The Banknotes of Mozambique

Later Independence Issues – 1991 to 2004

Peter Symes

Mozambique had negotiated independence from Portugal in September 1974, signing the Lusaka Agreement in Zambia. The date of independence was fixed at 25 June 1975 and the moment was famously celebrated at Machava Stadium where the Portuguese flag was lowered and, at zero hours, the new flag of Mozambique was raised by Alberto Chipande, commander of the Popular Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique. The new government was run by the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique – FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) – the dominant party in the war for liberation.

      While FRELIMO had negotiated independence for Mozambique, after this milestone was achieved it continued to wage war against interests in Mozambique which were opposed to the Marxist-Leninist ideologies of FRELIMO. The principal opponent was the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO, The Mozambican National Resistance). The civil war lasted for many years with both sides gaining and losing initiatives over a period of time. FRELIMO believed, on a number of occasions, they had eliminated their opposition, only to find RENAMO was revived and rejuvenated to continue the struggle.

      Realizing a military victory was unlikely, change was committed to by FRELIMO at the Fifth FRELIMO Conference in 1989. On 31 July 1989 President Joaquim Chissano read a Statement of Principles, which outlined their basis for negotiations with their enemy. This initiative was the result of several precursory events. Earlier, on 12 September 1988 President Chissano and President Pieter Botha of South Africa had held a summit to discuss issues and relationships between the two nations; and acceptance of assistance from the International Monetary Fund in 1987 and 1988 had also framed the future direction for FRELIMO in the civil war.

      Although FRELIMO and RENAMO maintained activity in the civil war, in December 1989 FRELIMO announced multiparty elections to be held in 1991. On 30 November 1990 a new constitution was ratified, which separated party and state, implemented multiparty interactions, limited the terms of the president to two five-year terms, allowed universal suffrage for the election of the president, and renamed the country from the ‘People’s Republic of Mozambique’ to the ‘Republic of Mozambique’.

      The promised multiparty elections were not held in 1991, as the civil war continued. In 1992, with assistance from the Roman Catholic Church, a meeting was held in Rome between President Chissano and Afonso Dhlakarma, the leader of RENAMO. On 4 October 1992 the two parties signed the ‘Acordo Geral da Paz’ (General Peace Accord) in Rome and on 15 October 1992 the Assembly of Mozambique approved the accord. Within two years, most of the terms of the accord had been implemented, including the multiparty election which saw FRELIMO win 129 seats of the 250-seat Assembly, with RENAMO winning 112 seats and the União Democrática 9 seats. President Chissano won the presidential elections with 53.3 per cent of the vote, while Afonso Dhlakarma won 33.7 per cent.

Changes to the Banknotes

Against this background of political change a new series of banknotes was issued. While a single series was introduced over a lengthy period, from 1991 to 2003, the series can be broken into two parts: the 1991 issue and the subsequent issues. The notes issued in 1991 still show signs of FRELIMO’s influence, but concerted efforts are made in the subsequent issues to remove reference to FRELIMO. Some of the changes which were immediately implemented on the banknotes to show the change in the political situation are the new coat of arms and the new emblem for the Bank of Mozambique.

      The new coat of arms has only one change to the coat of arms used on the preceding banknote issue. The band holding the name of the country changed from ‘República Popular de Moçambique’ (People’s Republic of Mozambique) to ‘República de Moçambique’ (Republic of Mozambique), see Figure 1.

      The new emblem of the Bank of Mozambique is completely different to the emblem used on the previous series (see Figure 2). On the earlier emblem, the central motif consisted of a cogwheel, a hoe, a mattock and a star; elements very similar to the devices used on the socialist-inspired coat of arms of Mozambique. The new symbol has a stylized, interlaced ‘M’ and it appears on the back of the notes. The stylized ‘M’ from the new emblem is also used as a watermark on later issues (see Figure 17).

The 1991 Issue

On Saturday 15 June 1991, the governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Eneas Cornicho, announced the introduction of a new series of banknotes which would circulate along side the current issue of banknotes. The notes are dated 16 June 1991 and they entered circulation on that date.[1] The selection of 16 June as the date to launch the new series continued the tradition of using this date to commemorate the massacre at Mueda, a tradition which began with the Bank of Mozambique’s first banknote issue.

