THE  HISTORY OF MOZAMBIQUE  REACHES  BACK AT LEAST TO THE 15TH century but the eastcoast of  the continent was exploited long before by Arabs, Persians and Indians. Also some kingdoms had by then developed in the region.


History of the Mwanamutapa Kingdom


In the 1400s, the Mwanamutapa kingdom (also spelled Momomutapa) was established by the Karanga branch of the Shona people, in what is Zimbabwe today. It included Great Zimbabwe, believed to be constructed in the 11th century. The kingdom traded, via the port of Sofala (which did not belong to it) with Swahili traders; among the export products were gold and ivory. About 1490, the kingdom split in two, Mwanamutapa in the north and Changamire, with Great Zimbabwe, in the south.

In the early 1500s the Portuguese established themselves along the coast of modern Mozambique and along the banks of the lower Zambezi river, determined to monopolize Mwanamutapa's trade. Two Portuguese attempts to conquer Mwanamutapa in 1569-1572 and 1574 failed. Early in the 17th century the Portuguese managed to gain influence at the Mwanamutapa court; the kingdom again and again suffered from civil strife. The Kingdom continued to exist until into the late 19th century, by then only a shadow of itself, frequently targetted by slave raiders.

The king of Mwanamutapa is mentioned by the arab writer Leo Africanus (ca 1490- na 1550) in his “History of Africa”. In an english translation of 1600 of this work,  the coat of arms of the king (in the time of Leo Africanus  Kakuyo Komunyaka (1494–c. 1530)) is described in the following way:


“This king in his scutcheon or coate of armes hath two signes of maiestie. One is a certaine little spade with a handle of iuorie. The other are two small dartes. By the spade he exhortheth his subiects to husbandrie, that they may not through sloth and negligence let the earth lie vntilled, and so for want be constrained to play the theeues. The one of his darts betokeneth, that he will be a seuere punisher of malefactors; & the other, that he will by valour & force of armes resist all forren inuasions.” [1]  


Portuguese Forts on Mozambique's coast

an Outpost of Portuguese India, 1505-1752


Vasco da Gama was the first Portuguese who sailed to Mozambique. The country was characterized in the Lusiads as “a cruel country the treachery and villainy of whose peoples will not be unknown to you.” [2] Nevertheless the Portuguese occupied the city of Mozambique in 1502 and established a factory in Sofala. In order to exclude Swahili traders from the Mwanamutapa gold trade, the Portuguese established trading posts at Sena and Tete on the Zambezi river (1531) and in Quelimane (1544).

Portugal’s interest in the East African coast lay in the domination of Mwanamutapa’s foreign trade. Portugal’s trading posts were administered from Goa (India) until 1752.




According to a manuscript from the beginning of the 16th century, the coat of arms of the Portuguese empire was: parted per pale Gules and Argent, an armillary-sphere Or, the globe Azure. (ill.) [3] This coat of arms literally means: The armed forces of the (Portuguese) empire.


In the 17th century, maybe after the regaining of independence of Portugal in 1640, a new symbol for the Portuguese empire occurs on coins. It consists of the cross of the Order of Christ, charged with an armillary-sphere. This symbol literally means: the (christian) government of the (Portuguese) Empire




Diogo Homem, on his map of the Indian Ocean (1555) gives for the port of Sofala a flag: Azure, five besants in saltire Argent.(ill.) This is a symbol that is specific for the Mozambiquan settlements in the 16th century because in this time different  flags were flown in Mombasa and Oman.


Azure, five besants in saltire Argent is the coat of arms of Bartolomeu Dias who sailed the African coast up to Cape of Good Hope and Algoa-Bay in 1486-’88. His coat of arms was: Azure, five besants in saltire Argent. Crest: On a barred helmet to the dexter, lambrequined Azure and Argent, two staffs each charged with a besant from the arms in saltire.

Nowadays it is the coat of arms of the Portuguese Ministro da Defesa because “it represents the military activity of our nation in the golden era of the Great Discoveries”.[4]

The flag with the five besants was not flown by the Portuguese caravels of the 15th an 16th century and can thus be considered as a military flag, maybe of Bartolomeu Dias as an admiral of the Portuguese fleet. No good information however could be obtained about the coat of arms of this great discoverer.



The Colony of Portuguese East Africa, 1752-1880



Royal achievement as used in East Africa, 18th-19th c.

Reconstruction after the sculpture in the museum at the Fort in Maputo.


