Zimbabwe History - History

Zimbabwe History - History

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Huge ruins in Zimbabwe allude to the developed society that existed here in southern Africa between the 9th and 13th centuries. The Portuguese were followed by the British and the region became a British protectorate in 1888. Two years later, Salisbury (Harare) was established and the area of Zambia and Zimbabwe was named Rhodesia. Partitioned into Southern and Northern parts in 1923, the North became a British colony while the South became a self-governing, white-ruled state in the British Empire. The white settlers enjoyed great prosperity, while the native peoples had little say and reaped few, if any, of the economic benefits. In 1961, Southern Rhodesia promulgated a constitution that protected the white minority. Four years later, independence was declared, although the British government viewed the act as invalid and illegal. The United Nations, too, rejected the independence of Rhodesia under the white-led government of Ian Smith, and proceeded to impose sanctions and later, a trade embargo. It was not until years later that guerrilla warfare and unabated world pressure led to the establishment of a representative government. But the country has known little stability since and the economy has continued to deteriorate as the political situation remains uncertain.

There’s more to Zimbabwe’s history than merely how “ZANU PF liberated us”, no wonder there’s so much identity crisis

Why I always found this program exceedingly fascinating was the profound history about our country, which always filled me with awe, as to its abundant richness, whilst at the same time making me extremely proud to be a Zimbabwean.

I would learn so much about our country’s depth of culture, where we came from, who we are, and how we came to be where we are.

What made me recall those wonderful highly educational programs by Chigwedere, was a very interesting discussion we had today, on one WhatsApp group, about our history as Zimbabweans, and whether we truly understood who we were.

To say that this discussion was eye-opening would be the greatest understatement of the century – since, the knowledge shared revealed just how much, as Zimbabwe, we honestly did not know anything about our own history.

I will not go into the details of the issues shared – as that would need a whole long piece of its own, considering the immensity of the information discussed – but, one thing stood out very clearly to me…the major reason we suffer from this severe identity crisis in Zimbabwe is that we have no idea who we truly are as a people, where we came from, and what we are capable of.

What saddened me, beyond any measure, is that the blame for this – as far as I am concerned – is not on our people (who, obviously, can not be expected to know what they are not taught), nor is it on some former colonizers who have since been removed from power, forty-one (41) years ago, and can not still be blamed for our own inadequacies today.

However, the blame lies squarely on the laps of those in charge of what we learn in our schools – the government of Zimbabwe.

As far as our “learned” and “esteemed” leaders are concerned, the only relevant history, that our citizenry – most particularly, our children – need to know, is how “the ruling ZANU PF party fought gallantly against a stubborn, arrogant, cruel, and racists colonial regime” in order to “set us free”!

…and they seriously expect to inculcate a sense of patriotism and national pride amongst the people of Zimbabwe, with such clearly partisan, biased, extremely shallow history?

As I have alluded to in similar such articles, a people’s history can never be cherry-picked, nor taught in small selected pieces – but, is a total accumulation of past events, especially relating to human affairs, or to the accumulation of developments connected with a particular nation, person, or thing.

This should be a totality – and, not just how the British came to our land, occupied, colonized, and subjugated us, and how the likes of Mbuya Nehanda bravely, but unsuccessfully, fought the “invaders”, and the subsequent ZANU/ZAPU-led Chimurenga, that led to our “Uhuru”.

Honestly, is that our history? And, how is that supposed to excite patriotism and national pride?

In fact, how many of us knew that the First Chimurenga was not even the one launched by Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, and others in 1896-7 – but, was actually led by General Dombodzvuku in 1695, who later took over the rulership of Zimbabwe, after driving out the Portuguese, who had entrenched themselves in our nation – which means that, what occurred soon after British occupation and colonization was the Second Chimurenga, and the one that led to our independence in 1980, being the Third?

For the information of the ruling elite, Zimbabwe’s history does not start in 1890, and end in 1980 – but, is actually endowed with so much richness, that spans hundreds of years, which everyone would be so proud to be associated with.

However, the main problem we have is a government that is not genuinely interested in its citizenry valuing and appreciating this history but is merely motivated by a selfish desire to distort (or, at best, hide) our past – purely for the sake of portraying themselves as Zimbabwe’s only heroes, who should be eternally worshipped, as we feel perennially indebted to them.

Is it then any wonder that there are not too many takers of this self-serving agenda – as the people of Zimbabwe are left with a huge gap of historical and identity emptiness…considering that anything is done in dishonesty, seldom achieves its objectives, and this emptiness is filled by others with their own outside nefarious agendas?

Zimbabweans can easily be overly proud of who they are if only the history they were taught was true and complete – since, “ZANU PF liberating us” is not the cornerstone of who we are, neither will it ever make anyone proud to be Zimbabwean…seeing how the same ZANU PF has ruined their lives!

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

Conflict in and around Zimbabwe

Conflict in and around the country that would become Zimbabwe centred around who had the right to form its government, who controlled the economy, and for whose benefit that economy was organised. The conflict placed a spotlight on Britain’s relationship with and responsibility for parts of the world that had been part of its empire. The issues raised by Britain’s formation, maintenance and dissolution of its empire are still live today: debated in Britain, across the Commonwealth and beyond.

British colonisation of the area now covered by present-day Zimbabwe began in the nineteenth century. For most of the twentieth century, it was known as Southern Rhodesia, colloquially then formally named after Cecil Rhodes, the British administrator who sought to absorb large parts of African land into the empire. The land had been owned, used, farmed and managed by several different groups, but control of the area was forcibly maintained from the late nineteenth century by the British South Africa Company, and then by an increasing number of UK and European emigrants. In the 1920s, its settler and settler-descendent-led administration was recognised by the British government as leading a self-governing country – Southern Rhodesia. Black Africans were not, however, allowed by law to own land outside certain restricted areas.

Britain drew on the country’s resources in both world wars, and many British pilots and aircrews were trained there from 1940. In the aftermath of the Second World War, more settlers arrived in the area – some encouraged by the British government.

In the 1950s, the country’s economy was based on its network of vast, white-owned farms. Living standards for the minority white population were good, but issues related to the democratic, economic and social rights of the indigenous population increasingly came to the fore. Growing global pressure placed the spotlight on the way in which colonies and protectorates were achieving independence. The British government maintained that full independence for parts of its empire could only be attained if the political rights of the majorities were guaranteed. This was unacceptable to the white government of Southern Rhodesia, and it declared unilateral independence in 1965, becoming Rhodesia.


International condemnation of the move was widespread. For the next fifteen years, Rhodesia faced external sanctions and internal war, as different groups within battled for the right to establish a government and control the nation. This conflict was at different times referred to as the Rhodesian Bush War, the Zimbabwean War of Liberation or Second Chimurenga (a Shona word meaning struggle for liberation).

The conflict drew in neighbouring countries and was also framed as part of a Cold War struggle, another battlefront between communist and capitalist ideologies, with support for different groups coming from Soviet-allied and Western governments. Mercenaries – including from Britain – also joined the fighting. The war was a scarring experience for the people, with many documented cases of horrific human rights abuses.


Peace talks at Lancaster House, London, in 1979 led to the country becoming for a short-period a full British colony, during which time it would prepare for the country’s first elections to feature large-scale majority participation. Commonwealth troops were deployed as part of a monitoring force. As part of the peace settlement, Britain agreed to financially support a plan to compensate white farmers so that land could be passed to the majority. It established a training force that would help the Zimbabwean security forces rebuild. The election victory of Robert Mugabe – a leader of one of the groups that had fought for liberation – and the establishment of Zimbabwe as an independent nation did not, however, mean that questions over land ownership in the new country receded.

How could living standards be improved for the majority if land and farms were owned by a minority? Should land ownership pass to the majority, via sale or transfer? What should be the price, and who should pay? How could the new government maintain its economy while massively reorganising the land that was the foundation of much of that economy? What role should the people of both Britain and Zimbabwe expect the UK to play in future of this newly independent nation?

Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe with an increasing emphasis on suppressing opposition – often with violence. His rule was often framed as a popular response to, and defence against, British colonialism. The ownership of land continued to be a central issue, and in the late 1990s the British government argued that it no longer had a ‘special responsibility’ to help finance transfers from white-owned farms to majority ownership. In the early 2000s land was forcibly transferred from white farmers to the majority black population, a move condemned by many in the international community. All of this took place against a backdrop of deteriorating relationships between Zimbabwe and international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund. The pain experienced by the people of Zimbabwe as their country’s economy tumbled, poverty soared, food insecurity and social problems worsened was acute, with some blaming the legacies of colonialism, others Mugabe’s policies – or the complex interplay between both.