      Until the 1991 issue, the responsibility for the design of the banknotes was with the Mozambican Assembly, with changes in design and the addition of new denominations enshrined in law. On 9 January 1991 Law No. 1/91 gave to the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique the authority to decide the characteristics and the face value of the metical banknotes and coins. This law revoked item No. 5 of Article 10 of Decree no. 2/75 of 17 May 1975. Thus, the notes of the 1991 issue were the first where the design of the notes was authorized by the Bank of Mozambique.[2]

      The four notes in this issue are the denominations 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 meticais (see Figures 3, 4, 5 and 6). This was the first time a 10,000-metical note had been issued in Mozambique and there were other innovations for the notes in this series: a perfect registration device, serial numbers with ascending-sized numerals, latent images and, for the first time, a signature appears on the notes. The signature is of Dr. Eneas Comiche, Governor of the Bank of Mozambique.

      Some of the common features of the four notes in this series are:

      Apart from the 500-metical note, the theme of this series appears to be the leaders of FRELIMO. On the 1000-metical note Eduardo Mondlane depicted, being the first leader of FRELIMO; while on the 5000-metical note is Samora Machel, the first President of Mozambique and leader of FRELIMO; and on the 10,000-metical note is Joaquim Chissano, the leader of FRELIMO and President of Mozambique at the time the notes were issued.

      Each serial number appears twice on the front of the note, once at the left in a vertical format and one at the lower right in horizontal format. The characters in the left-hand serial number ascend in size for each character, but the characters in the other serial number are a constant size. The serial numbers consist of a prefix of two letters followed by seven numerals. The prefix for each denomination is such that a specific letter of the alphabet is assigned as the first letter to each denomination in ascending order; thus:

500 Meticais   A
1,000 Meticais   B
5,000 Meticais   C
10,000 Meticais   D

The introduction of the 1991 issue was in part to keep abreast of modern security printing, although Dr. Comiche, the Governor, indicated at the release of these notes there had been no counterfeits of the previous issue identified.

The 1993 Issues

By 1993 the terms of the General Peace Accord between FRELIMO and RENAMO were being implemented and it is understood the changes in design for the two notes dated 1993, the 50,000- and 100,000-metical notes (see Figures 7 and 8), aligned with a policy of removing FRELIMO-specific references on national instruments. Thus, neutral images are selected in the design of the notes – the images being the headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique and the Cahora Bassa dam.

      The building housing the headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique was originally the headquarters of the Banco Nacional Ultramarino during the colonial period. It is the dominant feature on the front of the notes dated 1993. Details of the building are recorded as:

A 1954-1956 project by José Gomes Bastos (1914–1991) and with a contract for work supervision (not performed) by Marcos de Miranda Guedes (?–2001), the new headquarters of the Bank Nacional Ultramarino located on 25 de Setembro Avenue (former República Avenue) was concluded and inaugurated in 1964. Building of a large size and high quality in terms of construction, it occupies three sides of a central block in Maputo. It is an example of the use of the architectural models and tenets of the Modern Movement of the post-war era, recognizable in the language as in the brise-soleils of the main façade, as well as the synthetic incorporation of diverse arts (gesamtkunstwerk) in the architectural design… this building is rich in artworks inscribed in the architecture. The ground floor access is notable for the fluidity of the public spaces, with a ground-floor front gallery marked by a vibrant ceramic panel by Querubim Lapa; in the hall, there are sculptures by Manuela Madureira and inside the wide public area, a long marble mural carved along the side wall of the ground floor by Francisco Relógio. The spiral staircase displays a tile panel in ceramic ‘pastille’ by Estrela Faria. The floors have painted panels by José Freire, Garizo do Carmo, Sá Nogueira and Malangatana (the latter placed in the employees’ recreation room). Other artworks by João Ayres and Bertina Lopes.[4]

Part of the ‘vibrant ceramic panel by Querubim Lapa’, as noted above, is depicted on the back of the 1993-dated notes as a small panel (see Figure 9). The Cahora Bassa dam is the principal feature on the back of the 1993-dated notes. Built on the Zambezi River, the dam was commenced by the Portuguese in 1969 but its construction and operation were interrupted by guerrilla activity during the fight for independence. The dam commenced filling in 1974 and is today the fourth largest artificial lake in Africa. The hydro-electric dam produces a large amount of electricity, much of which is sold to South Africa.

      Although the two notes issued by Mozambique carry the date ’16 June 1993’, neither was issued on that date and they were not issued at the same time. The 50,000-metical note (Figure 7) entered circulation on 25 May 1994[5] and its introduction was announced with the following notice by the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique:

The process of implementation of the Program of Economic and Social Rehabilitation, underway in the country, has given periodic adjustment to the levels of wages and prices reflected by the banknotes in circulation, whose current structure proves unsuited to the needs of economic development – recommending its revision.

