South Africa: Here’s what you could buy for R100 30 and 60 years ago

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The rand is the official currency of South Africa. It is subdivided into 100 cents. The rand is legal tender in the Common Monetary Area between South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia, although the last three countries do have their own currencies pegged at par with the rand.

Statistics South Africa has published an inflation comparison, highlighting what R100 would have bought you 60 years ago.

The research shows that the same basket of goods and services that you could get in 1961 for R100, would have cost nearly R9,700 at the end of 2020, with consumer prices increasing by almost 97 times.

The 1960s was a period of generally low inflation, reaching a peak of 4.6% in November 1966. Inflation climbed during the 1970s and 1980s to reach its highest recorded level of 19.7% in September 1986. Annual inflation has averaged 8% in the period since the rand’s introduction.

The household fuel & light and transport categories were the main drivers of inflation in 1961, both registering annual rates of 3.5%. Food inflation was 2.1%, and clothing and footwear recorded no increase in 1961.

As Stats SA does today, so the Bureau of Census and Statistics published average prices of a range of consumer goods.

Although the currency went decimal in 1961, the imperial measurement system was still in operation until 1974.

For simplicity, StatsSA converted a pound to 500g – although it is closer to 450g. Comparison is further complicated by changes in the quality and packaging format of goods.

Prices of goods 1961 vs 2021

Item Average cost in 1961 Average cost in 2021
15kg mielie meal 90c R49.27
1kg loaf of white bread 9c R15.21 (700g)
1kg fresh chicken 70c R40/kg (approximate)
1kg apples 23c/kg R15.76/kg
1kg tomato 20c/kg R20.74/kg
340g tin corned beef 29c R27.21 (300g)
570ml beer 16c R14.56 (330ml lager)
Pack of cigarettes 19c R43

Using StatsSA, data, National Debt Advisors have also drawn up a basket of goods with prices comparisons from the 1980s.

The group considered the change in prices against the country’s record high unemployment rates and the fact that many South Africans are now earning no income at all.

“There is no miracle recovery to the financial carnage which Covid has wreaked all over the world. The best thing everyone can do, is to take control of their financial situation and get rid of their existing debt, before incurring new debt,” said Sebastien Alexanderson, chief executive of National Debt Advisors.

“Sadly, due to stress and panic, many people have turned to high interest loans in the hope that it will alleviate their financial distress – but this is just a short term solution, which actually aggravates the problem,” he said.

Prices of goods 1980 vs 2021

Item Average cost in 1980 Average cost in 2021
Buns per dozen R2.40 R15.99
2 litre milk R1.72 R24,99
Lamb chops R6.69 /kg R191.67 /kg
Toothpaste R1.09 R12,99
Pasta R0.99 R10,99
2kg rice R1.19 R29,99
Simba chips(large) R0.99 R14,99
Sta-soft R1.99 R44,99
Kellogs cornflakes R1.49 R38.99
250g mushrooms R1.19 R21,99
Cheese R5.99 /kg R117.95/kg

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