Mugabe was a polarising figure – seen by some as a heroic opposer of colonial rule who steered his country to independence in the face of implacable imperialist opposition, and by others as an authoritarian dictator who led a human rights-abusing administration that plunged Zimbabwe into economic and social turmoil. His leadership faced many challenges from both internal opposition and international pressure, and he was removed from office in 2018.

The factors that produced war, conflict, poverty and pain as Zimbabwe moved towards and developed its independence are heavily debated. The consequences of violence are still being felt.

IWM holds collections that relate to this violence and the journey that Zimbabwe took towards independence. They do not, however, yet tell a full story. Our work to introduce fresh perspectives, uncover new meanings, and build a more diverse collection is ongoing.


Prior to the arrival of Bantu speakers in present-day Zimbabwe the region was populated by ancestors of the San people. The first Bantu-speaking farmers arrived during the Bantu expansion around 2000 years ago. [1]

These Bantu speakers were the makers of early Iron Age pottery belonging to the Silver Leaves or Matola tradition, third to fifth centuries A.D., [2] found in southeast Zimbabwe. This tradition was part of the eastern stream [3] of Bantu expansion (sometimes called Kwale) [4] which originated west of the Great Lakes, spreading to the coastal regions of southeastern Kenya and north eastern Tanzania, and then southwards to Mozambique, south eastern Zimbabwe and Natal. [5] More substantial in numbers in Zimbabwe were the makers of the Ziwa and Gokomere ceramic wares, of the fourth century A.D. [4] Their early Iron Age ceramic tradition belonged to the highlands facies of the eastern stream, [6] which moved inland to Malawi and Zimbabwe. Imports of beads have been found at Gokomere and Ziwa sites, possibly in return for gold exported to the coast.

A later phase of the Gokomere culture was the Zhizo in southern Zimbabwe. Zhizo communities settled in the Shashe-Limpopo area in the tenth century. Their capital there was Schroda (just across the Limpopo River from Zimbabwe). Many fragments of ceramic figurines have been recovered from there, figures of animals and birds, and also fertility dolls. The inhabitants produced ivory bracelets and other ivory goods. Imported beads found there and at other Zhizo sites, are evidence of trade, probably of ivory and skins, with traders on the Indian Ocean coast. [7] [8] [9]

Pottery belonging to a western stream of Bantu expansion (sometimes called Kalundu) has been found at sites in northeastern Zimbabwe, dated from the seventh century. [10] (The western stream originated in the same area as the eastern stream: both belong to the same style system, called by Phillipson [11] the Chifumbadze system, which has general acceptance by archaeologists.) The terms eastern and western streams represent the expansion of the Bantu speaking peoples in terms of their culture. Another question is the branches of the Bantu languages which they spoke. It seems that the makers of the Ziwa/Gokomere wares were not the ancestral speakers of the Shona languages of today's Zimbabwe, who did not arrive in there until around the tenth century, from south of the Limpopo river, and whose ceramic culture belonged to the western stream. The linguist and historian Ehret believes that in view of the similarity of the Ziwa/Gokomere pottery to the Nkope of the ancestral Nyasa language speakers, the Ziwa/Gokomere people spoke a language closely related to the Nyasa group. Their language, whatever it was, was superseded by the ancestral Shona languages, although Ehret says that a set of Nyasa words occur in central Shona dialects today. [12]

The evidence that the ancestral Shona speakers came from South Africa is that the ceramic styles associated with Shona speakers in Zimbabwe from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries can be traced back to western stream (Kalunndu) pottery styles in South Africa. The Ziwa /Gokomere and Zhizo traditions were superseded by Leopards Kopje and Gumanye wares of the Kalundu tradition from the tenth century. [13]

Although the western stream Kalundu tradition was ancestral to Shona ceramic wares, the closest relationships of the ancestral Shona language according to many linguists [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] were with a southern division of eastern Bantu – such languages as the southeastern languages (Nguni, Sotho-Tswana, Tsonga), Nyasa and Makwa. While it may well be the case that the people of the western stream spoke a language belonging to a wider Eastern Bantu division, it is a puzzle which remains to be resolved that they spoke a language most closely related to the languages just mentioned, all of which are today spoken in southeastern Africa.

After the Shona speaking people moved into the present day Zimbabwe many different dialects developed over time in the different parts of the country. Among these was Kalanga.

It is believed that Kalanga speaking societies first emerged in the middle Limpopo valley in the 9th century before moving on to the Zimbabwean highlands. The Zimbabwean plateau eventually became the centre of subsequent Kalanga states. The Kingdom of Mapungubwe was the first in a series of sophisticated trade states developed in Zimbabwe by the time of the first European explorers from Portugal. They traded in gold, ivory and copper for cloth and glass. From about 1250 until 1450, Mapungubwe was eclipsed by the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. This Kalanga state further refined and expanded upon Mapungubwe's stone architecture, which survives to this day at the ruins of the kingdom's capital of Great Zimbabwe. From circa 1450–1760, Zimbabwe gave way to the Kingdom of Mutapa. This Kalanga state ruled much of the area that is known as Zimbabwe today, and parts of central Mozambique. It is known by many names including the Mutapa Empire, also known as Mwenemutapa was known for its gold trade routes with Arabs and the Portuguese. However, Portuguese settlers destroyed the trade and began a series of wars which left the empire in near collapse in the early 17th century. [19] As a direct response to Portuguese aggression in the interior, a new Kalanga state emerged called the Rozwi Empire. Relying on centuries of military, political and religious development, the Rozwi (which means "destroyers") removed the Portuguese from the Zimbabwe plateau by force of arms. The Rozwi continued the stone building traditions of the Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe kingdoms while adding guns to its arsenal and developing a professional army to protect its trade routes and conquests. Around 1821, the Zulu general Mzilikazi of the Khumalo clan successfully rebelled from King Shaka and created his own clan, the Ndebele. The Ndebele fought their way northwards into the Transvaal, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and beginning an era of widespread devastation known as the Mfecane. When Boer trekkers converged on the Transvaal in 1836, they drove the tribe even further northward. By 1838, the Rozwi Empire, along with the other Shona states had been unconquered by the Ndebele. [ citation needed ]

After losing their remaining South African lands in 1840, Mzilikazi and his tribe permanently settled the southwest of present-day Zimbabwe in what became known as Matabeleland, establishing Bulawayo as their capital. Mzilikazi then organised his society into a military system with regimental kraals, similar to those of Shaka, which was stable enough to repel further Boer incursions. During the pre-colonial period, the Ndebele social structure was stratified. It was composed of mainly three social groups, Zansi, Enhla and Amahole. The Zansi comprised the ruling class the original Khumalo people who migrated from south of Limpopo with Mzilikazi. The Enhla and Amahole groups were made up of other tribes and ethnics who had been incorporated into the empire during the migration. However, with the passage of time, this stratification has slowly disappeared [20] The Ndebele people have for long ascribed to the worship of Unkunkulu as their supreme being. Their religious life in general, rituals, ceremonies, practices, devotion and loyalty revolves around the worship of this Supreme Being. However, with the popularisation of Christianity and other religions, Ndebele traditional religion is now uncommon [21]

Mzilikazi died in 1868 and, following a violent power struggle, was succeeded by his son, Lobengula. King Mzilikazi had established the Ndebele Kingdom, with Shona subjects paying tribute to him. The nascent kingdom encountered European powers for the first time and Lonbengula signed various treaties with the various nations jostling for power in the region, playing them off one another in order to preserve the sovereignty of his kingdom and gain the aid of the Europeans should the kingdom become involved in a war. [ citation needed ]

In the 1880s, British diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company (BSAC) started to make inroads into the region. In 1898, the name Southern Rhodesia was adopted. [22] In 1888, Rhodes obtained a concession for mining rights from King Lobengula of the Ndebele peoples. [23] Cecil Rhodes presented this concession to persuade the British government to grant a royal charter to his British South Africa Company over Matabeleland, and its subject states such as Mashonaland. Rhodes sought permission to negotiate similar concessions covering all territory between the Limpopo River and Lake Tanganyika, then known as 'Zambesia'. In accordance with the terms of aforementioned concessions and treaties, [24] Cecil Rhodes promoted the immigration of white settlers into the region, as well as the establishment of mines, primarily to extract the diamond ores present. [25] In 1895 the BSAC adopted the name 'Rhodesia' for the territory of Zambesia, in honour of Cecil Rhodes. In 1898, 'Southern Rhodesia' became the official denotation for the region south of the Zambezi, [26] which later became Zimbabwe. The region to the north was administered separately by the BSAC and later named Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