Thus, to improve the level of quality of delivery of service to the public, it is necessary to issue a note of higher denomination.[6]

While some elements of the 50,000-metical note share common features with the notes of the 1991 issue, there are also differences. The common elements are:

The new elements to the 50,000-metical note are:

      The second note dated 16 June 1993 is the 100,000-metical note (Figure 8) and it was introduced on 1 March 1995[7]. In a notice announcing the introduction of the 50,000-metical note, Notice N° 001/95 (dated 28 February 1995) stated a periodic adjustment of the notes in circulation was required to meet the evolution of the price index and wages[8], leading to the introduction of the new high-denomination note.

      The 100,000-metical note is almost identical to the 50,000-metical note, with the exception of the colour, size, watermark and panel containing the latent image. The colour is described in the notice announcing its release as dark orange and light olive green, but the dominant colour on the note is red. The watermark, while principally the same as in the 50,000-metical note, has the higher denomination as part of the watermark. The latent image is in a panel of metallic ink and is a double latent image, displaying ‘RM’ (República de Mozambique) at one angle and the central motif of the symbol of the Bank of Mozambique at another angle; i.e. the stylized, interlaced ‘M’.

      In keeping with the system adopted for the four notes issued in 1991, the serial number prefixes continue with the first letter of the prefix assigned to the denomination. For these issues the assignations are:

50,000 Meticais   E
100,000 Meticais   F

      There is no printer’s imprint on the notes dated 1993, but the elements of design (see Figure 10) and the serial number font (see Figure 15) indicate the notes are again printed by Thomas De La Rue and Company Limited.

      At the same time the 10,000-metical note was introduced, the Bank of Mozambique announced the introduction of three new coins, in the denominations of 100, 500 and 1,000 meticais.[9] Two of the coins introduced, the 500 and 1,000 meticais, replaced the first two notes issued in this series, indicating how inflation had affected Mozambique since 1991.

      Also on 1 March 1995, the Bank of Mozambique announced the coins of the colonial government would be withdrawn from circulation. The coins, denominated in the old ‘escudo’ and ‘centavos’, had been allowed to circulate after the introduction of the metical in 1975. By 1995 they had all but disappeared from circulation and they were now formally being withdrawn. The public had from 16 June to 31 December 1995 to exchange them in credit institutions and from 1 January 1996 to 16 June 1996 at the Bank of Mozambique. Thus the remaining vestiges of the colonial era were being removed.

The 1999 Issue

On 2 September 1999 the Bank of Mozambique announced the entry into circulation of a new note with the face value of 20,000 meticais (Figure 11).[10] By the time this note was introduced, the work-horses in circulation were the 50,000- and 100,000-metical notes, with the lower denominations largely unused because inflation had rendered them unwanted. With the two high-denomination notes the main notes in circulation, a lower denomination note greatly assisted the process of providing change.

      Of particular interest on the front of this 20,000-metical note, is the illustration of a woman writing in a book. This is an iconic image in Mozambique, as it was first used on the 1-metical coin issued in 1980 (see Figure 12). In the law implementing the metical, the theme of the coin was declared to be ‘the emancipation of women’ and the description of the illustration was ‘a woman studying’.[11] However, in a notice issued by the Bank of Mozambique in 1995, the theme of the 1-metical coin was stated to be ‘culture’ and the description of the image was ‘a woman writing’.[12] The change in the description of the image reflects subtle changes to attitudes and objectives in the Republic; perhaps in light of the reconciliation process between FRELIMO and RENAMO. When the New Metical was introduced in 2006, the 1-metical coin again carried this image and the theme of the coin was stated to be ‘Education’ and the image was stated to be ‘a woman writing’.[13]

      The back of the 20,000-metical note shows the building which houses the Mozambique parliament. Costing an estimated six million US dollars, it was a gift to the people of Mozambique by the Chinese. The building was presented to the people of Mozambique on 20 October 1999. It is possible this bank note was prepared as a commemorative note for this occasion, but there is no indication this was the case.

      The new note is in the general pattern of the 50,000- and 100,000-metical notes which preceded it, but there are some interesting differences. First, the elements which are the same are:

The new elements to the 20,000-metical note are:

The 2003 Issues

On 31 August 2004 two new notes, both dated 16 June 2003, entered circulation. The notes are denominated 200,000 and 500,000 meticais (Figures 13 and 14) and follow the pattern of the 50,000- and 100,000-metical notes issued in 1993. On the same day the two notes entered circulation, a 10,000-metical coin entered circulation, showing the effect of inflation on the economy since the 10,000-metical note was issued in 1991.

