Namibe (pre-1985: Moçâmedes) is the capital city of Namibe Province in Angola. Namibe is located in southwestern Angola and was founded in 1840. The city's current population is 132,900 (2004 estimate). Namibe has a cool dry climate and desert vegetation.
The town was founded on a bay that the Portuguese originally called Angra do Negro. The area was first explored by the Portuguese in 1785, and was claimed for Portugal by Luiz Candido Cordeiro Pinhaira Furtado, who had been sent there in the frigate Loanda by the then governor-general of Angola, Baron Moçâmedes, who also sent an overland expedition headed by Gregorio José Mendes to rendezvous with Furtado. It was they who renamed the bay Moçâmedes in honour of the man who had sent them. In 1839 the then governor-general of Angola, Admiral Noronha, sent a fresh expedition to subdue the Sobas or chieftains of the region and establish them as vassals of Portugal. In 1840 a factory was established by two merchants, Jacomo Felippe Torres and Antonio Joaquim Guimarães, and in July of the same year a fort was built at Ponta Negra, and the town of Moçâmedes was founded by order of the Portuguese prime minister Count Bonfim, who was also head of the Colonial Department. In 1846, after his defeat in the civil war of the Patuleia, Bonfim was himself exiled to Moçâmedes with his son and other members of the Junta of Oporto, and though he managed to escape was returned to there by the Royal Navy until released under the terms of the Convention of Gramido. The area was colonized mainly by Portuguese settlers from Madeira and Brazil; in the 1850s the Portuguese government also gave sea passage and financial assistance to a large number of German colonists. The village - known by the native inhabitants in the 19th century as Mossungo Bittolo - grew as a fishing port, and by the 1960s, it had 143 fishing boats and several fish processing factories. The port normally handled a major part of the Angolan catch and had one of the most important fish landings of the Portuguese Overseas Province of Angola together with Luanda, Benguela and Lobito. About 200 km from the city of Namibe the Portuguese authorities founded the Iona National Park, Angola's oldest and largest national park, which was proclaimed as a reserve in 1937 and was upgraded by the authorities of Portuguese Angola to a national park covering 15,150 km² in 1964. During 1966-67 a major iron ore terminal was built by the Portuguese at Saco, the bay just 12 km North of Moçâmedes. The client was the Compania Mineira do Lobito, the Lobito Mining Company, which developed an iron ore mine inland at Cassinga. The construction of the mine installations and a 300 km railway were commissioned to Krupp of Germany and the modern harbour terminal to SETH, a Portuguese company owned by Hojgaard & Schultz of Denmark. The small fishing town of Moçâmedes hosted construction workers, foreign engineers and their families for 2 years. The Ore Terminal was completed on time within one year and the first 250,000 ton ore carrier docked and loaded with ore in 1967.
After independence from Portugal
After the April 1974 military coup in Lisbon, as the Portuguese Overseas Province of Angola's political situation deteriorated and the independence of the territory seemed inevitable, many Moçâmedes-based fishing boats departed to Portugal with entire crews and their families. Angola become independent from Portugal in 1975, after the Alvor Agreement. During the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), following the departure of the Portuguese, the mine of Cassinga was controlled by UNITA and the coast by the communist government of the MPLA, so no export was possible. The port installations were unused but protected by communist Cuban soldiers and on the promotory behind the terminal, Soviet experts installed SAM-3 missile sites aimed towards South Africa in May 1981. When intelligence about this increase in military activity reached the USA, airplanes from South Africa completed bombing raids, knocking out the dangerous SAM missile sites at Mocamedes/ Namib sometime in 1981. In 1985 the city of Moçâmedes changed its name to Namibe.
Namibe is served by the Namibe Airport located about 7 km to the south of the city. The old Yuri Gagarin airport, only about 1.7 km from the city's center, connects the city to the rest of the country.
- Clarence-Smith, W. G. Slaves, Peasants and Capitalists in Southern Angola 1840-1926. New York: Cambridge UP, 1979.
- Clarence-Smith, W. G. "Slavery in Coastal Southern Angola, 1875-1913." Journal of Southern African Studies 2.2 (1976), 214-23.
- Francisco Travassos Valdez, Six Years of a Traveller's Life in Western Africa (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1861), Volume 2, pp.336-338.
- Francisco Travassos Valdez (1861), Volume 1, pp.11-12.
- Francisco Travassos Valdez (1861), Volume 2, pp.346-347.
- (Portuguese) Angola - Moçâmedes, minha terra, eu te vi crescer... (Raul Ferreira Trindade), history of Moçâmedes/Namibe
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