MALAWI (1 of 2)

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Background to the 1995/1996 issues - some denominations being without and later with portraits.

From when Kamuzu Banda came to power in Malawi in 1964 and right until he lost his Presidency in 1994 all of the Malawian coins (except the 1 Penny coins) had on their obverse his portrait. It is normal for a monarch to appear on coins made throughout their reign and occasionally presidents. However, Banda was a more of a dictator (ruthless too) and his name “Kamuzu” was everywhere, on buildings, roads, hospital, schools etc... So in 1994, when Banda lost power in Malawi’s first free elections under his presidency, great effort was put into getting rid of the mark Banda had left behind. Banda’s personality had just been too much for many people of Malawi and so not only did they want rid of words such as “Kamuzu” but they hoped that a similar situation would never arrive with any future leader. This is why, what must have been the first coins under the new President, Bakili Muluzi (1995 dated 1, 2 and 5 Tambala) were as the 1994 issues but with Banda’s portrait replaced by a new obverse design, Malawi’s coat of arms, with “Malawi” beneath. Furthermore the reverse of the 1 Tambala was changed from being a Rooster/Cockerel to two fish. The reason for this being that the rooster was the symbol of Banda’s political party the “Malawi Congress Party” or “MCP”. This new design is without designer's initials as are the 2 and 5 Tambala reverses of this series which was odd since the previous types to use these 2 and 5 Tambala reverses did have these initials on the reverse. (These designer initials are "P.V." for Paul Vincze.) A final difference in these coins to those of the previous years is that the 1 and 2 Tambala of this series were made of Bronze which had not been used for these denominations since 1982 after which Copper-plated-Steel had been used.

Malawi 5 Tambala 1995 - with coat of arms obverse
The Malawi 5 Tambala 1995 with coat of arms obverse, no designer's initials on the reverse.

Towards the end of April 1996, Malawi saw the first issuance of coins with the portrait of President Bakili Muluzi. The coins to debut on this occasion were 1995 dated 1, 2, 5 and 10 Tambala and the 1996 dated 1 Kwacha. There was a return to the use of Copper-plated-Steel for the 1 and 2 Tambala. As with the 1 Tambala, the 1 Kwacha had the rooster design removed, this design was replaced by that of an eagle. Announcements about this in Malawi’s parliament caused an amount of ill feeling amongst the opposition politicians. The main defence the government had for their actions though, was that the old coins were not to be withdrawn and so Banda would remain on the nations money for still more years. During the parliamentary discussions on this subject is was also mentioned though, that decisions about the coinage designs had been made soon after Muluzi came to power. The introduction of these new coins had been delayed by the making of the plans about how best the changes were to be implemented. Seemingly the 1, 2 and 5 Tambala coins with the coat of arms obverse were one of the first steps in the plan for change - but I have not yet managed to find out when they were introduced or even confirmation that they were introduced before April 1996.

Malawi 5 Tambala 1995 - with portrait obverse
The Malawi 5 Tambala with portrait obverse, with designer's initials on reverse.

On November 11th 1996 the last of the new coins were issued, these were 20 Tambala and 50 Tambala coins. Again Muluzi’s portrait replaced Banda’s, however these two coins unlike any of the other denominations changed in size. The 20 Tambala was reduced in size (approx. from 28mm to 26mm) and the 50 Tambala changed from a 30mm round coin to a 22mm coin with seven rounded sides. One would assume these two denominations were the last ones to be introduced due to their being different in size/shape.

Malawi has also seen changes “to” plated steels for other denominations. These changes would have been mainly to do with the cost of coin manufacture that the Reserve Bank of Malawi would have had to pay to a mint somewhere in the world. These changes would also have had something to do with the decreasing value of the Malawian currency unit, the Kwacha.

Malawi differences in the two series of 1, 2 and 5 Tambala dated 1995
A summary of the differences in the two versions of 1995 dated 1, 2 and 5 Tambala.

The background image for this page is Malawi's coat of arms, as taken from an image of my 5 Tambala 1995 (with coat of arms). This design is identical to that of the coat of arms on the Malawian halfcrown of 1964, on which the designer's initials (P.V.) can be seen right next to the coat of arms design. The coat of arms on Malawi's decimal coins is just the same as on this halfcrown but always without the designer's initials. Paul Vincze designs for Malawi coins were done for the British Royal Mint who made the pre-decimal and earlier decimal coins of Malawi.


Right until the end of 2003, it remained that the latest circulation coins I knew of for Malawi were the 1995/1996 series. Being as the "Standard Catalog of World Coins" continues to appear a little "confused" in its listing of these pieces and being as I have already given full details of the 1, 2 and 5 Tambala types - here is a simple summary of the other 1995/1996 pieces.

Common obverse - as per the Muluzi portrait with country name obverse seen on the smaller denominations.
All reverses have - a main feature, the denomination and the date.

10 Tambala - 1995 - Nickel-plated-Steel - Reverse features a bundle of maize cobs.
20 Tambala - 1996 - Nickel-plated-Steel - Reverse features an elephant cow and calf.
50 Tambala - 1996 - Brass-plated-Steel - Reverse features the coat of arms of Malawi.
1 Kwacha - 1996 - Brass-plated-Steel - Reverse features a fish eagle.

But there is a new piece.....

Malawi 1 Kwacha 2003 - reverse
The reverse of the Malawi 1 Kwacha 2003, identical to the 1996 dated pieces but with the newer date.

In January 2004 I came across this piece listed for sale on the website of a world coins dealer based in The Netherlands. Before long I had got my hands on a piece from the dealer - it is a 1 Kwacha 2003 (type as per 1996).

President Muluzi was first elected President of Malawi in May 1994, he was re-elected in 1999. The presidential term in Malawi is 5 years and the maximum number of terms per President is two. So it is expected that Presidential elections will be held in Malawi in 2004. So maybe the 1 Kwacha 2003 will turn out to be the last coins of Malawi to feature Muluzi's portrait.

See more at... Malawi - Page 2 of 2

Malawi Tokens Page.

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The info above (less the "Update") was published in the July 2002 edition of the Numismatics International Bulletin (pages 208-209, pages numbered through the year).
Updated - with "update", including image of 1 Kwacha 2003 reverse, at Feb 2004.