The Shona waged unsuccessful wars (known as Chimurenga) against encroachment upon their lands by clients of BSAC and Cecil Rhodes in 1896 and 1897. [27] [28] Following the failed insurrections of 1896–97 the Ndebele and Shona groups became subject to Rhodes's administration thus precipitating European settlement en masse in the new colony. [28]

The colony's first formal constitution was drafted in 1899, and copied various pieces of legislation directly from that of the Union of South Africa Rhodesia was meant to be, in many ways, a shadow colony of the Cape. Many within the administrative framework of the BSAC assumed that Southern Rhodesia, when its "development" was "suitably advanced", would "take its rightful place as a member of" the Union of South Africa after the Second Boer War (1898-1902), when the four South African colonies joined under the auspices of one flag and began to work towards the creation of a unified administrative structure. The territory was made open to white settlement, and these settlers were then in turn given considerable administrative powers, including a franchise that, while on the surface non-racial, ensured "a predominantly European electorate" which "operated to preclude Great Britain from modifying her policy in Southern Rhodesia and subsequently treating it as a territory inhabited mainly by Africans whose interests should be paramount and to whom British power should be transferred". [29]

Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony in October 1923, subsequent to a referendum held the previous year. The British government took full command of the British South Africa Company's holdings, including both Northern and Southern Rhodesia. Northern Rhodesia retained its status as a colonial protectorate Southern Rhodesia was given responsible self-government – with limitations and still annexed to the crown as a colony. Many studies of the country see it as a state that operated independently within the Commonwealth nominally under the rule of the Crown, but technically able to do as it pleased. And in theory, Southern Rhodesia was able to govern itself, draft its own legislation, and elect its own parliamentary leaders. But in reality, this was self-government subject to supervision. Until the white minority settler government's declaration of unilateral independence in 1965, London remained in control of the colony's external affairs, and all legislation was subject to approval from the United Kingdom Government and the Queen. [29]

In 1930, the Land Apportionment Act divided rural land along racial lines, creating four types of land: white-owned land that could not be acquired by Africans purchase areas for those Africans who could afford to purchase land Tribal Trust Lands designated as the African reserves and Crown lands owned by the state, reserved for future use and public parks. Fifty one percent of the land was given to approximately 50,000 white inhabitants, with 29.8 per cent left for over a million Africans. [30]

Many Rhodesians served on behalf of the United Kingdom during World War II, mainly in the East African Campaign against Axis forces in Italian East Africa.

In 1953, the British government consolidated the two colonies of Rhodesia with Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the ill-fated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which was dominated by Southern Rhodesia. This move was heavily opposed by the residents of Nyasaland, who feared coming under the domination of white Rhodesians. [31] In 1962, however, with growing African nationalism and general dissent, the British government declared that Nyasaland had the right to secede from the Federation soon afterwards, they said the same for Northern Rhodesia. [31]

After African-majority governments had assumed control in neighbouring Northern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland, the white-minority Southern Rhodesian government led by Ian Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965. The United Kingdom deemed this an act of rebellion, but did not re-establish control by force. The white minority government declared itself a republic in 1970. A civil war ensued, with Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU and Robert Mugabe's ZANU using assistance from the governments of Zambia and Mozambique. Although Smith's declaration was not recognised by the United Kingdom nor any other foreign power, Southern Rhodesia dropped the designation "Southern", and claimed nation status as the Republic of Rhodesia in 1970 [32] [33] although this was not recognised internationally.

The country gained official independence as Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980. The government held independence celebrations in Rufaro stadium in Salisbury, the capital. Lord Christopher Soames, the last Governor of Southern Rhodesia, watched as Charles, Prince of Wales, gave a farewell salute and the Rhodesian Signal Corps played "God Save the Queen". Many foreign dignitaries also attended, including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India, President Shehu Shagari of Nigeria, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, President Seretse Khama of Botswana, and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser of Australia, representing the Commonwealth of Nations. Bob Marley sang 'Zimbabwe', a song he wrote, at the government's invitation in a concert at the country's independence festivities. [34] [35]

President Shagari pledged $15 million at the celebration to train Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe and expatriates in Nigeria. Mugabe's government used part of the money to buy newspaper companies owned by South Africans, increasing the government's control over the media. The rest went to training students in Nigerian universities, government workers in the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria in Badagry, and soldiers in the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna. Later that year Mugabe commissioned a report by the BBC on press freedom in Zimbabwe. The BBC issued its report on 26 June, recommending the privatisation of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and its independence from political interests. [36] [37]

Mugabe's government changed the capital's name from Salisbury to Harare on 18 April 1982 in celebration of the second anniversary of independence. [38] The government renamed the main street in the capital, Jameson Avenue, in honour of Samora Machel, President of Mozambique.

In 1992, a World Bank study indicated that more than 500 health centres had been built since 1980. The percentage of children vaccinated increased from 25% in 1980 to 67% in 1988 and life expectancy increased from 55 to 59 years. Enrolment increased by 232 per cent one year after primary education was made free and secondary school enrolment increased by 33 per cent in two years. These social policies lead to an increase in the debt ratio. Several laws were passed in the 1980s in an attempt to reduce wage gaps. However, the gaps remained considerable. In 1988, the law gave women, at least in theory, the same rights as men. Previously, they could only take a few personal initiatives without the consent of their father or husband. [39]

The new Constitution provided for an executive [ citation needed ] President as Head of State with a Prime Minister as Head of Government. Reverend Canaan Banana served as the first President. In government amended the Constitution in 1987 to provide for an Executive President and abolished the office of Prime Minister. The constitutional changes came into effect on 1 January 1988 with Robert Mugabe as president. The bicameral Parliament of Zimbabwe had a directly elected House of Assembly and an indirectly elected Senate, partly made up of tribal chiefs. The Constitution established two separate voters rolls, one for the black majority, who had 80% of the seats in Parliament, and the other for whites and other ethnic minorities, such as Coloureds, people of mixed race, and Asians, who held 20%. The government amended the Constitution in 1986, eliminating the voter rolls and replacing the white seats with seats filled by nominated members. Many white MPs joined ZANU which then reappointed them. In 1990 the government abolished the Senate and increased the House of Assembly's membership to include members nominated by the President.

Prime Minister Mugabe kept Peter Walls, the head of the army, in his government and put him in charge of integrating the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), and the Rhodesian Army. While Western media outlets praised Mugabe's efforts at reconciliation with the white minority, tension soon developed. [40] On 17 March 1980, after several unsuccessful assassination attempts Mugabe asked Walls, "Why are your men trying to kill me?" Walls replied, "If they were my men you would be dead." [41] BBC news interviewed Walls on 11 August 1980. He told the BBC that he had asked British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to annul the 1980 election prior to the official announcement of the result on the grounds that Mugabe used intimidation to win the election. Walls said Thatcher had not replied to his request. On 12 August British government officials denied that they had not responded, saying Antony Duff, Deputy Governor of Salisbury, told Walls on 3 March that Thatcher would not annul the election. [42]

Minister of Information Nathan Shamuyarira said the government would not be "held ransom by racial misfits" and told "all those Europeans who do not accept the new order to pack their bags." He also said the government continued to consider taking "legal or administrative action" against Walls. Mugabe, returning from a visit with United States President Jimmy Carter in New York City, said, "One thing is quite clear—we are not going to have disloyal characters in our society." Walls returned to Zimbabwe after the interview, telling Peter Hawthorne of Time magazine, "To stay away at this time would have appeared like an admission of guilt." Mugabe drafted legislation that would exile Walls from Zimbabwe for life and Walls moved to South Africa. [43] [44]

Ethnic divisions soon came back to the forefront of national politics. Tension between ZAPU and ZANU erupted with guerrilla activity starting again in Matabeleland in south-western Zimbabwe. Nkomo (ZAPU) left for exile in Britain and did not return until Mugabe guaranteed his safety. In 1982 government security officials discovered large caches of arms and ammunition on properties owned by ZAPU, accusing Nkomo and his followers of plotting to overthrow the government. Mugabe fired Nkomo and his closest aides from the cabinet. [ citation needed ] Seven MPs, members of the Rhodesian Front, left Smith's party to sit as "independents" on 4 March 1982, signifying their dissatisfaction with his policies. [38] As a result of what they saw as persecution of Nkomo and his party, PF-ZAPU supporters, army deserters began a campaign of dissidence against the government. Centring primarily in Matabeleland, home of the Ndebeles who were at the time PF-ZAPU's main followers, this dissidence continued through 1987. It involved attacks on government personnel and installations, armed banditry aimed at disrupting security and economic life in the rural areas, and harassment of ZANU-PF members. [45]

Because of the unsettled security situation immediately after independence and democratic sentiments, the government kept in force a "state of emergency". This gave the government widespread powers under the "Law and Order Maintenance Act," including the right to detain persons without charge which it used quite widely. In 1983 to 1984 the government declared a curfew in areas of Matabeleland and sent in the army in an attempt to suppress members of the Ndebele tribe. The pacification campaign, known as the Gukuruhundi, or strong wind, resulted in at least 20,000 civilian deaths perpetrated by an elite, North Korean-trained brigade, known in Zimbabwe as the Gukurahundi.

