The Banknotes of Mozambique

Independence Issues – 1975 to 1989

Peter Symes

Mozambique was a Portuguese colony which attained independence in 1975. During the colonial era, in the years leading to independence, the currency of Mozambique was issued by Portugal’s Banco Nacional Ultramarino (National Overseas Bank).[1] Following independence, these notes continued to circulate and it was some years before the Bank of Mozambique established itself firmly as an issuing authority, although it controlled the currency immediately after independence. In this study, the history of the first issues of the Bank of Mozambique is presented, issues which reflect the ongoing struggle of a new country which continued to fight a civil war for many years.

The Struggle for Independence

Mozambique was a Portuguese colony for five hundred years. Suppressing local insurrections over many years, it was not surprising a determined effort in the struggle for independence by the local population commenced in the mid-twentieth century. Long after the British and French colonies in Africa had attained their independence, by the early 1970s Portugal still held on to its colonial possessions.

      In Mozambique, resistance to the Portuguese in the twentieth century came from groups throughout the colony, without a concerted effort across the region. One of the most significant encounters by the Mozambican people against their colonial masters was in an incident at Mueda in northern Mozambique, on 16 June 1960. The governor at Mueda had received complaints from the local people concerning forced labour, low wages and a lack of freedom; so he asked them to come to the administrative centre in Mueda on the appointed day to air their grievances. As up to 500 people began to arrive, some were arrested; which led to protests by others at the gathering. The protests prompted the governor to assemble armed soldiers against the growing demonstration and after an order by the governor most of the protesters were shot dead by the soldiers.

      Details of the incident at Mueda vary according to sources, but the massacre is generally regarded as the trigger for armed rebellion against the Portuguese. By the early 1960s there were a number of resistance movements and in 1962 three of the main organizations decided to join forces; they were the União Nacional Democrática de Moçambique (based in Salisbury, Rhodesia), the União Nacional Africana de Moçambique (based in Blantyre, Nyasaland), and the União Nacional de Moçambique Independente (based in Mombasa, Kenya). At the urging of Kwame Nkrumah[2], Julius Nyêre[3] and organizations in other Portuguese territories, the three liberation movements met in Dar-es-Salaam and formed the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique – FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique). FRELIMO formally came into being on 25 June, 1962.

      So none of the three liberation movements in the union could be perceived as the dominant faction, it was decided to invite a neutral person to lead FRELIMO – this person was Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane. Initially attending university in South Africa, Mondlane was expelled and returned to Mozambique, after which he went to the USA where he completed his degree in sociology and anthropology at Oberlin College. He then went to Northwestern University where he completed a M.A. and a Ph.D. At the time he was invited to lead FRELIMO, he was a professor at Syracuse University in the USA.

      Based in Tanzania, FRELIMO commenced its military operations against Mozambique on 25 September 1964 with about 250 fighters. By 1967 FRELIMO boasted an armed force of 8,000 fighters, while the Portuguese commanded an army of 60,000 soldiers.

      Eduardo Mondlane was assassinated by a letter bomb on 3 February 1969. Thereafter, FRELIMO was run by Marcelino dos Santos, Samora Moisés Machel and Urias Timoteo Simango, until Samora Machel was appointed president of FRELIMO by the Central Committee in 1970. Machel, the future president of Mozambique, was born in Xilembene in 1933, the son of a pastor and a descendant of peasants and military leaders of the Gaza Empire. After a career in nursing, he joined FRELIMO in Dar-es-salaam in 1963. After being trained in Algeria, he returned to become the commander of the forces in Nyassa province in 1965 and in 1966 he was appointed Secretary of Defence and, by this role, he became part of FRELIMO’s Central Committee.

      By 1974 FRELIMO had liberated one fifth of the country and were fighting a demoralized Portuguese army. The struggle was being won, but it appeared many years would pass before victory could be won. Then, to the surprise of many, on 25 April 1974 the Portuguese army overthrew the government of Marcello Caetao in Lisbon. The Portuguese army took this action partially because it was tired of mismanagement and of the unnecessary loss of life in the Portuguese colonies – due to activities of the liberation movements in Angola, Portuguese Guinea and Mozambique. Talks between the new Portuguese government and FRELIMO commenced immediately and on 7 September 1974 the Lusaka agreement was signed in Zambia between Portugal and Mozambique. The Lusaka Agreement set a schedule for the transfer to independence by 25 June 1975[4] and outlined a range of measures to achieve this.