When announcing the introduction of the two new notes the governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Adriano Maleiane, claimed the new notes were necessary to respond ‘to the demands of the current stage of development of the national payments system’. He said the new notes, alongside the increasing use of credit cards, will facilitate transactions and reduce costs.

      Maleiane admitted some of the existing notes had been poorly printed, which was why they deteriorated rapidly. This was particularly the case with the 20,000-metical note. ‘This is a problem we have noted, and it's being corrected’, he said. He also admitted there were forged metical notes in circulation, but not in any significant quantity and the phenomenon was not on such a scale as to endanger the country's economy.[14] To combat the threat of forgery, the new notes had improved security features.

      While showing the same general features of the 50,000- and 100,000-metical notes, there are some subtle differences to the two new notes. The theme on the front of the two notes is ‘public monuments’, with the continued depiction of the headquarters of the Bank of Mozamique. On the back of the notes, there are different illustrations, with the theme of the 200,000-metical note being ‘culture’, and the illustration showing warriors dancing xigubo; while on the 500,000-metical note the theme is ‘industry’ and workers in a foundry are depicted. On the back of both notes, the space immediately to the left of the main illustrations previously used for the mural at the Bank of Mozambique (on the 50,000- and 100,000-metical notes, see Figure 9) is now a pattern, apparently based on woven cloth. The pattern differs on the two denominations. There are incised foil stamps on the two notes, although they differ between the denominations, and the security threads differ from the earlier notes in this series.

      However, not only do the two new notes differ slightly from the earlier issues, it is apparent the 200,000-metical note was printed by a security printer other than Thomas De La Rue, who printed the other notes in this series. Some of the tell-tale signs are:

      For all notes in this series, apart from 200,000-metical note, a tell-tale pattern used by Thomas De La Rue appears in areas of the note (see Figure 10). This pattern is used by Thomas De La Rue on many of the notes printed by that company. The lack of this pattern on the 200,000-metical note is another indicator this note was printed by a different security printer.

      As for the 200,000-metical note, the 500,000-metical note is similar to the 50,000- and 100,000-metical notes, but it differs from the 200,000-metical note in that it carries a different incised foil stamp and a different security thread. The foil stamp on the lower denomination note is square, but for the higher denomination note the stamp is in the shape of the emblem of the Bank of Mozambique. The thread on the new high denomination note is a solid, windowed thread with the word ‘Moçambique’ being formed by the absence of thread (see Figure 18). Continuing the numbering sequence for this series, the serial number prefixes for each note dated 2003 commence with:

200,000 Meticais   G
500,000 Meticais   H

End Notes

During the period from 1991 to 2003, in which the notes described here were issued, there were two governors of the Bank of Mozambique: Eneas Comiche (24 April 1986 to 24 July 1991) and Adriano Maleiane (24 July 1991 to 25 July 2006). Eneas Comiche signed the first four notes issued in 1991 and Adriano Maleiane signed the subsequent issues.

      The stability in the terms of governors of the Bank of Mozambique was also reflected in the politics of the country. National elections were held several times in the period this series of notes was issued. After the initial multiparty elections in 1994, there were elections in 1999 and 2004. In each election FRELIMO won the majority of seats in the Assembly and also the presidential office. RENAMO disputed the results of the elections, but continued to participate in the Assembly. So, although tensions remained, Mozambique largely functioned in a stable manner during the later period in which the banknotes discussed here were issued.

