s first democratic elections took place, to over R18.00 in 2023.

There are many reasons for the rand’s depreciation, including poor economic growth, high unemployment, and structural economic problems in South Africa.

South Africa also experienced prolonged periods of current account deficits and, in return, increased levels of government debt.

Daily Investor analysed the rand’s performance against the US Dollar during each President’s tenure to assess their economic performance.

The rand weakened by 41% – from R3.62 to R6.08 – relative to the US dollar during Nelson Mandela’s term as South African President.

It was the worst currency depreciation under any president, even though Mandela only served for one term.

The rand also depreciated rapidly under President Cyril Ramaphosa. It fell by 36% against the US Dollar in five years.

The best performance was under Thabo Mbeki when the rand only lost 26% against the US Dollar – from R6.02 to R7.92.

The Mbeki era was known for strong economic growth and reducing state debt which presidents like Zuma and Ramaphosa could not achieve.

The charts below show the performance of the rand against the US Dollar under South Africa’s presidents. Kgalema Motlanthe was not listed because of his short time in office.

Nelson Mandela: -41%

Thabo Mbeki: -26%

Jacob Zuma: -30%

Cyril Ramaphosa: -36%



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