      Clause 16 of the Agreement stipulated Mozambique would create a central bank and all assets of the Banco Nacional Ultramarino in Mozambique would be transferred to the new bank. Following preliminary work between representatives of the transitional government and the Portuguese authorities in early 1975, the Bank of Mozambique was founded on 17 May 1975[5] to assume the role of the central bank. Its objectives were to undertake note and coin issuing functions of a Central Bank, to be the State Treasury and to act as a Commercial Bank.[6] On 21 May 1975 Alberto Cassimo and Adrião Rodrigues were respectively appointed Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of Mozambique.

The Notes in Use after Independence

In the period of transition, from 8 September 1974 to 25 June 1975, and immediately after independence, the notes of the Banco Nacional Ultramarino continued to circulate in Mozambique[7]. The notes then in circulation were:

It is understood the earlier 100- and 500-escuodo notes issued in the 1960s (SCWPM Nos. 109 and 110) were no longer in circulation.

      Not only was there no immediate attempt by the new government and the Bank of Mozambique to replace the notes issued by the colonial authorities, the old notes circulated for three years without any effort to replace them. When an effort was finally made by the Bank of Mozambique, it was not what many people expected!

The Over-printed Issues

After several years of independence there had been no progress towards the introduction of a new, post-colonial currency. However, normal wear and tear of the notes in circulation led to a shortage of banknotes and the first notes in need of replacement were the most commonly used notes, the 50- and 100-escudo notes. On 9 October 1978, under Decree 13/75 of 21 June 1975, notes denominated in 50 and 100 escudos, with an overprint of BANCO DE MOÇAMBIQUE on the front, were placed into circulation.[9]

      The over-printed 50-escudo note (SCWPM No. 116; see Figure 6) utilized the latest issue by the Banco Nacional Ultramarino dated 27 October 1970 (SCWPM No. 111; see Figure 1), but the overprinted 100-escudo note (SCWPM No. 117; see Figure 7) used the earlier note dated 27 March, 1961, bearing the effigy of Aires de Ornelas (SCWPM No. 109). The two overprinted notes circulated along side the existing notes, with both the old and new notes being legal tender.

      In the edition of 9 October, 1978, the newspaper Noticias[10] published an interview with Candida Perestrelo of the Bank of Mozambique. The interview sought to explain the reasons for the introduction of the overprinted notes; and of interest in the interview are the reasons for issuing overprinted notes instead of a new note issue. First, the reason for the overprint was simply to indicate the notes were issued by the Bank of Mozambique and not by the colonial authorities, which had been responsible for the earlier issues. It was also explained the process of replacing worn and damaged notes by the central bank was the usual practice in all countries.

      Candida Perestrelo stated the earlier issues by the Portuguese were designed to suit the interests of the ruling colonial class; therefore the denominations which were principally used were the 500- and 1000-escudo notes. Now the money was in the hands of the workers, there was a greater need for 50- and 100-escudo notes; which was why only 50- and 100-escudo notes with the overprint were being placed into circulation.

      As to why a new issue of notes had not been prepared, it was explained the valuable foreign exchange needed to have a new issue prepared was instead being channelled to the benefit of the people – being invested in equipment to develop the country and to supply the needs of the people. It was, so Candida Perertrelo explained, a false economy to replace the notes in circulation when there were reserves of the existing and earlier series which could be placed into circulation and put to good use.

      Despite the opinion aired in the interview, five months later on 12 March, 1979, a 500-escudo note overprinted BANCO DE MOÇAMBIQUE[11] (SCWPM No. 118; see Figure 8) entered circulation. The overprint was on an earlier 500-escudo note (SCWPM No. 110) carrying the date 22 March, 1967 and bearing the effigy of Caldas Xavier. Nine months later, on 17 December, 1979, overprinted 1000-escudo notes entered circulation (SCWPM No. 19; see Figure 9). The overprint was on the 1000-escudo note dated 23 May 1972 with the effigy of Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho (SCWPM No. 115; see Figure 5).[12] The reasons given by the Bank of Mozambique for preparing the earlier 500-escudo notes and the existing 1000-escudo notes with the overprint were the same as for the lower denomination notes; wear and tear were taking their toll and new notes were needed.