ZANU-PF increased its majority in the 1985 elections, winning 67 of the 100 seats. The majority gave Mugabe the opportunity to start making changes to the constitution, including those with regard to land restoration. Fighting did not cease until Mugabe and Nkomo reached an agreement in December 1987 whereby ZAPU became part of ZANU-PF and the government changed the constitution to make Mugabe the country's first executive president and Nkomo one of two vice-presidents.

Elections in March 1990 resulted in another overwhelming victory for Mugabe and his party, which won 117 of the 120 election seats. Election observers estimated voter turnout at only 54% and found the campaign neither free nor fair [ citation needed ] , though balloting met international standards. Unsatisfied with a de facto one-party state, Mugabe called on the ZANU-PF Central Committee to support the creation of a de jure one-party state in September 1990 and lost. The government began further amending the constitution. The judiciary and human rights advocates fiercely criticised the first amendments enacted in April 1991 because they restored corporal and capital punishment and denied recourse to the courts in cases of compulsory purchase of land by the government. The general health of the civilian population also began to significantly flounder and by 1997 25% of the population of Zimbabwe had been infected by HIV, the AIDS virus.

During the 1990s students, trade unionists, and workers often demonstrated to express their discontent with the government. Students protested in 1990 against proposals for an increase in government control of universities and again in 1991 and 1992 when they clashed with police. Trade unionists and workers also criticised the government during this time. In 1992 police prevented trade unionists from holding anti-government demonstrations. In 1994 widespread industrial unrest weakened the economy. In 1996 civil servants, nurses, and junior doctors went on strike over salary issues.

On 9 December 1997 a national strike paralysed the country. Mugabe was panicked by demonstrations by Zanla ex-combatants, war veterans, who had been the heart of incursions 20 years earlier in the Bush War. He agreed to pay them large gratuities and pensions, which proved to be a wholly unproductive and unbudgeted financial commitment. The discontent with the government spawned draconian government crackdowns which in turn started to destroy both the fabric of the state and of society. This in turn brought with it further discontent within the population. Thus a vicious downward spiral commenced. [46]

Although many whites had left Zimbabwe after independence, mainly for neighbouring South Africa, those who remained continued to wield disproportionate control of some sectors of the economy, especially agriculture. In the late-1990s whites accounted for less than 1% of the population but owned 70% of arable land. Mugabe raised this issue of land ownership by white farmers. In a calculated move, he began forcible land redistribution, which brought the government into headlong conflict with the International Monetary Fund. Amid a severe drought in the region, the police and military were instructed not to stop the invasion of white-owned farms by the so-called 'war veterans' and youth militia. This hola

led to a mass migration of White Zimbabweans out of Zimbabwe. At present almost no arable land is in the possession of white farmers.

The economy during the 1980s and 1990s Edit

The economy was run along corporatist lines with strict governmental controls on all aspects of the economy. Controls were placed on wages, prices and massive increases in government spending resulting in significant budget deficits. This experiment met with very mixed results and Zimbabwe fell further behind the first world and unemployment. Some market reforms in the 1990s were attempted. A 40 per cent devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar was allowed to occur and price and wage controls were removed. These policies also failed at that time. Growth, employment, wages, and social service spending contracted sharply, inflation did not improve, the deficit remained well above target, and many industrial firms, notably in textiles and footwear, closed in response to increased competition and high real interest rates. The incidence of poverty in the country increased during this time.

However, Zimbabwe began experiencing a period of considerable political and economic upheaval in 1999. Opposition to President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF government grew considerably after the mid-1990s in part due to worsening economic and human rights conditions brought about by the seizure of farmland owned by white farmers and economic sanctions imposed by Western countries in response. [47] The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was established in September 1999 as an opposition party founded by trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai.

The MDC's first opportunity to test opposition to the Mugabe government came in February 2000, when a referendum was held on a draft constitution proposed by the government. Among its elements, the new constitution would have permitted President Mugabe to seek two additional terms in office, granted government officials immunity from prosecution, and authorised government seizure of white-owned land. The referendum was handily defeated. Shortly thereafter, the government, through a loosely organised group of war veterans, some of the so-called war veterans judging from their age were not war veterans as they were too young to have fought in the chimurenga, sanctioned an aggressive land redistribution program often characterised by forced expulsion of white farmers and violence against both farmers and farm employees. [ citation needed ]

Parliamentary elections held in June 2000 were marred by localised violence, and claims of electoral irregularities and government intimidation of opposition supporters. [ citation needed ] [48] Nonetheless, the MDC succeeded in capturing 57 of 120 seats in the National Assembly.

Presidential elections were held in March 2002. In the months leading up to the poll, ZANU-PF, with the support of the army, security services, and especially the so-called 'war veterans', – very few of whom actually fought in the Second Chimurenga against the Smith regime in the 1970s – set about wholesale intimidation and suppression of the MDC-led opposition [ citation needed ] . Despite strong international criticism, these measures, together with organised subversion of the electoral process, ensured a Mugabe victory [ citation needed ] . The government's behaviour drew strong criticism from the EU and the US, which imposed limited sanctions against the leading members of the Mugabe regime. Since the 2002 election, Zimbabwe has suffered further economic difficulty and growing political chaos.

Divisions within the opposition MDC had begun to fester early in the decade, after Morgan Tsvangirai (the president of the MDC) was lured [ citation needed ] into a government sting operation that videotaped him talking of Mr. Mugabe's removal from power. He was subsequently arrested and put on trial on treason charges. This crippled his control of party affairs and raised questions about his competence. It also catalysed a major split within the party. In 2004 he was acquitted, but not until after suffering serious abuse and mistreatment in prison. [ citation needed ] The opposing faction was led by Welshman Ncube who was the general secretary of the party. In mid-2004, vigilantes loyal to Mr. Tsvangirai began attacking members who were mostly loyal to Ncube, climaxing in a September raid on the party's Harare headquarters in which the security director was nearly thrown to his death. [49]

An internal party inquiry later established that aides to Tsvangirai had tolerated, if not endorsed, the violence. Divisive as the violence was, it was a debate over the rule of law that set off the party's final break-up in November 2005. These division severely weakened the opposition. In addition the government employed its own operatives to both spy on each side and to undermine each side via acts of espionage. [ citation needed ] Zimbabwean parliamentary election, 2005 were held in March 2005 in which ZANU-PF won a two-thirds majority, were again criticised by international observers as being flawed. [ citation needed ] Mugabe's political operatives were thus able to weaken the opposition internally and the security apparatus of the state was able to destabilise it externally by using violence in anti-Mugabe strongholds to prevent citizens from voting. [ citation needed ] Some voters were 'turned away' from polling station despite having proper identification [ citation needed ] , further guaranteeing that the government could control the results. Additionally Mugabe had started to appoint judges sympathetic to the government [ citation needed ] , making any judicial appeal futile. [ citation needed ] Mugabe was also able to appoint 30 of the members of parliament. [50]

As Senate elections approached further opposition splits occurred. Ncube's supporters argued that the M.D.C. should field a slate of candidates Tsvangirai's argued for a boycott. When party leaders voted on the issue, Ncube's side narrowly won, but Mr. Tsvangirai declared that as president of the party he was not bound by the majority's decision. [51] Again the opposition was weakened. As a result, the elections for a new Senate in November 2005 were largely boycotted by the opposition. Mugabe's party won 24 of the 31 constituencies where elections were held amid low voter turnout. Again, evidence surfaced of voter intimidation and fraud. [ citation needed ]

In May 2005 the government began Operation Murambatsvina. It was officially billed to rid urban areas of illegal structures, illegal business enterprises, and criminal activities. In practice its purpose was to punish political opponents [ citation needed ] . The UN estimates 700,000 people have been left without jobs or homes as a result. [ citation needed ] Families and traders, especially at the beginning of the operation, were often given no notice before police destroyed their homes and businesses. [ citation needed ] Others were able to salvage some possessions and building materials but often had nowhere to go, despite the government's statement that people should be returning to their rural homes. Thousands of families were left unprotected in the open in the middle of Zimbabwe's winter. [ citation needed ] , . The government interfered with non-governmental organisation (NGO) efforts to provide emergency assistance to the displaced in many instances. [ citation needed ] Some families were removed to transit camps, where they had no shelter or cooking facilities and minimal food, supplies, and sanitary facilities. The operation continued into July 2005, when the government began a program to provide housing for the newly displaced. [52]