Summary Information

500 Meticais See Figure 3.
Colour: Varying shades of blue.
Size: 129 x 69 mm
Front: Continuing the theme of the previous 5000-metical note, the two images on the front are modern art works. The sculpture is the work of Alberto Chissano (1934–1994) and the painting is by Malangatana Valente Ngwenya[15] (1936–2011). The micro-printing repeats ‘QUINHENTOSMETICAIS’.
Back: Three dancing warriors are depicted. While similar to the three dancing warriors on the back of the previous 5000-metical note, the illustration is an entirely new design.
1000 Meticais See Figure 4.
Colour: Varying shades of blue.
Size: 136 x 69 mm
Front: Eduardo Mondlane, the first leader of FRELIMO, appears at the centre left and to the right is the independence flag raising ceremony, held at Machava Stadium on 25 June 1975. The flag was raised at zero hours (midnight) by Comrade Alberto Chipande (second from the left), commander of the Popular Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique. This vignette is copied from the previous 100-metical note. The micro-printing repeats ‘MILMETICAIS’.
Back: Also adapted from the previous 100-metical note, is the 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.
5000 Meticais See Figure 5.
Colours: Varying shades of green and orange. Green is used on the back.
Size: 143 x 69 mm
Front: Samora Moisés Machel, the first President of Mozambique, appears at the centre left. To the right is the monument to the Third FRELIMO Congress, with the text on the wall reading: FRELIMO Partido de Vanguarda da Revolução Socialista (FRELIMO Vanguard Party of the Socialist Revolution). This vignette is copied from the front of the 1000-metical note of the first issue. The micro-printing repeats ‘CINCOMILMETICAIS’.
Back: Industrial workers in a foundry are depicted on the back of the note; honouring the workers of Mozambique.
10,000 Meticais See Figure 6.
Colours: Varying shades of purple and burgundy. Green is used on the back.
Size: 150 x 69 mm
Front: Joaquim Chissano, the second President of Mozambique, is depicted at the centre left. To the right is a scene representing aspects of the Mozambican economy: a farm and tractor in the foreground, smoke stacks and a city skyline in the background, and electricity pylons superimposed across the view. The micro-printing repeats ‘DEZMILMETICAIS’.
Back: Peasants working the land; with a man ploughing a field with two oxen and a woman using a hoe (one of the items on the Mozambican national emblem). This scene honours the peasants of Mozambique.
50,000 Meticais See Figure 7.
Colours: Brown and red in varying shades. Green is used on the back.
Size: 157 x 69 mm
Front: The headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique.
Back: The Cahora Bassa dam is the principal feature. To the left of the dam is a representation of the ceramic artwork by Querubim Lapa, which is on the façade of the headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique (see Figure 9).
100,000 Meticais See Figure 8.
Colours: Red, dark orange and light olive green.
Size: 164 x 69 mm
Front: The headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique.
Back: The Cahora Bassa dam and a representation of the ceramic artwork by Querubim Lapa, which is at the front of the headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique (see Figure 9).
20,000 Meticais See Figure 11.
Colours: Predominantly green, with blue, purple and yellow.
Size: 154 x 69 mm
Front: A seated woman writing in a book.
Back: The Mozambique parliament building in Maputo.
200,000 Meticais See Figure 13.
Colours: Green, brown, blue and beige.
Size: 154 x 69 mm
Front: The headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique. To the far right is a square, incised foil stamp which displays the denomination and symbol of the bank.
Back: The back of the note has an image of three warriors dancing the xigubo (a traditional dance where the dancers are in rows). This image was previously used on the 500-metical note dated 1991.
500,000 Meticais See Figure 14.
Colours: Purple, green and brown.
Size: 156 x 69 mm
Front: The headquarters of the Bank of Mozambique. To the far right is an incised foil stamp in the shape of the symbol of the Bank of Mozambique, which displays the denomination (500 mil), the letters ‘BM’ and symbol of the bank.
Back: The illustration reproduces the scene in a foundry which appears on the back of the 5,000-metical note dated 1991.



  • [1] Noticias 17 June 1991.
  • [2] Banco de Moçambique 1975-2010: Cronologia, page 62.
  • [3] The warning to counterfeiters on the previous issue was: ‘A falsificação da moeda é punida com a pena de oito a doze anos de prisão no termos da lei.’ (Counterfeiting is punishable by a sentence of eight to twelve years in prison under the law.)
  • [4]
  • [5] Notice No. 8/GGBM/94.
  • [6] Bank of Mozambique Notice N° 08/94, published in Noticias 26 May 1994.
  • [7] Notice No. 1/GGBM/95
  • [8] Bank of Mozambique Notice N° 001/95, published in Noticias 2 March 1995.
  • [9] Noticias 2 March 1995. The announcement was dated 28 February and the coins entered circulation on 1 March 1995.
  • [10] Notice No. 10/GGBM/99
  • [11] Noticias 16 June 1975.
  • [12] Noticias 2 March 1995.
  • [13]; viewed August 2013
  • [14] Press release 'New Banknotes Issued' from Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX; 1 September 2004; Factiva.
  • [15] Often spelled ‘Ngwenya’ in English publications.

    This article was completed in January 2014
    © Peter Symes