      Details of the four over-printed notes are:

50 Escudos See Figure 6.
Date of issue: 9 October, 1978
Date on the note: 27 October, 1970
Overprinted on: SCWPM No.111
Dominant colour:   Front – black, green and lilac; Back – Green
Effigy: João Azevedo Coutinho
100 Escudos See Figure 7.
Date of issue: 9 October, 1978
Date on the note: 27 March, 1961
Overprinted on: SCWPM No.109
Dominant colour: Front and back – green
Effigy: Aires de Ornelas
500 Escudos See Figure 8.
Date of issue: 12 March, 1979
Date on the note: 22 March, 1967
Overprinted on: SCWPM No.110
Dominant colour: Front and back – primarily violet, tinted with green and brown
Effigy: Caldas Xavier
1000 Escudos See Figure 9.
Date of issue: 17 December, 1979
Date on the note: 23 May, 1972
Overprinted on: SCWPM No.115
Dominant colour: Front and back – green
Effigy: Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho

Removal of the King Afonso V 1000-Escudo Note

Two 1000-escudo notes had entered circulation in Mozambique during 1972. The first, bearing the portrait of King Afonso V (SCWPM No.112; see Figure 2), appears to be based on an unused pattern prepared by the Banco Nacional Ultramarino for Saint Thomas and Prince; i.e. it is similar to 20-, 50-, 100- and 500-escudo notes issued in Saint Thomas and Prince from 1946. The second 1000-escudo note (SCWPM No. 115; see Figure 5) is similar to the 100- and 500-escudo notes issued in Mozambique in 1972 (SCWPM Nos. 113 and 114; see Figures 4 and 5).

      In an order by the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Sérgio Vieira, dated 6 May 1980 it was decreed the 1000-escudo note with the effigy of King Afonso V dated 16 May 1972 would be withdrawn from circulation from 10 May 1980.[13] The notes lost their legal tender status from the same day. The action by the Bank of Mozambique to introduce the overprinted notes had provided notes in good condition and in the quantities required to allow the removal of this note from circulation. The decision to withdraw this note was in part determined by the discovery of forgeries of the note in 1977.

      Commencing from 10 May 1980, the 1000-escudo notes could be exchanged at any branch of the Bank of Mozambique or the People's Development Bank until 10 June 1980 and, during this period, only the Bank of Mozambique and the People's Development Bank were allowed to take the notes being recalled. From 11 June 1980 the 1000-escudo notes with the portrait of King Afonso V were demonetized.

A New Currency – The Metical

At 8.00 pm on the evening of 15 June 1980, in a broadcast to the people of Mozambique, Samora Machel announced the introduction of Mozambique’s new currency under Law No. 2/80. The president stated the new national currency was to be introduced the following day, which was the twentieth anniversary of the massacre at Mueda. The broadcast announced the introduction of two laws, one law creating the new currency and the second law (No. 3/80) requiring the exchange of the old currency for the new.

      The two laws were of patriotic importance, according to the president, as they saw the elimination of colonial notes and they reflected on the positive efforts of the heroes who overcame the colonial conquest and oppression of the country. The president explained the new currency, the Metical, was a tool which can be used to create the future. The new notes and coins expressed the experience of the struggle for national liberation, of economic progress, and of scientific and cultural struggles to defend the achievements attained to date and to develop the socialist motherland.

      The president stated the new banknotes and coins paid homage to the working class and the peasantry, the soldiers of the FPLM (Popular Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique), and the heroic people of Mozambique. They showed the Popular Democracy that grows in an independent and socialist country; they celebrate the FRELIMO Party, a Marxist-Leninist party that directs and guides the people of Mozambique from Rovuma to Maputo[14].