Human Rights Watch said the evictions had disrupted treatment for people with HIV/AIDS in a country where 3,000 die from the disease each week and about 1.3 million children have been orphaned. The operation was "the latest manifestation of a massive human rights problem that has been going on for years", said Amnesty International. As of September 2006, housing construction fell far short of demand, and there were reports that beneficiaries were mostly civil servants and ruling party loyalists, not those displaced. The government campaign of forced evictions continued in 2006, albeit on a lesser scale. [52] [53]

In September 2005 Mugabe signed constitutional amendments that reinstituted a national senate (abolished in 1987) and that nationalised all land. This converted all ownership rights into leases. The amendments also ended the right of landowners to challenge government expropriation of land in the courts and marked the end of any hope of returning any land that had been hitherto grabbed by armed land invasions. Elections for the senate in November resulted in a victory for the government. The MDC split over whether to field candidates and partially boycotted the vote. In addition to low turnout there was widespread government intimidation. The split in the MDC hardened into factions, each of which claimed control of the party. The early months of 2006 were marked by food shortages and mass hunger. The sheer extremity of the siltation was revealed by the fact that in the courts, state witnesses said they were too weak from hunger to testify. [54]

In August 2006 runaway inflation forced the government to replace its existing currency with a revalued one. In December 2006, ZANU-PF proposed the "harmonisation" of the parliamentary and presidential election schedules in 2010 the move was seen by the opposition as an excuse to extend Mugabe's term as president until 2010.

Morgan Tsvangirai was badly beaten on 12 March 2007 after being arrested and held at Machipisa Police Station in the Highfield suburb of Harare. The event garnered an international outcry and was considered particularly brutal and extreme, even considering the reputation of Mugabe's government. Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme said "We are very concerned by reports of continuing brutal attacks on opposition activists in Zimbabwe and call on the government to stop all acts of violence and intimidation against opposition activists". [55]

The economy has shrunk by 50% from 2000 to 2007. In September 2007 the inflation rate was put at almost 8,000%, the world's highest. [56] There are frequent power and water outages. [57] Harare's drinking water became unreliable in 2006 and as a consequence dysentery and cholera swept the city in December 2006 and January 2007. [58] Unemployment in formal jobs is running at a record 80%. [59] There was widespread hunger, manipulated by the government so that opposition strongholds suffer the most. Availability of bread was severely constrained after a poor wheat harvest and the closure of all bakeries. [60]

The country, which used to be one of Africa's richest, became one of its poorest. Many observers now view the country as a 'failed state'. [61] [62] The settlement of the Second Congo War brought back Zimbabwe's substantial military commitment, although some troops remain to secure the mining assets under their control. The government lacks the resources or machinery to deal with the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which affects 25% of the population. With all this and the forced and violent removal of white farmers in a brutal land redistribution program, Mugabe has earned himself widespread scorn from the international arena. [63]

The regime has managed to cling to power by creating wealthy enclaves for government ministers, and senior party members. For example, Borrowdale Brook, a suburb of Harare is an oasis of wealth and privilege. It features mansions, manicured lawns, full shops with fully stocked shelves containing an abundance of fruit and vegetables, big cars and a golf club give is the home to President Mugabe's out-of-town retreat. [64]

Zimbabwe's bakeries shut down in October 2007 and supermarkets warned that they would have no bread for the foreseeable future due to collapse in wheat production after the seizure of white-owned farms. The ministry of agriculture has also blamed power shortages for the wheat shortfall, saying that electricity cuts have affected irrigation and halved crop yields per acre. The power shortages are because Zimbabwe relies on Mozambique for some of its electricity and that due to an unpaid bill of $35 million Mozambique had reduced the amount of electrical power it supplies. [65] On 4 December 2007, The United States imposed travel sanctions against 38 people with ties to President Mugabe because they "played a central role in the regime's escalated human rights abuses." [66]

On 8 December 2007, Mugabe attended a meeting of EU and African leaders in Lisbon, prompting UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to decline to attend. While German chancellor Angela Merkel criticised Mugabe with her public comments, the leaders of other African countries offered him statements of support. [67]

Deterioration of the educational system Edit

The educational system in Zimbabwe which was once regarded as among the best in Africa, went into crisis in 2007 because of the country's economic meltdown. One foreign reporter witnessed hundreds of children at Hatcliffe Extension Primary School in Epworth, 19 kilometres (12 miles) west of Harare, writing in the dust on the floor because they had no exercise books or pencils. The high school exam system unravelled in 2007. Examiners refused to mark examination papers when they were offered just Z$79 a paper, enough to buy three small candies. Corruption has crept into the system and may explain why in January 2007 thousands of pupils received no marks for subjects they had entered, while others were deemed "excellent" in subjects they had not sat. However, as of late the education system has recovered and is still considered the best in Southern Africa.

2008 elections Edit

Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a 2008 parliamentary election of 29 March. [68] The three major candidates were incumbent President Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and Simba Makoni, an independent. [69] As no candidate received an outright majority in the first round, a second round was held on 27 June 2008 between Tsvangirai (with 47.9% of the first round vote) and Mugabe (43.2%). Tsvangirai withdrew from the second round a week before it was scheduled to take place, citing violence against his party's supporters. The second round went ahead, despite widespread criticism, and led to victory for Mugabe.

Because of Zimbabwe's dire economic situation the election was expected to provide President Mugabe with his toughest electoral challenge to date. Mugabe's opponents were critical of the handling of the electoral process, and the government was accused of planning to rig the election Human Rights Watch said that the election was likely to be "deeply flawed". [70] After the first round, but before the counting was completed, Jose Marcos Barrica, the head of the Southern African Development Community observer mission, described the election as "a peaceful and credible expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe."

No official results were announced for more than a month after the first round. [71] The failure to release results was strongly criticised by the MDC, which unsuccessfully sought an order from the High Court to force their release. An independent projection placed Tsvangirai in the lead, but without the majority needed to avoid a second round. The MDC declared that Tsvangirai won a narrow majority in the first round and initially refused to participate in any second round. [72] ZANU-PF has said that Mugabe will participate in a second round [73] the party alleged that some electoral officials, in connection with the MDC, fraudulently reduced Mugabe's score, and as a result a recount was conducted.

After the recount and the verification of the results, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced on 2 May that Tsvangirai won 47.9% and Mugabe won 43.2%, thereby necessitating a run-off, [71] which was to be held on 27 June 2008. [74] Despite Tsvangirai's continuing claims to have won a first round majority, he refused to participate in the second round. [75] [76] The period following the first round was marked by serious political violence caused by ZANU-PF. ZANU-PF blamed the MDC supporters for perpetrating this violence Western governments and prominent Western organisations have blamed ZANU-PF for the violence which seems very likely to be true. [77] [78] On 22 June 2008, Tsvangirai announced that he was withdrawing from the run-off, describing it as a "violent sham" and saying that his supporters risked being killed if they voted for him. [79] The second round nevertheless went ahead as planned with Mugabe as the only actively participating candidate, although Tsvangirai's name remained on the ballot. [80] Mugabe won the second round by an overwhelming margin and was sworn in for another term as president on 29 June. [81] [82] [83]

The international reaction to the second round have varied. The United States and states of the European Union have called for increased sanctions. [84] On 11 July, the United Nations Security Council voted to impose sanctions on the Zimbabwe Russia and China vetoed. [85] [86] The African Union has called for a "government of national unity." [87]

Preliminary talks to set up conditions for official negotiations began between leading negotiators from both parties on 10 July, and on 22 July, the three party leaders met for the first time in Harare to express their support for a negotiated settlement of disputes arising out of the presidential and parliamentary elections. Negotiations between the parties officially began on 25 July and are currently proceeding with very few details released from the negotiation teams in Pretoria, as coverage by the media is barred from the premises where the negotiations are taking place. The talks were mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

On 15 September 2008, the leaders of the 14-member Southern African Development Community witnessed the signing of the power-sharing agreement, brokered by South African leader Thabo Mbeki. With symbolic handshake and warm smiles at the Rainbow Towers hotel, in Harare, Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed the deal to end the violent political crisis. As provided, Robert Mugabe will remain president, Morgan Tsvangirai will become prime minister, [88] ZANU-PF and the MDC will share control of the police, Mugabe's Zanu (PF) will command the Army, and Arthur Mutambara becomes deputy prime minister. [89] [90]

