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Notes Of Colonel Mobutu, The Fishermen: 50 Makuta (Zaire, 1979)-Article

This Zairean banknote represents the 1st denomination of the Zaire (Series 1972-1979). The Zaire was the currency of the nation of the same name. Now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Zaire was ruled from 1971-1997, by it's eccentric leader Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997). Who was overthrown in the First Congo War (1996-1997).

The Zaire Series 1972-1979 represented early and stable period of the currency. In addition, to documenting a change on Colonel Mobutu's persona. As in 1972, he changed his legal name from Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko. The notes of the series depicts these to different personas. The Belgian-trained military officer and the leopard caped pan-Africanist leader.

In 1993, the Zaire was replaced by the New Zaire. The exchange rate was an impressive 1 New Zaire to 3,000,000 "Old" Zaires.


The observe features a portrait of Mobutu Sese Seko, in an abacost. Here he's seen without his iconic leopard skin cap, which appears on the 1, 5, and 50 Zaire notes. To his right is a leaping leopard, a reference to the Zaire national symbol, and Mobutu's nickname. The "Leopard of Zaire", which he received due to his fierceness as a leader.

The French language header reads, (trans.) "Bank of Zaire", flanked by number "50"s. While the center lists the note's "Fifty Makuta" value. Followed by the bank Governor signature and the note's 24 June 1979 print date. At the lower-left is a small number "50" and a Zaire Coat of Arms. Below the portrait of Mobutu, is one of the note dual-serial number (D 1741386 W)

At the note's left is the watermark area. The upper section features the second serial number, followed by a Mobutu watermark. This watermark is a mirrored copy of the portrait. While below is the text (trans.) "Fifty Makuta", on a decorative backing.

Notably a faint security tread aligns behind the letter "E", in "Banque".


The reverse features an illustration of a group of Wagenya fisherman, with their distinctive fishing baskets. The fisherman attach the massive baskets on to wooden tripods, anchored to natural holes in the river bed. This practice began as the fierce rapids of the Congo River, prevents traditional fishing. To the left is an image of a Kongo shaman.

Below the fishing baskets reads, (trans.) "Bank of Zaire". To its right is a colorful backing with the text (trans.) "50 Makuta". Small number "50"s can be seen besides the lower text and above the shaman. A large guilloche rose can be seen behind the shaman illustration.

To the right is the note's watermark area. At its top is a counterfeit warning, it reads, (trans.) "(c)ounterfeiting is punished with penal servitude". At the unprinted center is a Mobutu watermark, it can be viewed by backlighting. While lower section features a Bank of Zaire logo.

The footer lists the note's printer as "Giesecke & Devrient-Munich".


Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 151 x 75 mm or 5.94 x 2.52 in, smaller than a US Dollar.

  • The preferable method to preserve this note are side opening sleeves, cut to size.

  • The Zaire ISO code was ZRZ, it used both Ƶ. and Z as symbols.

  • The Zaire was subdivided into 100 Makuta, coins were issued in Makutas and Zaires.

  • Likuta is the Kongo word for a single Makuta, 100 Makuta equals 1 Zaire.

  • The abacost was a distinct Zaire alternative to the Western style business suit.

  • Zaire was a former Belgian colony, who's schools promoted the French language.


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