      Addressing the issue of why a new national currency was only now being implemented, some five years after independence was attained, the president outlined several reasons. First, he declared the banknotes were not simply pretty posters which could be printed at will. The currency indicated a certain level of development in the national economy; a thermometer of political and economic stability which resulted from planning and progress. The banking sector had to be reformed and the Bank of Mozambique had to establish itself as the central bank, to control the circulation of currency in the country, before a new currency could be introduced. The issuance of the national currency precisely at this stage was part of a set of measures to defeat underdevelopment and to consolidate and expand the victory of socialism in Mozambique. The president stated the introduction of a national currency was only one part of planning for the future. He exhorted the people of Mozambique to play their part in furthering the economy of Mozambique, by working hard, being thrifty, sharing in austerity, and guarding against negligence and wastefulness. He also warned of the continual struggle against enemies of the people, of the black market and of speculators.

      Finally, the president ended his speech with the appeal: ‘Let us make the creation of the Metical a moment of popular mobilization. A moment of our full engagement in the battle for victory against underdevelopment, the elimination of hunger, nakedness, poverty, illiteracy and the triumph of socialism in our dear country. Let the creation of the Metical be a time of joy and popular celebration, expressing our patriotic feelings, for this historic achievement of our people. The struggle continues! Revolution will win! Socialism will triumph!’

      The use of slogans at the end of the speech was reflected in the many slogans displayed at the bottom of the pages of Noticias for the edition of 16 June, which reported the president’s speech (see Figure 10). The slogans read: ‘The Metical Consolidates our Independence’, ‘To Create a National Currency is to Decolonize’, ‘The Metical Affirms the Dignity of the People’, ‘The Metical is an Instrument of our Fight’, ‘The Metical is a Weapon for the Victory of Socialism’ and ‘The Metical is a Testament of Political Stability’. Despite the long time taken to introduce a national currency, the government took full opportunity to mark the introduction of the currency as a significant achievement in the socialist development of their country.

      The introduction of the Metical saw four banknotes and six coins introduced. The notes had face values of 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 meticais[15], and the coins had face values of fifty cents, one metical, and 2.5, 5, 10 and 20 meticais. Under the new law it was forbidden to import or export the notes and even the control of numismatic items exported from the country was subject to certification by the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique. The law introducing the currency listed crimes for counterfeiting notes, defacing notes, destroying notes, importing and exporting without permission, and stated violations which seriously offend, endanger, imperil, oppose, harm or disturb the movement and stability of the metical constitute a crime.

Exchanging the Currency

Law No. 3/80 established the exchange of the escudo notes for the metical notes. Under this law, as of zero hours on 16 June 1980, all bank notes issued by the Portuguese and the overprinted notes issued by the Bank of Mozambique – the ‘Old Notes’ – were no longer legal tender. However, the coins issued by the colonial authorities continued to hold their value. The Old Notes were exchanged at par for the new metical – as one escudo was equal to one metical. A very short period of exchange was established and some exceptional measures were put in place during the exchange. The exchange took place over a three-day period, from 16 to 18 June 1980. In exceptional circumstances, such as in remote regions, the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique had the right to extend the period of exchange.

      There were a range of measures put into place for the exchange, including the establishment of exchange stations throughout the country. Most people were allowed to exchange up to 2,000 escudos to meticais in cash. Where a greater amount was presented for exchange, accounts for the balance were to be opened in one of the banks, with the account to be closed within 90 days of 18 June.

      During the period of exchange the entry of people, vehicles, trains, airplanes, ships and other vessels from abroad into the country were suspended; except in cases expressly authorized by the Minister of Security. Also, during the period of exchange the banks conducted transactions only directly linked to the operation of exchange or which were essential to the smooth functioning of the national economy. Payment deadlines that could not be met due to the exchange process were automatically extended by three days.

      While escudos were no longer legal tender from 16 June 1980, during the first 24 to 48 hours of the period of exchange, essential transactions could be conducted with the old currency. Transactions at hotels, restaurants, food shops, pharmacies, post offices, hospitals and shipping companies were permitted in the old currency in order for essential services to operate. The list of places which could accept the old currency was shortened for the third day of the exchange.

The Metical

With the introduction of a new currency, the question arises as to where the name ‘Metical’ originated and why was it chosen as the name for Mozambique’s new currency?

