It is the first time since the current ranking system was introduced in 2003 that South Africa has finished as the number one test side on the April 1 cut-off date.
The mace was handed to Proteas captain Graeme Smith in a ceremony at the Wanderers.
"I am truly honoured and humbled to receive the ICC Test Championship mace and prize money, not just on behalf of myself, the players and the team management but on behalf of all South Africans," Smith told reporters.
"We all appreciate the enormous privilege of representing our country and take on the responsibility that goes with it."
South Africa are the fourth team after Australia, India and England to hold the mace.
The Proteas have 128 ranking points at the top of the ICC Test Championship, 14 ahead of second-placed England. They are followed by India (112), Australia (110) and Pakistan (104).
South Africa's next test match series is against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in November.