The Namibian (Windhoek)

16 July 2012

Namibia: Nujoma Notes Short-Lived

DIAMONDS aren't forever after all.

A mere six weeks after the introduction of the new N$10 and N$20 notes, sporting Founding President Sam Nujoma's image, the reflective diamond security feature in the middle of some of the notes is 'cracking'.

The BoN has set aside N$154 million over three years to pay for the new series of Nujoma and Witbooi notes with beefed-up security features, including the reflective diamond on the N$10- and N$20 notes.

"We believe that Namibians deserve better," Bank of Namibia (BoN) Deputy Governor Ebson Uanguta commented on the cracking notes on Friday.

Uanguta said the BoN started noticing the "cracking" about six weeks after the new currency was released to the public on May 15.

"From a banknote technical printing perspective, this phenomenon is supposed not to be the case," he said.

The BoN has launched an investigation into the matter and is working with international currency experts to find out whether the problem is caused by handling or the ink used, Uanguta said. The results are expected within a week or two.

He said a reprint of the notes "can't be ruled out". However, should the printers be at fault, the BoN won't hesitate to enforce the "clear terms and conditions" of its contract, Uanguta said.

The BoN will only be able to say what percentage of the notes are damaged by about mid-August. Currently, there are about N$800 million worth of new notes, including N$50, N$100 and N$200 notes, in circulation.

Uanguta said a representative sample all the new notes, including the N$50, N$100 and N$200 notes with Hendrik Witbooi on them, were subjected to "stringent tests" before the money was printed by specialist companies in Switzerland and France. These tests included a "folding test" done on the paper used to print the money.

Asked why only the Nujoma notes and not the Witbooi notes are cracking, Uanguta said the BoN logo used on the N$50, N$100 and N$200 notes instead of the diamond on the N$10 and N$20 notes involves a more expensive process. It is normal practice that security features used on larger denominations are more expensive than those on smaller denominations to make them more difficult to counterfeit, he said.

Normally, a bank note should have a lifetime of between three and 18 months. However, the smaller denominations like the N$10 and N$20 notes tend to wear and tear quicker because they get handled more, Uanguta said.

This is not the first time the BoN has had to deal with flawed notes. In 2003, the bank had to withdraw and destroy N$20 notes after the silver magnetic thread on some of the notes came loose.

Uanguta said the company responsible for the flaw in 2003 was not involved in the printing of the new N$10 and N$20 notes.

He said the public should exchange any damaged notes at commercial banks, at the BoN in Windhoek or at its branch in Oshakati.

The BoN further appealed to the public to handle currency with "care and pride at all times", using wallets and purses and not folding banknotes unnecessarily.

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