History of Zimbabwe

History of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe history can be dated back to the stone structures at Khami, Great Zimbabwe and Dhlo-Dhlo as they are the first indications of civilisation around what is now known as Zimbabwe, or to give it its full title, the Republic of Zimbabwe. The first major civilisation in the history of the now country was that of the Mwene Mutapa and the centuries between 1200 - 1600 saw the rise and fall of the Monomotapa (or Mutapa) Empire which was brought to its knees in the early seventeenth century by Portuguese traders and settlers. From the ruins of the empire came a new aggressive Rozwi Empire which expunged the Portuguese and augured peace and prosperity for the next two centuries with the centres of Dhlo-Dhlo, Khami, and Great Zimbabwe reaching their peaks until, as a result of the mid-19th century turmoil in the Transvaal and Natal, the Rozwi Empire came to an end being conquered by the Ndebele (a branch of the Zulus).In the 1880s Zimbabwe history took a colonial turn when the Europeans arrived in the south of the country including one Cecil John Rhodes whose British South Africa Company signed a treaty in 1888 with the Ndebele to mine gold in the kingdom. Following this treaty, the British Government gave the BSA Company a mandate in 1889 to colonise the area that was to become Southern Rhodesia however the rapid influx of European settlers led to conflict with the Ndebele in 1893. The Ndebele were defeated and the colonisation began in earnest (above).

In 1922 Rhodes' British South Africa Company mandate over the area was ended and despite being in a minority, the whites in the area voted for self-government and shortly afterwards consolidated their position by introducing the Land Apportionment Act in 1930, effectively precluding blacks from land possession (at least any decent farm land) and a further labour law four years later preventing black Africans from entering skilled trades and professions. As a result of these two acts, the native black population were at the beck and mercy of the whites being virtually forced to work on whatever wages and conditions were applied in white factories and mines and on white farms. This triggered a rising intolerance of colonial rule and the emergence of nationalist groups including the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) reflecting a rapid radicalisation of the work force against a background of increasing numbers of African countries succeeding in throwing off their colonial 'masters' and establishing themselves as independent republics.

Central African Federation

In 1953 the British government responded by creating the Central African Federation (above), made up of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) which was to last for ten years until Malawi and Zambia were granted independence in 1963 with African-majority governments. However Southern Rhodesia was not granted independence in the same manner as no consensus could be agreed on the nature of the post-independence government, with the British wanting a multi-racial democracy against the express wishes of the ruling white minority government. Ian Smith, then Prime Minister, broke this impasse on 11th November 1965 by making a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) which effectively expelled Rhodesia from the international community and triggered sanctions against his regime. Despite this, Smith's position remained relatively secure until South African Prime Minister B.J. Vorster unexpectedly turned against the Smith regime, removing border police and limiting supplies into Rhodesia including fuel and ammunitions, severely hampering Smith's ability to contain the ongoing insurgency.

This action by South Africa gave Zanu and Zapu fresh impetus and they stepped up their nationalist independence campaigns operating mainly out of Mozambique and Zambia which eventually led to peace talks at Lancaster House in London in 1979 paving the way for a new constitution for the country which guaranteed black rights. Elections the following year saw one Robert Mugabe and his Zanu party elected to power and the country formally gained its full internationally accepted independence on 18th April 1980. Following this election, Ian Smith remained in parliament as the official opposition leader with his renamed party, the Republican Front, remaining a whites only party, however it was attracted dwindling support and, at the subsequent election of 1985, Smith found himself out of parliament and in retirement. He remained in Zimbabwe as an outspoken critic of Robert Mugabe until relocating to an ex-pat Rhodesian community in 2006 in South Africa to live with his bereaved daughter-in-law. He died the following year aged 88. Some look back on his rule and conclude that "the policies of his Rhodesia Front party radicalized black nationalists and directly spawned the violent and fascist rule of Zanu PF." Mugabe remained in power running a brutal and economically inept goverment until he was ousted in 2017.

Zimbabwe History: Volunteer in Zimbabwe

Volunteer in Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe History: Life in Zimbabwe

Life in Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe History: Sponsor Children in Zimbabwe

Sponsor Children in Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe History: Zimbabwe Country Profile

African Country Profiles: Zimbabwe

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