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South African Reserve Bank


The Reserve Bank is the central bank of the Republic of South Africa.  The Bank was established in 1921 in terms of a special Act of Parliament, the Currency and Banking Act, 1920 (Act No. 31 of 1920).  
Prior to the Bank's establishment, commercial banks in South Africa issued banknotes to the public. There was however no uniformity in the legislation providing for the issuance of banknotes by commercial banks. The only requirement was that issuing banks were obliged to convert notes held by the public into gold when banknotes were tendered at their branches.
After the First World War (1914 - 1918), the price of gold in the United Kingdom rose above its price in South Africa and a profit could be made by converting banknotes into gold in South Africa and selling the gold in London. Commercial banks had to buy gold at a higher price in London (for re-import into South Africa to back their banknotes in issue) than the price at which they converted their banknotes into gold. This "obligation to trade at a loss" posed a serious threat to the ability of banks to continue meeting their obligations.
To protect their financial viability, the commercial banks requested the Government to release them from the obligation to convert their banknotes into gold on demand. This led to the Gold Conference of October 1919. Following the recommendations of the Conference, a Select Committee of Parliament recommended the establishment of a central bank to assume, among other responsibilities, responsibility for the issuing of banknotes and for taking over the gold held by commercial banks.
The South African Parliament accepted the recommendation of the Select Committee on the creation of a central bank and promulgated in December 1920 the Currency and Banking Act, which provided for the establishment of the Bank. Effect was given to its various provisions in the course of the next six months and the Reserve Bank opened its doors for business for the first time on 30 June 1921.



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