Marange diamond fields massacre Edit

In November 2008 the Air Force of Zimbabwe was sent, after some police officers began refusing orders to shoot the illegal miners at Marange diamond fields. [91] Up to 150 of the estimated 30,000 [92] illegal miners were shot from helicopter gunships. In 2008 some Zimbabwean lawyers and opposition politicians from Mutare claimed that Shiri was the prime mover behind the military assaults on illegal diggers in the diamond mines in the east of Zimbabwe. [93] Estimates of the death toll by mid-December range from 83 reported by the Mutare City Council, based on a request for burial ground, to 140 estimated by the (then) opposition Movement for Democratic Change - Tsvangirai party. [91] [94]

2009–2017 Edit

In January 2009, Morgan Tsvangirai announced that he would do as the leaders across Africa had insisted and join a coalition government as prime minister with his nemesis, President Robert Mugabe . [95] On 11 February 2009 Tsvangirai was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. [96] [97] [98] By 2009 inflation had peaked at 500 billion % per year under the Mugabe government and the Zimbabwe currency was worthless. [99] The opposition shared power with the Mugabe regime between 2009 and 2013, Zimbabwe switched to using the US dollar as currency and the economy improved reaching a growth rate of 10% per year. [99]

In 2013 the Mugabe government won an election which The Economist described as "rigged," [99] doubled the size of the civil service and embarked on ". misrule and dazzling corruption." However, the United Nations, African Union and SADC endorsed the elections as free and fair. [99]

By 2016 the economy had collapsed, nationwide protests took place throughout the country [100] and the finance minister admitted "Right now we literally have nothing." [99] There was the introduction of bond notes to literally fight the biting cash crisis and liquidity crunch. Cash became scarce on the market in the year 2017.

On Wednesday 15 November 2017 the military placed President Mugabe under house arrest and removed him from power. [101] The military stated that the president was safe. The military placed tanks around government buildings in Harare and blocked the main road to the airport. Public opinion in the capital favored the dictators removal although they were uncertain about his replacement with another dictatorship. [102] The Times reported that Emmerson Mnangagwa helped to orchestrate the coup. He had recently been sacked by Mr Mugabe so that the path could be smoothed for Grace Mugabe to replace her husband. [103] A Zimbabwean army officer, Major General Sibusiso Moyo, went on television to say the military was targeting "criminals" around President Mugabe but not actively removing the president from power. However the head of the African Union described it as such. [104]

Ugandan writer Charles Onyango-Obbo stated on Twitter "If it looks like a coup, walks like a coup and quacks like a coup, then it's a coup". Naunihal Singh, an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval War College and author of a book on military coups, described the situation in Zimbabwe as a coup. He tweeted that "'The President is safe' is a classic coup catch-phrase" of such an event. [105]

Robert Mugabe resigned 21 November 2017. Second Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko became the Acting President. [106] Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as president on 24 November 2017. [107]

2018–2019 Edit

General elections were held on 30 July 2018 to elect the president and members of both houses of parliament. Ruling party ZANU-PF won the majority of seats in parliament, incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner after receiving 50.8% of votes. The opposition accused the government of rigging the vote. In subsequent riots by MDC supporters, the army opened fire and killed three people, while three others died of their injuries the following day. [108]

Political History of Zimbabwe Since 1980

The political history of Zimbabwe has been one of radical shifts and turns. Winning its political independence from white minority rule in 1980, Zimbabwe emerged as a promising nation. The new prime minister, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, preached hope and reconciliation. There was euphoria at independence as the nation celebrated political freedom achieved through war and highly emotive negotiations at Lancaster House Conference. Before the first half of the decade passed, the new government was already engaged in a war against its citizens, dubbed Gukurahundi. By the end of the decade, it was also clear that its socialist rhetoric and corruption, among other things, were plunging the nation into an economic crisis, which drove the nation into the jaws of the IMF and World Bank. The economic crisis only worsened, and the so-called neoliberal era in the 1990s sent the nation into an economic quagmire. The economy has always been inextricably intertwined with the politics of the country. Political (mis)calculations triggered economic problems, while on other occasions the reverse was true. The years 2000–2009, in particular, were truly a lost decade. The century began with the controvertible Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). After a period of extreme political tensions in the country, a Government of National Unit (GNU) was established in 2009 in which the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), and the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), came to form a government. The period from 2010 to 2013 seemed to offer some relief to the nation, partly as a result of the GNU. However, this honeymoon was short-lived. As soon as ZANU PF regained power after the contested 2013 elections, there was a noticeable decline of the economy. Meanwhile, as the economy melted, power struggles intensified within ZANU PF. These reached their peak in 2017, culminating in what has come to be known as the November coup that saw the demise of Mugabe and the takeover by his deputy, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, as president. The post-coup era in Zimbabwe has been a period of political drama and deeper economic challenges.

Zimbabwe — History and Culture

Zimbabwe’s turbulent past at the hands of uncompromising colonizers is evident in the ruins of ancient African kingdoms and the legacy of British culture. Yet despite the nation’s past, the Zimbabwean people have managed to retain much of their roots and ethnic identity. From traditional artwork and African rhythms to the latest American and British pop songs, Zimbabwe has been able to find a happy medium between old and new.


In the 13th and 14th centuries, Zimbabwe was the seat of one of the greatest African civilizations. The region was inhabited mainly by Bantu tribes who descended from the north and subsequently survived a mostly pastoral lifestyle. The impressive structures that were constructed during this period can be found at the Great Zimbabwe National Monument in Masvingo.

During the 1800’s, Zimbabwe underwent a period of aggressive colonization at the hands of the British who were intent on seizing the country’s rich mineral reserves. The British South Africa Company led by Cecil John Rhodes, took control of the territory, which came to be known as Southern Rhodesia. In 1923, the British Government annexed the area and Southern Rhodesia became an official British colony.

With the wave of decolonization gaining strength in the late 1950’s, the European population issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1960. This move sparked a civil war between the white settlers and the black resistance movements. The war came to a head in 1980 when a culmination of harsh United Nation sanctions and intensive guerilla action led to the country’s first free and fair elections. During these elections, ZANU PF claimed the majority of the vote and Robert Mugabe was elected president.

Today, Zimbabwe’s political and economic state is volatile. The ZANU PF government’s tyrannical hold on power has resulted in complete economic collapse, an inability to effectively handle the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and a pseudo-democratic state. A power-sharing deal signed by both the ZANU PF government and the leader of the opposition, the MDC, in 2008 is hoped to improve conditions in the country.


Zimbabwe’s culture is extremely diverse as a result of the many indigenous groups which call the country home. While Shona is the largest ethnic group with the predominant hold in many areas, there are several other groups which have influenced the Zimbabwe of today.

Authorities are very sensitive about taking pictures of governmental buildings, military installations and embassies. A permit can be granted by the government, but it’s not worth upsetting anyone for a memory so be careful about what you’re snapping. It is also interesting to note that homosexuality is illegal and dressing provocatively is one sign of that so better to dress modestly.

Traditional art in Zimbabwe is made up of several different skills, including weaving, pottery, sewing, and carving. The Shona people are renowned for their ornate wooden carvings of idols and ancient gods, while the Ndebele are known for their colorful textiles and hand-painted materials.

Music is also a large part of the Zimbabwean culture. While many of the indigenous beats have been neutralized by international styles like rock and pop, the country retains some of its traditional music. The mbira, or thumb piano, is a common instrument and the sungura is a popular local style of music.

Zimbabwe: History

The British South Africa Company gains a mandate from Britain to colonize Southern Rhodesia, present day Zimbabwe.

Britain creates the Central African Federation, made up of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Lasts for a decade until Malawi and Zambia gain independence.

Zimbabwe is internationally recognized as an independent country and joins the British Commonwealth.

Zimbabwe experiences an economic crisis driven primarily by high interest and inflation rates, causing riots and strikes.

Due to the president's decision to implement a new land seizure program, the World Bank and IMF decided cut their financial aid, putting more pressure on the country's economy and leading to serious food shortages.

The European Union imposes sanctions on Zimbabwe following a new law limiting media freedom.

Zimbabwe leaves from the British Commonwealth after being suspended indefinitely.

A new "indigenization" law forces foreign-owned businesses to sell majority stakes to locals.

The Kimberly Process, which regulates the global diamond industry, lifts a ban on the export of diamonds from two of Zimbabwe's Marange fields.

Central Bank phases out the Zimbabwe dollar, formalizing the multi-currency system introduced to counter hyper-inflation.