In 1752, Portugal's possessions on East Africa's coast were separated from Portuguese India and placed under a captain general, residing in the city of Mozambique (which in time gave it's name to the country). The Portuguese began to trade slaves (mainly destined to the French Mascarene islands, Mauritius and Reunion). The Portuguese also introduced corn and the cashew nut, both from the Americas, to Mozambique.

With the loss of Brazil in 1822 and slave trade being outlawed, Portugal's politicians focussed more on their African possessions. The concept of a Portuguese Empire in Africa was formulated in the 1830es and some steps were undertaken to penetrate the country, but the Portuguese hold was not felt much beyond the coast and along the banks of the lower Zambezi river.


In this time the coat of arms of the king of Portugal was used. A sculpture of the crowned royal arms is above the main entrance of the fort of San Sebastião on the Ilha do Mozambique. Inside the fort there are the remains of the royal arms above the entry of the vestry of the chapel of Our Lady Baluarte.

A sculpture of this crowned royal arms, placed on the cross of the Order of Christ, is in the museum at the fort of Maputo (Lourenço Marques). This achievement is supposed to mean: The Royal (Portuguese) Government of East Africa.


The Colony of Portuguese East Africa, 1880-1918



Stamps of the Companhia de Mozambique: 1894-1902; 1918-1925, the crown omitted.

Stamp of Nyassa, 1901. After 1911 the crown on the arms of Portugal omitted.


During the Scramble for Africa in the 1880es, Portugal had to cede much of the territory it claimed in East Africa to Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company respectively British East Africa Company. But Portugal's claim over Mozambique, at least for the time being, was internationally recognized by the Berlin Conference of 1885.

Mozambique's infrastructure was developed, much with British assistance, for British Central Africa/Nyassaland and Northern Rhodesia both depended on railroads and roads connecting these areas with the ports of Beira and Mozambique.

The colony of Mozambique was not yet centralized, communication between the various Portuguese outposts difficult. The individual provinces (Inhambane 1895-1914, Lourenço Marques 1895-1920, Quelimane 1914-1922, Tete (1913-1914), Zambezia (1894-1917) issued their own stamps, as did the Mozambique Company (1892-1942) and the Nyassa  Company (1897-1929).

On the stamps of the Mozambique Company the achievement of the Company is displayed. It consists of the arms of Portugal, crowned with the Portuguese Royal crown and supported by two elephants. After the establishment of the Republic of Portugal in 1910 the crown was omitted.

In 1907, the capital was moved from Mozambique to Lourenço Marques (modern Maputo) on the Delagoa Bay. In 1912 slave trade, for long Mozambique's most important trade, was outlawed

During the prewar years, Germany was interested in extending its colonial possessions. In 1898 Britain and Germany signed a first agreement concerning Portugal's colonies in Africa. The idea was to partition it into British and German spheres of influence. In 1911 negotiations on the partition were renewed, and concluded in 1913. As the British side insisted on the agreement to be published, and the Germans refused to do so, the agreement was never implemented. The Licango River would have formed the border between both spheres of interest.

In 1914 World War I broke out. Portugal remained neutral. When German East Africa became untenable in 1916, German commander Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck switched to a guerilla strategy. Disregarding Portuguese neutrality, his Askari troops at times took up positions in Northern Mozambique. Portugal found itself at war with Germany. In the peace treaty of Versailles, the small border town of Kionga, formerly German East Africa, was awarded to the Portuguese and incorporated into Mozambique.



After the Republic of Portugal was proclaimed the 5th of October 1910, the crown was omitted and replaced by the armillary sphere that had been the symbol of the Portuguese empire for more than four hundred years by then.


The Colony of Mozambique, 1939-1974


In 1941 the charter of the Mozambique Company expired and was not renewed, the Portuguese government taking over the administration of the company's territories. From January 1st 1943, Mozambique was divided in 4 provinces - Sul do Save (Lourenço Marques and Inhambane), Manica and Sofala (ex-Mozambique Co. territory), Zambezia (Quelimane, Tete) and Niassa.            World War II had limited impact on Mozambique, as Portugal stayed neutral and no Axis-held territory was close.

While Britain undertook steps to prepare it's colonies for independence, such as granting African representation in parliament and universal adult suffrage, Portugal, continuously under the rightist Salazar regime, had no intention to grant independence to it's colonies. Formally, Mozambique had been proclaimed an overseas province in 1951.

