​Civil Prison (current Library of the National Press of Mozambique)

​Civil Prison (current Library of the National Press of Mozambique)

Maputo [Lourenço Marques], Maputo, Mozambique

Equipment and Infrastructures

Located in the heart of downtown, in the corner of Vladimir Lenin and 25 September Avenues.
It was built by the expedition of Obras Públicas (Public Works), arrived here on March 7, 1877, headed by the renowned engineer Joaquim José Machado, and to who should be atributed some important work undertaken at the time, such as the landfill of swamps that surrounded the village and the urbanization plan of 1887, authored by Antonio José de Araujo. The "Casa do Machado" (Machado's house)- as it was also known - is one of the last vestiges of constructions made by this expedition, having been considered "imóvel de interesse público" (property of public interest), since November 7, 1972 (Ordinance 962 | 72).
The Civil Prison, which is almost in the same place where previously was the Baluarte "14" of the old "line of defense", began to be built on 9 October 1887. Until then, the city prison was installed in a division of the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, where were mingled "promiscuously whites and blacks, whether murderers or simply unruly and turbulent." It was already here, at the new facility, were would be detained its most important political prisoner, Ngungunhane Nkumalo after his capture in 1895. He would be later presented to official authorities, the consuls, the commanders of warships from Britain and Germany and the people, in the space opposite the Casa Amarela (now the Museu da Moeda), before his departure for exile in the Azores , where he eventually died in 1906.
The Prison would remain in this building until March 1930, when the current was inaugurated. It was thought then to demolish the old building, constructing a new structure intended for the Bureau of Statistics and Library, also allowing the expansion of the National Press. That did not happen, and the the Service of Geology and Mining settled there, it was opened in its ground-floor, the Museum of Geology "Freire de Andrade", inaugurated on 7 May 1943 . Those facilities remained until 1958, when it was transferred to the Palácio das Repartições (building where currently is installed the Ministry of Finance | Office of the Prime Minister) and was reopened to the public in October of that year. The "Casa do Machado" would be, from then on, definitely occupied by the National Press.
Although the statute that classifies the former Civil Prison "property of public interest" was intended explicitly for the "Museu da Moeda", it never would settle there. This museum was the natural successor of the Gabinete Numismático e Medalhístico, which had been started by initiative of historian Alexandre Lobato, the guardianship of the Arquivo Histórico de Moçambique (Historical Archives of Mozambique), on June 30, 1970, from a small collection of coins and medals existing at the Military Museum, then housed in the Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora da Conceição. It would, finally, be open to the public in the Casa Amarela, after the independence. This, which happens to be the oldest building in Maputo, is considered "monumento nacional" (national monument) since April 1964, having undergone major restoration in 1970, was designed to accommodate the Museu e Gabinete de História (Museum and History Office) of the city, which did not happened, thus allowing the exposition of that valuable and unique numismatic collection.

António Sopa