      Long before the arrival of the Portuguese in Mozambique, there flourished among the coastal people of Africa strong trade with the Arabs. At that time, the mighty Monomotapa Empire, which extended its territory from Sofala to Quelimane, channelled to the coast products such as gold, ivory and precious woods, to be exchanged for garments and goods the Arabs supplied. Early in the exchange process, it was determined all goods should be exchanged according to an equivalent accepted by both parties – sellers and buyers. This equivalent was expressed as a certain amount of gold.

      At the beginning of the second millennium, trade flourished throughout the coastline of Mozambique, principally from the Quirimbas Islands at the mouth of the Save River. At this time the accepted measure of exchange was a quantity of gold dust equal to 4.83 grams. This amount of gold was called in Arabic a ‘Mithqal’ and within the common language of the local people this became a ‘Metical’. An eighth of a Metical, 0.6 grams of gold, constituted a ‘Tanga’. However, the value of the Metical differed between regions. The Metical of Sofala had the same value as that of Cuama in the region of Quelimane, but on the island of Mozambique the Metical was equal to just 4.412 grams.

      These measures of exchange survived in Mozambique for many centuries, even after the arrival of the Portuguese in the late fifteenth century and after they had destroyed the trade with the Arabs. When the Portuguese introduced their own currencies, they were declared equivalent to the metical. For example, the Portuguese mark introduced in the sixteenth century was equivalent to 47.5 meticais (except on the island of Mozambique where it was worth 52 meticais due to the different value of the metical).[16]

      Thus, the old historical currency once used in the region of Mozambique was chosen as the name for the new currency. The use of ‘metical’ and the plural ‘meticais’ continues to be a unique identifier in the world of currencies and it is a term which immediately conjures Mozambique by association.

The Bank Notes

All banknotes in the new series measure 140 x 68 mm and have a vertical security thread. There is a watermark on the left-hand side of the note (see Figure 15), which is of President Samora Moisés Machel; but because of the heavy printing on the notes, it can be difficult to detect the watermark.

For each banknote in the series there are common characteristics. On the front of the notes the common features are:

On the back, the notes have the following characteristics in common:

Each banknote has specific features, but it is of interest the law creating the Metical identifies a theme for the illustrations on the front and back of each note. These themes and the specific illustrations are identified in the following descriptions.[17]

50 Meticais See Figure 11.
Predominant colour: Brown, in varying shades.
Front: The theme is the Popular Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique. On the left is the Popular Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique as a modern regular army. At the right, the Commander-in-Chief of the Popular Forces (Samora Machel) delivers a flag to a detachment of guerrillas.
Back: The theme is the armed struggle for national liberation. At the left are militias in training in the liberated areas and at the right are advancing guerrillas during the armed struggle.
100 Meticais See Figure 12.
Predominant colour: Green, in varying shades.
Front: The theme is the achievement of national independence. At the left, the flag of the Republic of Mozambique is raised in Machava Stadium on 25 June 1975, and on the right is a portrait of Eduardo Mondlane Chivambo – the first president of FRELIMO.
Back: The theme is an allegory of the victorious entry into the capital of Mozambique by President Samora Moisés Machel and the monument to the Heroes of the Revolution. At the left is the triumphal entry of President Samora Moisés Machel and the Popular Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique into the capital. Amongst the crowd are banners reading: Abaixo o Racismo (Down with Racism), Viva a Vitoria (Long live the Victory), Abaixo o Colonialismo (Down with Colonialism) and Viva o Socialismo (Long live Socialism). To the right is the large star-shaped monument to the Heroes of the Revolution. Made of marble, today it contains the remains of Samora Machel, Eduardo Mondlane and the national poet José Craveirinha. Above and to the right of the monument is a 95-metre mural which was constructed to commemorate the revolution.
500 Meticais See Figure 13.
Predominant colour: Blue, in varying shades.
Front: The theme is the establishment and operation of the people's assembly. On the left is a session of the People’s Assembly[18] and on the right is depicted the election of a People's Assembly.
Back: The theme is the struggle for development through literacy and scientific-technical work. On the left is a depiction of scientific-technical work and on the right is a scene depicting adult literacy.
1000 Meticais See Figure 14.
Predominant colour: Red, in varying shades
Front: The theme is the Third Congress of FRELIMO. At the left is the monument to the Third Congress, with the text on the wall reading: FRELIMO Partido de Vanguarda da Revolução Socialista (FRELIMO Vanguard Party of the Socialist Revolution). At the right is the Chairman of the FRELIMO Party – Samora Machel – at the closing session of the Third Congress.
Back: The theme is the ‘labourer-peasant alliance’. At the left is a scene of workers in coal mines and to the right is a view of village peasants in communal harvest.