By 1964, Madagascar (1960), Tanzania (1961/64), Malawi and Zambia (1964) had declared independence and achieved black majority rule. The country's neighbours to the southwest and south, Rhodesia and South Africa, had white minority regimes which excluded the black majority from political participation and which supported Portuguese colonial rule.

The Frelimo was founded, an organization of independence fighters with a socialist agenda. It was supported by the Soviet Union and it's eastern European allies. The Frelimo began a guerilla war which lasted for decades.

In 1972, Mozambique was declared a self-governing province. In 1974 Portugal's ageing rightist government was toppled by the Revolução dos Cravos (Pink Revolution); in Mozambique, a cease-fire was arranged and preparations were made to release the country into independence.


The Coat of Arms of Mozambique


In 1933 a coat of arms for the colony was designed. [5] They were:



Arms of Moçambique, 1933


Arms: Per saltire Gules and Argent, an armilary sphere Or; within a bordure Or charged wit five quinas escutcheons alternating with five crosses of the Order of Christ.

Crown: A portuguese mural crown of five towers Or




Somewhat later a provisional coat of arms was used for the Colony consisting of a tierced shield with the Portuguese quinas in the dexter part and green waves of the sea in the lower part. In the sinister part was a golden armillary-sphere. In 1935-1936 coins were struck with this coat of arms.

This coat of arms was changed the 8th of May 1935.  The former shield was maintained but in the sinister quarter was placed a new symbol. It is a bunle of seven arrows, points downwards, Vert, tied with a ribbon Gules. The arrows are the symbol of St. Sebastian who was martyred with arrows This symbol was adopted for the whole of Mozambique because the first capital of the Portuguese possessions in Eastern Africa was San Sebastião de Mozambique, named after king Sebastião (1557-1578).


The coat of arms of Mozambique adopted 8.V.1935


The arms were placed on a golden armillary-sphere crowned with a golden mural crown of five towers, each charged with a red armillary-sphere, on its embattlements the arms of the Order of Christ: Argent, the cross of the Order Gules, voided Argent. Underneath the armillary-sphere is a ribbon with the name of the colony: colonia portuguesa de moçambique.  In 1951 the name on the ribbon was changed into: provin. portuguesa de moçambique. [6]


Independent Mozambique, since 1975.


In 1975, Mozambique became independent. A socialist peoples republic, the repÚblica popular de moçambique, was proclaimed. The capital Lourenço Marques was renamed Maputo.

Many of the white settlers left the country. Mozambique permitted the ZANU, ZAPU (Rhodesian independence fighters) and the ANC (South African independence fighters) to establish bases on it’s territory. South Africa retaliated by providing assistance to the Renamo, a guerilla force fighting the Frelimo government.

The civil war in Mozambique escalated, at times limiting the government influence to the capital city of Maputo. It caused widespread destruction.

In 1984, Mozambique normalized it’s relations to South Africa. Many Moçambicans worked in South Africa’s gold mines. The country also began to reprivatize many industries which had been nationalized in the 1970es. In 1992, the civil war was ended by an accord between Frelimo and Renamo; multiparty democracy was introduced and free elections were held.


A new coat of arms or state-emblem was adopted by constitution of 25th of June 1975 art. 69 in which it is stipulated that the symbol will bear a book, charged with an adze and a rifle in saltire. These charges symbolize education, defense and vigilance, the peasants and the agricultural  production. In the lower part  is a map of Mozambique, washed by the waves of the Indian Ocean and in chief is a sun in splendour, symbolizing the Revolution and the new life forthcoming.

All this is placed on a golden cog-wheel, the symbol of the working class and the industry.

The star on the place of the crest symbolizes the international spririt of the Moçambiquan revolution.

The garland consists of  a sugar-cane and a stalk of maize, symbolizing the agricultural wealth of the country. On the junction is a red ribbon with the name of the country: repÚblica popular  de  moçambique in golden lettering on a ribbon Gules.


The Constitution of 1975


The Constitution of 25th of June 1975  reads:


Section IV


Symbols of the Peoples Republic of Mozambique


Art. 67.


The symbols of the Peoples Republic of Mozambique are the flag, the arms of state and the national anthem.


Art. 68.


The national flag has five colors of which four are separated by white stripes diagonally placed and coming from the left-hand upper corner. The colors, in order from top to bottom mean:

·         Green: the fertility of the Mozambiquan soil.

·         Red: the centuries old revolt against colonialism, the armed struggle against colonialism and the Revolution.

·         Black: the African continent.