Mistakes that shaped the history of Zimbabwe

Nikhil Chandwani is an author of 10 Books, TED(x) Speaker, and Founder- Writers' Rescue Centre. He was recently awarded the Rashtriya Gaurav Award in 2019 for excellence in so cial entrepreneurship. His firm, Writers' Rescue Centre has given voice to over 211 individuals in India through a Gurukul System. Nikhil is a believer of Sanatan Dharma and vows to bring back the real history of India. LESS . MORE

Zimbabwe is a landlocked nation in southern Africa known for its diverse wildlife and exciting landscape, much of it within reserves, parks, and safari areas. Victoria Falls makes a splendid 108m drop into narrow Batoka Gorge on the Zambezi River, where there’s bungee jumping and white-water rafting. Downstream are Mana Pools and Matusadona national parks, home to rhino, hippos, and birdlife.

Today’s article is the first of its series where we dig out certain unfortunate moments and mistakes that molded the history of different regions around the globe. In this piece, we explore the Mistakes that Shaped the History of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, and South Africa were ruled by the ambitious Kingdom of Mutapa from 1430–1760 CE. The proven narrative of the Kingdom’s origins is that Prince Mutota had moved away from Great Zimbabwe after going to war with Prince Mukwati over control of the Kingdom. The war pushed Prince Mutota outside the Great Zimbabwe region, and the newfound land became the Kingdom of Mutapa. When the Portuguese landed in Mozambique, the Mutapa Kingdom was the premier state in the region with a strong, active army. The Portuguese entered into direct relations with the Kingdom of Mutapa in 1562 CE. After learning about the Kingdom’s gold, the Portuguese used commerce to build a bond with the prosperous Kingdom.

However, the Portuguese willingly committed a gaffe which ensured the fall of the Mutapa Kingdom. In 1561 CE, a Portuguese missionary Jesuit managed to move to the Kingdom’s court and convert him to Christianity.

The natives with different faiths and Muslim traders opposed this conversion, and they convinced the king to kill the Jesuit. This was why the Portuguese wanted to infiltrate the interior and take control of the ivory routes and gold mines. After a long preparation, Portugal launched an army of 1,000 men under Francisco Barreto in 1568 CE. They managed to invade as far as the Zambezi, but local disease destroyed the force. The Portuguese came back to their base in 1572 CE and took their frustrations out on the Swahili traders, whom they decimated. This war with Portugal proved to be fatal, and a 300-year-old Civilisation collapsed. Zimbabwe lost a rich and prosperous kingdom.


In the 1880s CE, British diamond tycoon Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company moved into the Zimbabwe territory with little-to-no opposition as the land was without a powerful kingdom. In 1888 CE, Rhodes received a concession for mining rights from a local native king. In 1898 CE, the name Southern Rhodesia was adopted. Southern Rhodesia’ became the standard denotation for the neighborhood south of the Zambezi, which later became Zimbabwe.

The Natives from the region (Shona People) waged ineffective wars (known as Chimurenga) against infringement upon their lands by clients of BSAC and Cecil Rhodes in 1896 CE and 1897 CE. Shona tribes were defeated. British massacred the entire tribe using local mercenaries, and this was a historical blunder that needs to be pointed out. History is a great teacher, and the native tribes hold the history of local territories. When the local mercenaries under the Brits destroyed the natives, the majority of the history of the Zimbabwe land was lost.

Independence – 1980 – today

Zimbabwe gained official independence on 18 April 1980 CE. President Mugabe moved and roads and squares named after colonial figures were renamed after black nationalists. The initial years of Mugabe were good. However, things were about to change.

The fear of formidable opposition and the inclination towards using violence against ideological enemies made President Mugabe a dangerous man.

In the Gukurahundi of 1982–1987, Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade annihilated ZAPU-linked opposition in Matabeleland in a conflict that killed at least 15,000 people, primarily Ndebele civilians. If you kill your opposition, your new enemies are your supporters.

Mugabe used the foreign grants and aid received by Zimbabwe to buy private newspaper companies and bring them under state control.

In the late 1990s CE, Zimbabwe’s administration launched land reforms intended to expel white landowners and put their holdings in the hands of black nationalists. However, many of these &quotblack nationalists&quot had no experience or training in farming. This destroyed the agriculture sector in Zimbabwe.

During the 1990s CE, trade unionists and students came out on the streets to protest. Students complained in 1990 CE against proposals for an increase in government control of colleges and again in 1991 CE and 1992 CE when they clashed with police—going against students is bad for politics. Workers and trade unionists also criticized the administration during this time. In 1992 CE, police stopped trade leaders from holding anti-government demonstrations. In 1994 CE, a widespread industrial crisis undermined the economy. In 1996 CE, nurses, civil servants, and doctors went on strike over salary issues. The dissatisfaction with the government generated draconian government crackdowns, which started to slaughter both the fabric of the society and state. This, in turn, brought with it additional discontent within the population. It felt like a loop that had engulfed Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe History - History


The name Zimbabwe is derived from the Shona, dzimba dzemabwe, meaning houses of stone or stone buildings, today symbolized by the Great Zimbabwe Ruins near the present day town of Masvingo. Zimbawe has a rich history, not only of achievement, innovation, co-operation and economic prosperity, but also of conflict, trials and tribulations that reflects the dynamism of its peoples. Many scholars, past and present, have enhanced our knowledge of the Zimbabwean past through their works. Particularly important in our understanding of the pre-colonial past have been the works of archaeologists, linguists, historians, oral traditions and records of 16 th century Portuguese traders that interacted with central and southern Africa during that time.

Pre-colonial history

Pre-colonial Zimbabwe was a multi-ethnic society inhabited by the Shangni/Tsonga in the south-eastern parts of the Zimbabwe plateau, the Venda in the south, the Tonga in the north, the Kalanga and Ndebele in the south-west, the Karanga in the southern parts of the plateau, the Zezuru and Korekore in the northern and central parts, and finally, the Manyika and Ndau in the east. Scholars have tended to lump these various groups into two huge ethnic blocs, namely ‘Ndebele’ and ‘Shona’ largely because of their broadly similar languages, beliefs and institutions. (The term Shona itself is however, an anachronism, it did not exist until the 19 th century when it was coined by enemies as an insult it conflates linguistic, cultural and political attributes of ethnically related people). The political, social, and economic, relations of these groups were complex, dynamic, fluid and always changing. They were characterised by both conflict and co-operation.

Huge empires emerged in pre-colonial Zimbabwe, namely the Great Zimbabwe State, the Mutapa State, the

Rozvi State, the Torwa state, Rozvi states and the Ndebele state. Great Zimbabwe was a majestic ancient stone city that flourished near the modern town of Masvingo from about 1290 to 1450 on the strength of a powerful and organised society. It thrived on the foundation of favourable agricultural conditions, cattle-keeping, great mineral wealth and most significantly, both regional and long distance trade. Trade was conducted with such far away areas as China, India, the Middle East and the Near East, East and West Africa, among other regional and inter-regional areas. Persian bowls, Chinese dishes, Near Eastern glass and other such items have been excavated at Great Zimbabwe, signifying the trade contacts with these far away places. Other trade goods identified with Great Zimbabwe included a variety of glass beads, brass wire, seashells iron wire, axe heads and chisels. Local goods included ivory, iron gongs, gold wire and beads, soapstone dishes and other items. The art of weaving was practised and some locals wore locally woven cloth. Some of the finest and most enduring finds at Great Zimbabwe were the seven or so soapstone bird carvings sitting on decorated monoliths. It is speculated that these were religious symbols signifying the point that Great Zimbawe may have been a political, economic and cultural centre of great religious importance.

The period of prosperity at Great Zimbabwe was, however, followed by decline and abandonment due to shortages of food, pastures and natural resources in general, not only at Great Zimbabwe, but in the city’s most immediate neighbourhood. Shona traditions identify Mutota, a Mbire ruler, as the leader who led his people to found a new kingdom, the Mutapa, in the Dande area in the Zambezi Valley where smaller and less spectaculor madzimbahwe were built. By the late 15 th century, Great Zimbabwe had completely lost its wealth, trade, political and cultural importance. Today, Great Zimbabwe is preserved as a valuable cultural centre and tourist attraction. It epitomises what has certainly been the finest and highest achievement of Shona civilisation.

By about the 14 th century, the process of political centralisation had begun among the Shona-speaking people. This has largely been attributed to good economic conditions that ensured successful harvests and the accumulation of surplus grain, animals and other forms of wealth, which in turn stimulated population growth, allowing some individuals to assume positions of leadership. The decline of Great Zimbabwe thus allowed Mutota to conquer the Korekore and Tavara of the Dande and Chidema areas. Oral traditions have it Mutota’s victims were so impressed that they nicknamed him Mwene Mutapa, ‘owner of conquered lands’ or ‘master pillager’, hence the birth of the Mutapa dynasty. He then embarked on an expansionist policy that resulted in the creation of a vast empire the Mwene Mutapa or simply, Mutapa, state, which stretched from the Zambezi valley into the Mozambique lowlands and towards the fringes of the Kalahari Desert. The Mutapa’s control in these far away lands may, however, have been peripheral and not regular. (In fact, the vastness of the empire partly explains the breakup of the Mutapa state.)