Three flags depicted on this series of banknotes are of interest and demand comment (see Figure 16). On the 50-metical note Samora Machel presents a flag to a guerrilla leader. The flag is the FRELIMO flag, which consists of three horizontal stripes of green, black and yellow, separated by thin white bands; and at the hoist is a red triangle. This flag is also used on the back of the 100-metical note. The FRELIMO flag was used by the Mozambican transitional government until independence was declared on 25 June 1975.

      Depicted on the front of the 100-metical note is the raising of the new Mozambican flag at Machava Stadium, on 25 June 1975. Mozambique achieved independence at zero hours on 25 June 1975 and a midnight ceremony was held at Machava Stadium to celebrate the occasion. In front of seventy thousand people the Portuguese flag was lowered and in twenty-seven seconds the new flag was raised. The new national flag was hoisted by Comrade Alberto Chipande, commander of the Popular Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique, who is second from the left in the vignette on the banknote.[19]

      The new flag was described in Article 68 of the 1975 constitution:

The National Flag has five colours, four of which are separated by white bands, diagonally arranged, starting from the top left corner. The colours, in order, from top to bottom, represent:

: Green – the riches of the soil of Mozambique;

: Red – the secular resistance to colonialism, the armed struggle for national liberation and revolution;

: Black – the African Continent;

: Yellow – the wealth of the subsoil.

The colour white expresses the correctness of the struggle of the Mozambican people and the peace this fight is to establish.

In the upper left quadrant is placed an emblem, consisting of a toothed wheel (symbol of the working class and industrial production) surrounding a book (symbol of education), which is overlapped by a crossed gun and hoe, symbolizing the protection and vigilance of the peasantry and agricultural production.

At the right, inside the wheel, a red star appears, symbolizing the internationalist spirit of the Mozambican people.

The third and enigmatic flag appears on the 1000-metical note at the monument to the Third FRELIMO Congress. While the flags to the right are indistinguishable, the flag at the left is very similar to the modern flag of Mozambique with a star clearly depicted in the red triangle at the hoist, but apparently without the emblem adopted at a later date. The modern Mozambican flag, which is based on the FRELIMO flag with the Mozambican emblem added to the red triangle, was introduced on 1 May 1983, some three years after this banknote was issued. Considering the flag depicted on the banknote is at a FRELIMO monument, it is possible FRELIMO adapted their flag at some stage to carry a star.[20] FRELIMO had been formed with nationalist ideals but with a mixture of political leanings. Over a period of time the leaders with Marxist-Leninist leanings held sway, but it was not until the Third FRELIMO Congress in February 1977 that FRELIMO declared itself a Marxist-Leninist political party and this may have been a prompt to add a star to the FRELIMO flag. If this was the case, the star was not sustained as a motif on the flag.

A Funeral for the Escudo

One year after the introduction of the Metical, on 15 June 1981, a funeral was held for the colonial escudo in a peculiar ceremony. In the strong rooms of the Bank of Mozambique a casket was prepared, containing money of the Portuguese era. Attended by many workers in the bank, the initial ceremony was led by Lieutenant General Alberto Joaquim Chipande (of the Political Standing Committee of the Central Committee of FRELIMO and Minister of National Defence) and Colonel Sérgio Vieira (the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique).

      Just before the white coffin containing the ‘remains’ of the colonial escudo left the strong rooms of the bank, the Deputy Governor of the Bank, Prakash Ratilal, commented ‘It is the first time we perform a funeral where everyone is happy’. The funeral procession wound its way from the Bank to CIFEL, a metal factory, where 36 million escudos in colonial notes were to be burned.

      After a funeral procession lasting 10 hours, the coffin was delivered to the furnaces at CIFEL. There, Colonel Sérgio Vieira said: 'We came to burn not only the old society, but one of the main symbols of the old society: the Escudo. The Escudo as a colonial currency was the currency with which we have been bought and sold and which measured the long night of oppression.’

