Discuss as:

South Africa launches new Nelson Mandela bank notes

South Africa releases newly-minted bank notes showing the smiling face of former president Nelson Mandela. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

PRETORIA - South Africa immortalized former president Nelson Mandela on Tuesday in a set of new banknotes bearing the image of the anti-apartheid leader, who remains a rare unifying force in a country still scarred by its racially divided past.

The government announced the new notes earlier this year on the 22nd anniversary of Mandela's release from prison where he served 27 years for his opposition to white-minority rule.

The 94-year-old, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994, rarely appears in public now but is still revered both at home and abroad and held up as a symbol of freedom, human rights and democracy.

Popularly known by his clan name "Madiba," Mandela has lent his name to roads, buildings and universities, and a giant bronze statue of him in Johannesburg's swanky Sandton City mall is a daily attraction for tourists.

"Madiba does represent something special not just in South Africa but in the world," Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus said after using the new notes for the first time at her neighborhood fruit market in Pretoria.

Former President Nelson Mandela is presented with a torch marking 100 years of South Africa's African National Congress. Msnbc.com's Dara Brown has the story. 

"He is really an extraordinary man and this is a way in which we pay tribute to him," she added.

The notes also feature South Africa's "big five" wild animals - rhino, elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard.

The new notes will be used in conjunction with the existing currency, which will be gradually phased out, Marcus said.

More world stories from NBC News:

Follow World News from NBCNews.com on Twitter and Facebook