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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Nelson Mandela, 94, at his home in Qunu, South Africa on Aug. 6, 2012.

POOL/REUTERS

South Africa's central bank on Wednesday unveiled a new series of bank notes featuring the face of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela which should be in use by year-end.

The five notes will show a smiling Mr. Mandela on the front and South Africa's big five animals – lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant – on the back set amid Bushmen paintings and locally used traditional patterns.

"We are pleased to issue this new series of banknotes which reflects South Africa's pride as a nation and pays tribute to a much-loved world icon," said Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus.

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The notes are the latest monument to the 94-year-old Nobel Peace Prize-winner, known as one of the world's greatest statesmen after becoming president after 27 years in an apartheid jail.

Not seen in public since July 2010, he is living out his retirement in his childhood rural village of Qunu.

"We are very thankful for the recognition of Tata Mandela in this manner," said his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who attended the launch, the Sapa news agency reported.

"We think it is the best birthday present he ever received on his 94th birthday."

The announcement of the new notes in February – on the 22nd anniversary of Mr. Mandela's prison release – was billed as an "announcement of national importance" with the secrecy sending the rand and stock markets on a downward spike.

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