      He quoted Lieutenant General Alberto Chipande, who said: ’we mark the first anniversary of the creation of the Metical with the “funeral” of the colonial-capitalist escudo which invokes in us a feeling of sadness and at the same time, joy, determination and confidence in the future. Sadness and meditation, when we remember the defenseless victims of the massacre at Mueda. It is also a time of joy because we throw into the dustbin of history one of the most important strongholds of colonial and economic domination.’[21] A photgraph of the white coffin and Lieutenant General Alberto Joaquim Chipande, taken during the progress of the procession, is at Figure 17.

The Money Museum

On 16 June 1981, the first anniversary of the introduction of the metical, the Natonal Money Museum opened in Maputo. Housed in the Casa Amarela (Yellow House) at Praça 25 de Junho (just behind the headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique), the museum displays the history of currency in Mozambique from earliest times to the introduction of the metical. Accompanied by the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Sérgio Vieira, the museum was inaugurated by Marcelino dos Santos, the Secretary of Political Economics.

      Clearly, the museum and the metical remained a rallying point for the FRELIMO government and the opening of the Money Museum was used to indicate the success of the metical and the government’s initiative. During later anniversaries of the introduction of the metical there were further ceremonies conducted at the museum. One such celebration was on 16 June 1986, when the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique attended the museum to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the intorduction of the Metical and the twenty-sixth anniversary of the massacre at Mueda.[22] The National Money Museum remains open in Maputo and is one of the recommended tourist attractions for visitors to Mozambique.

      The anniversary of the introduction of the metical was, for many years, also celebrated in the press. The Bank of Mozambique usually placed an advertisement in Noticias on the anniversaries; see Figure 23.

A Luta Continua

Although FRELIMO had taken over the government of Mozambique from the Portuguese, they still had battles to fight; thus the frequently used slogan by FRELIMO of ‘A Luta Continua’ (the struggle continues). Not everyone was happy with the Marxist-Leninist philosophies of FRELIMO and opposition to the FRELIMO government was contested mainly by the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO, The Mozambican National Resistance). Formed in 1975, RENAMO was an anti-communist organization which found support from the government’s of Rhodesia and South Africa; and Mozambique, in turn, supported the nationalist organizations opposed to these governments – the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in Rhodesia and the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa.

      RENAMO sought to destabilize the Mozambican government and launched armed raids into Mozambique. RENAMO’s cause was assisted by the unfavourable conditions established by FRELIMO after independence – peasants were removed from their land to work in collective farms, the economy crumbled, business and industrial expertise fled the country when the Portuguese left, and most Mozambicans found themselves worse off than under the Portuguese. For many years FRELIMO continued to follow their Marxist-Leninist philosophy, but it soon dawned on them the necessity for change.

      Relaxing their strong socialist stance, they allowed small businesses to be run as private enterprises and they cracked down on corruption and nepotism which wracked the country. Negotiations with Rhodesia and South Africa were bearing some benefits, but relations remained strained. On 19 October 1986, after attending a mini-summit on South Africa in Zambia, Samora Machel and members of his government were killed when their aircraft crashed in South Africa while returning to Mozambique from Zambia. Although it was the end of an era, FRELIMO continued to govern in Mozambique.

      Interestingly, RENAMO also used the slogan ‘A Luta Continua’, sponsoring a magazine by this name which was published in Portugal. A Luta Continua was the official organ of RENAMO.

Varieties of the New Currency

In 1983, three years after the issue of the new series of notes by the Bank of Mozambique, the four notes in the series were released with simple modifications and a new date of 16 June 1983 (see Figure 18). The changes were to the state emblem on the front of the notes and to the serial number font. The state emblem depicted on the original banknote issue was the emblem used by Mozambique from 1975 to 1982. In 1982 the emblem was redesigned and used in a new format until 1990. The change in design can be seen in Figure 19.

      The original emblem for the People’s Republic of Mozambique was described in Article 69 of the constitution, adopted at independence on 25 June 1975. The article states:

The emblem of the People's Republic of Mozambique contains central elements of a book, a gun and a hoe, superimposed on a map of Mozambique. They represent respectively: education, defence and vigilance; the peasantry and agricultural production.