·         Yellow: the wealth of the surface

·         The white emphasises the righteousness of the struggle for peace of the Mozambiquan people against the establishment.


In the left-hand upper corner is an emblem consisting of a cog-wheel (the symbol of the working-class and industry), charged with a book (the symbol of education), and a rifle and an adze in saltire, symbolizing the defence and vigilance of the peasant-class and the agricultural revolution.

In the upper right-hand part of the cog-wheel is a red five-pointed star, symbolizing the international spirit of the Mozambiquan people.


Art. 69.


The coat of arms of the People’s Republic of Mozambique shows on its most important place a book, a rifle and an adze, placed on the map of Mozambique and represent education, defence and vigilance, the peasant-class and the argricultural production repectively.

Below the map is the Ocean.

In the centre is a rising sun, the symbolizing the Revolution and the new life that will be build up.

Surrounding all this is a cog-wheel, symbolizing the working-class and industry, the driving-powers of our economy.

Around the cog-wheel are a stalk of maize with a cob on the right, and a stalk of sugar-cane on the left, symbolizing our agricultural wealth.

At the top in the middle is a red star symbolizing the international spirit of the Mozambiquan revolution.

Below is a red ribbon with the inscription “REPÚBLICA POPULAR DE MOÇAMBIQUE”. [7]



The Kalashnikov


The rifle in te arms of Mozambique is the famous Kalashnikov which appears here for the first time in civic heraldry. This rifle, the AK-47, was designed by Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov of whom the better known name is derived. The Kalashnikov is easy to reproduce and to operate and for that reason played a major role in many liberation- and resistance movements. About seventy- to one hundred million Kalashnikovs have been made until now. Besides of Mozambique some five other nations have a picture of the Kalashnikov in their flags.

See also: Kalashnikov.


The Arms of 1975



The Arms of 1985




In 1985 a new version of the arms appeared on coins. In 1990, when the name of the republic was changed into repÚblica de moçambique, the name on the ribbon was changed accordingly.


ð See illustration in the head of this essay.


Presidential flag

1975, adapted 1982, 1990







Corpo de Policia Provícia de Moçambique


Policia de seguranca publica


Policia Popular, cap badge (until 1990)

Policia, cap badge & Sleeve patch (present)


Mozambique police emblem


Armed Forces


Região Militar de Moçambique




Arms and Banner [8]





Cap badge 1975-


Mozambique Army, cap badge





Nautical school of Pemba


Air Force


Air Force emblem










Lourenço Marques \ Maputo





Cabo Delgado



Porto Amélia / Pemba




João Belo / Xai-xai






Vila Pery / Chimoio






Cabral / Lichinga












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© Hubert de Vries.2006-12-18 Updated 23.12.2006 / 06.10.2008 / 2011-11-17; 2019-03-06



[1] A geographical historie of Africa. By Johannes Leo. Translated from the Arabicke and Italian and collected by Iohn Pory. Fotomechanische herdruk van de uitgave van George Bishop, 1600. Amsterdam 1969. Vol III, pp. 985-986.

[2] Camões, Luis Vaz de: The Lusiads. Penguin Classics 1952,  p. 137. 

[3] The Port of Lisbon in the Early 16th century. Crónica do rei D. Afonso Henriques. Duarte Calvão. Cascais, M.B.C.C.G. Inv. 14. Frontispiece.

[4] O escudo azul com os cinco bezantes de prata postos em sautor, ampliação de um dos cinco escudetes nacionais, alude à bandeira das quinas que, durante o período áureo dos Descobrimentos, representou a actividade militar da Nação. The arms are: Escudo de azul, cinco bezantes de prata postos em sautor. Elmo de grades, de prata, tauxiado a ouro, forrado de vermelho, de frente. Correias de vermelho, perfilado de ouro. Paquife e virol de azul e prata. Timbre, dragão sainte, de prata, linguado e animado de vermelho. Divisa, num listel branco ondulado, sotoposto ao escudo, em letras de de estilo elzevir, maiúsculas, de negro: "OS PORTUGUESES SOMOS DO OCIDENTE".  The banner of the Minister of National Defence is Azure, five besants in saltire Argent, within a bordure also Azure, charged with branches of laurel, in each corner a dragon Or

[5] P. 46

[6] Der Herold, 1943, pp. A3-A5.

[7] Mozambique Revolution. Official Magazine of Frelimo. Special number issued at the occasion of the Declaration of Independence on 25th of June 1975.

[8] From: Guerra do Ultramar: Brasões, Guiões e Crachás