An important feature of the Mutapa state way of life was the close link between politics and religion. So, when the Portuguese reached the Mutapa state, they sought to penetrate it through religion. When father Gonzalo da Silveira arrived in December 1560, he worked on converting the royal family to Christianity. He was largely successful in this because the vast empire had become heavily riddled with conspiracies, coup plots, succession disputes and civil wars to the extent that the reigning Mutapa probably wanted Portuguese help to hold on to power. The King, however, soon turned around and renounced Christianity, leading to the murder of da Silveira, henceforth marking a turn in Portuguese – Mutapa relations. Punitive expeditions were sent to assist the Mutapa’s enemies, particularly Mavhura, a rival claimant to the Mutapa kingship. For their help, the Portuguese demanded that Mavhura sign treaties of vassalage to the Portugal, thus tying the Mutapa state to the Portuguese crown. The Portuguese took this opportunity to advance their imperial interests by using slave labour to work on the land they acquired under these treaties. This resulted in many armed conflicts in the area, causing many Shona to flee to the south where Changamire’s rule was being established.

This era of puppet Mutapas, however, came to an end due to the rise of reformists within the Mutapa royal family, led by Mutapa Mukombwe in 1663, eventuality giving rise to a class of rulers known as the VaRozvi. Between 1663 and 1704, Mukombwe and his successors successfully drove the Portuguese off their prazos with the support of the Tonga in the Zambezi valley and the Chikanga of Manyika. Mukombewe achieved the important feat of resettling Mutapa families in the lands he had freed.

However, Mutapa Mukombwe faced rebellion, a development that gave rise to the Rozvi State. Changamire Dombo defeated a pinitive Mutapa army after rebelling in 1684. He established and consolidated his control in the western Butwa/Butua area once dominated by the Kalanga as well as in the lands of the Manyika and in the trading centres of mainland Mutapa. Dombo and his successors established the Changamire dynasty and ruled over the territory that includes most parts of what is now Zimbabwe.

The economy was the cornerstone of the Rozvi State’s survival. Taking advantage of the dry grasslands, low trees and excellent pastureland of Guruuswa, the Rozvi raised large heads of cattle, goats and sheep. Crop farming also thrived. Pottery, blacksmithing, weaving and basketry were also important economic activities while the specialized iron industry produced tools and weapons. Surplus products were for trading. Gold mining and game hunting were however low key activities. The Rozvi, having ‘grown’ out of the Mutapa state, were well aware of the destructive activities of the Portuguese traders. They thus adopted an indirect way of dealing with the Portuguese. Trade was carried out through special agents called vashambadzi or through markets in the Mutapa areas. This policy allowed the Rozvi to maintain their political independence. Finally a combined Rozvi-Mutapa force managed to drive out the Portuguese out of the Zimbabwe high veld by 1694. After these celebrated anti-Portuguese campaigns of the 1680s and 1690s, Portuguese mercantilism never again made any serious attempts to establish control over Zimbabwe.

However, like the Mutapa state before it, the Rozvi state collapsed under the weight of its vastness which could not be sustained by its ‘feudal’ structures in the face of growing pressures from the Mfecane groups advancing from the south. From about 1826, the region discussed above was subjected to sever pressure from migrants fleeing from the Mfecane disturbances south of the Limpopo. By 1838, as many as five Nguni groups had passed through or settled in the region, each bombarding the Rozvi state and transforming the way of life of the local people.

Two of these groups, the Ndebele and the Gaza, however eventually settled permanently in Zimbabwe and subjected several Shona groups to their rule. The new settlers introduced a system of tributary control premised on the threat of military use. These newcomers not only dismantled the core of the Rozvi ruling elite, but also scattered its varying factions in all directions. Mzilikazi’s Ndebele state thus subjugated and or incorporated into Ndebele society some Rozvi houses. However, as the Ndebele pursued their Shona enemies on the plateau, they nevertheless deferred to Shona spirit mediums. Mzilikazi’s son and successor, Lobengula, actually strengthened his relations with the Mwari cult. By the 1850s, Ndebele rule stretched over the Zambezi, the Mafungavutsi plateau and Gokwe, with the Shona chiefs there paying tribute to the Ndebele. However, by 1879, Ndebele power was itself coming under serious threat from some Shona groups as Ndebeleimpis were being defeated due to the gradual adoption and proliferation of guns by most southern Shona groups.

The Ndebele had to establish a strong military presence to establish their authority in their newly acquired land. Besides subduing the original Shona rulers, they had to content with the Boers from the Transvaal who in 1847 crossed the Limpopo and destroyed some Ndebele villages in the periphery of Ndebele country. Then there were the numerous hunters and adventurers who also entered the country to the south. Over and above these were the missionaries and traders all these groups threatened the internal security and stability of the kingdom. After protracted diplomatic negotiations with Robert Moffat, the Ndebele allowed the London Missionary Society to establish a mission station at Inyati in 1852. Through the influence of traders, hunters, missionaries and other fortune seekers, the value of the Ndebele area had become well known to the while communities in the South by the late 1860s, paving the way for the complex encounters that culminated in colonial subjugation.

While it is a source of pride that there were these huge influential pre-colonial Zimbabwe states, it should be noted that a lot happened before and after them as well as outside their boundaries. Pre-colonial Zimbabwe is not just about the big states. The majority of Zimbabweans lived in smaller units inhabiting different kinds of environment, but they inevitably had links with the larger societies.

Pre-colonial Zimbabwe societies, large and small, were mainly farming communities who adopted iron to modenise their agriculture and cultivate more extensively than their stone age predecessors. They also practiced pastoralism and put much faith in their livestock. Cattle were an important indicator of wealth and a means of maintaining clients over and above being useful as commodities for bride wealth and as objects of sacrifice in the propitiation of the ancestors. External trade was an equally important activity in the Zimbabwe subsistence-oriented economy while gold mining was a seasonal activity, confined largely to the summer and winter seasons although gold washing continued through out the year and remained the main source of the gold for trade. Even the Ndebele, who early historians described as largely predatory, relied more on cultivation than anything else. Cattle keeping only augmented their economy while tribute collection was principally a means of imposing political control, not a mode of survival.

Zimbabwe flag history - History of zimbabwe - History of malnutrition in zimbabwe

With the advent of the Portuguese in the 16th century, not only was the trade shattered but the empire was crippled as well. However, many of the Shona states together formed the Rozwi Empire and fought against the Portuguese. By 1690, the rule once under Mwene Mutapa was taken over by the Rozwi. The next two centuries witnessed prosperity until the fall of the Rozwi Empire in the 19th century. The treaty of 1888 with the British South Africa Company granted them the permission to mine gold in the territory. The authority of the Ndebele was ousted in 1893 with the increase in the European immigration. More.

Even in this century, Zimbabwe is enveloped by diverse challenges in the form of HIV/AIDS, dying economic condition, drought, non-proficiency in the agricultural domain and lack of basic social amenities to the people. Insufficiency of food stands out as one of the chief concerns in this region.

The year 2008 witnessed Zimbabwe going through immensely difficult period in terms of its economy and the state of its people. Extreme child malnutrition spread in parts of Zimbabwe targeting many innocent lives. The political turmoil in the country has led to the scarcity in terms of cash, fuel, medical drugs, electricity and food. In order to tackle the severe malnutrition condition in Zimbabwe, attention needs to be focused on health, maternal care and food availability. It is rather unfortunate that a country at one time referred to as the bread basket of Africa stands today at the point of starvation. More.

The National Flag of Zimbabwe was instated on April 18, 1980. The flag of Zimbabwe projects seven horizontal bands of equal width in the colors of green, yellow, red, black, red, yellow and green. The exact ratio of the shape of the flag is 1:2 which denotes the length to be twice the height.

The flag further depicts a white isosceles triangle bordered in black with its bottom on the hoist side. The Zimbabwe emblem highlighted in the flag represents a yellow Zimbabwe bird that symbolizes the history of the country while the red five pointed star denotes peace. Each color of the flag also stands for a specific meaning. Green represents the land and agriculture which in turn points towards optimism and happiness. Yellow denotes mineral wealth, red reminds the people of the blood that the martyrs shed to attain independence, black represents the natives of the country and finally the white denotes peace and integrity. More.

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