Below the map is represented the ocean.

At the centre, the rising sun is the symbol of the revolution and new life under construction.

Enclosing this assemblage is a cogwheel, symbolizing the working class and industry, and the fact that our economy is dynamic.

Surrounding the cogwheel are, to the right and the left respectively, a corn plant with cob and sugar cane, both symbolizing agricultural wealth.

At the top, in the middle, a red star symbolizes the internationalist spirit of the Mozambican revolution.

Inside a red band is the inscription ‘People’s Republic of Mozambique.’

The serial numbers, originally large, serif characters on the first note issue, become smaller sans-serif characters in the 1983 issue (see Figure 20). An intriguing exception to this change is recorded for the 100-metical note, where serial numbers in the format of the original serial number are recorded from ‘AQ’ after serial numbers to ‘AP’ are recorded with the new serial number font (see Figure 21).

      In 1986 the four notes were again issued, dated 16 June, 1986. These notes are the same as the 1983 issue, carrying the redrawn coat of arms and the smaller sans-serif serial numbers. The 1000-metical note dated 1986 is the most difficult note for collectors to acquire and it is a largely unrecognized modern rarity.

5000 Meticais

On 3 February 1988 a 5000-metical note was issued (see Figure 22)[23]. The date on the note, which is the date on which the note entered circulation, is of great significance to the government of Mozambique. Known as ‘Heroes Day’, 3 February celebrates several anniversaries – in 1988 it was the 19th anniversary of the death of the Eduardo Mondlane Chivambo, the first president of FRELIMO; the 11th anniversary of the completion of the third congress of FRELIMO; and the 12th anniversary of the ‘nationalization of the buildings’ (i.e. the nationalization of rented property), the day on which the Bank of Solidarity was founded and the capital of Mozambique came to be called Maputo (formerly ‘Lourenço Marques’).

      The new 5000-metical note is predominantly a lilac colour, with varying shades of that colour plus shades of brown and green. As for all notes in this series, the 5000-metical note measures 140 x 68 mm. The theme of the note is ‘Mozambican culture’ and images of local sculpture and painting are printed in brown on the front of the note. The sculpture is the work of Alberto Chissano (1934–1994) and the painting is by Malangatana Valente Ngwenya[24] (1936–2011). Both men are world-renowned Mozambican artists. The back illustrates three warriors dancing in traditional dress, a music band dressed in modern, casual clothes, and an appreciative crowd in the background.

      The same 5000-metical note dated 3 February 1989 was soon in circulation. The new note was the same as the previous issue except for the change of date and a change to the serial number font. A third font for the serial numbers in this series is first used on this note; being a wider sans-serif font, when compared to the earlier 5000-metical note dated 1988 (which used the same font as that on the 1983- and 1986-dated notes; see Figure 20).

      1989 also saw the original series of notes released with a new date – this being the final release in this series of notes. However, on this occasion the 50-metical note was not issued, with only the 100-, 500- and 1000-metical notes entering circulation. All three notes are dated 16 June 1989 and their serial numbers are printed in the same font used on the 1989-dated 5000-metical note.

End Notes

Of interest is the lack of signatures on the first series of banknotes issued by the Bank of Mozambique. There were four Governors of the Bank of Mozambique during the issue of these notes – Alberto Francisco Cassimo (21 May 1975 to 22 April 1978), Sérgio Vieira (22 April 1978 to 28 December 1981), Prakash Ratilal (28 December 1981 to 24 April 1986) and Eneas da Conceição Comiche (24 April 1986 to 24 July 1991). However, the new note issue and subsequent date varieties of this series carried no signature of the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique or any other official.

In summary, the notes of this series, the first new series issued by Mozambique after independence, are:

Date on the notes Denominations issued with the date
16 June 1980 * 50 100 500 1000  
16 June 1983 50 100 500 1000  
16 June 1986 50 100 500 1000  
3 February 1988         5000
3 February 1989         5000
16 June 1989   100 500 1000  
* The first emblem (see Figure 19) is used on the notes dated 1980 and the second emblem is used on all other notes.


For assistance during the research for this article, the author is indebted to Bruce Tupholme (9860), Murray Hanewich (3649) and Anselmo Jorge.