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The History of Zimbabwe

History of The History of ZimbabweThe area that is today Zimbabwe had been populated by bantams for hundreds of years when European settlers began to arrive in the latter half of the 19th century. In 1923, the country became a British colony named Southern Rhodesia. In 1965, the white minority government in Rhodesia declared the country to be independent, but the secession from Britain was not internationally recognized.

After a liberation war, the country became an independent nation in 1980, taking the name Zimbabwe, after the ruin city of Great Zimbabwe, the capital of the historic kingdom of Zimbabwe.

History of Zimbabwe

Older history

Zimbabwe is one of the most populous parts of Africa. Archaeological finds from around 500,000 years ago probably originate from the ancestors of the hunter and sanctuary people who found refuge in the country about 20,000 years ago and for which there are many finds in the form of cave paintings. They belonged probably san - the people who lived throughout southern Africa. They were later displaced, including to the Kalahari Desert, where they are still living. Bantu-speaking peoples immigrated from Central Africa from the 400s AD and are probably the ancestors of today's Shona speechfolk. With the boom migration, tools of iron, better cultivation methods and permanent settlement were introduced. Significant gold discoveries were made and trade with Arab merchants on the East African coast began. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Zimbabwe.

From the 1100s, economic progress laid the groundwork for state formation that partly existed side by side, and partly followed one another, until the 1830s. The largest of these is the Zimbabwe dynasty (c. 1100–1450), from which the well-preserved Great Zimbabwe ruins originated, and which has given the modern state its name. This kingdom was followed by the Torwa dynasty, which ruled for about 200 years.

According to oral tradition, a Bantu-speaking people known as rozvi moved into Zimbabwe in the 1300s. Their leader took the title Munhu Mutapa, and in the 1400s, the Munhu Mutapa kingdom reached its greatest extent and controlled most of Zimbabwe as well as parts of today's Mozambique. The kingdom entered into agreements with the Portuguese, who were allowed to travel and trade in the country. The Portuguese established trading stations, and conflicts arose. The Munhu Mutapa empire disintegrated after Portuguese military action against the empire in 1628-1629. Portuguese trade continued and even the eastern parts of Zimbabwe were haunted by slave traders.

A clan that erupted from Munhu Mutapa, from the 1680s, formed another significant state, the Rozvi Empire, gradually with a center of gravity in the south and southwest, including by subjugating the Torwa state. New strong state formation did not emerge after Rozvi was weakened in eastern and southern parts of the country, but the Shona people organized themselves into smaller chiefs. Buhera, an ancient state established in the 13th century, continued to exist, but was fragmented. A number of small states joined the Duma Confederation.

A larger movement of Bantu-speaking people from present-day South Africa took place from 1830, and also affected Zimbabwe. In the early 1800s, Venda and Sotho- speaking people came from the south and settled in the south and southwest. In the early 1830s, ngoni people moved through Zimbabwe. They helped to weaken the Rozvi Empire, but wandered further and settled further north and east. Greater influence had the Ndebele invasion in 1837, when Zulu General Mzilikazi went north and settled in Matopos in western Zimbabwe. He was subservient to the Rozvi Empire, which after an attempted military uprising in 1857 was defeated - and disintegrated.

At the same time, an Ndebele state emerged, which, from the 1870s, had its heyday under Mzilikazi's successor Lobengula, with attacks against the smaller Shona states, which towards the end of the century had better access to weapons and were better able to defend themselves. The immigration and state formation of the Ndebele has had a lasting impact on Zimbabwe, with contradictions between the Ndebele minority and the Shona majority being a political conflict dimension in modern times as well.


From the 1850s, European hunters, traders and missionaries visited Zimbabwe, and formed ties with Mzilikazi and Lobengula. Of greatest importance was the group of colonists from South Africa who settled in the future capital of Salisbury (Harare) in 1890. The invasion was part of the construction of the British Empire from Cape to Cairo, and was staged by Cecil Rhodes, businessman and prime minister of the Cape Colony. He, with British diplomatic support, used his British South Africa Company(BSAC) to the invasion, which ended with King Lobengula being deposed in 1893, after he had tried to fight the invaders, and white rule was also introduced in Matabeleland.

Faced with the European threat, with the seizure of land and cattle, as well as forced labor, both the Ndebeles and Shona groups in 1896–1997 revolted against the occupation, in what is referred to as the first liberation struggle (chimurenga). The Ndebeles signed a peace agreement with the colonists; the Shonas were beaten without any deal. Prior to this, in 1889, Portuguese interests had made efforts to gain a foothold in eastern Zimbabwe. The rebellion of the 1890s gained long-term political significance, both by strengthening the position of the whites, until the country became a British colony of internal autonomy in 1923, and by fueling the War of Liberation (the Second Chimurenga) in the 1970s.

BSAC continued to rule Rhodesia after the uprising, and increased European immigration, establishment of farms and mining. After World War I, the demand for self-government increased, and a vote among the country's 34,000 European citizens in 1922 gave a majority for self-government rather than association with the South Africa Union. When the country subsequently became independent as a self-governed British colony (1923), it was ruled by a white minority of about 5 per cent of the population. Discriminatory laws from the BSAC board were continued, and an apartheid regime was institutionalizedwhich ensured European control over land and cheap African labor. The land was divided into zones and distributed between Africans and whites, the latter receiving a disproportionate share and in addition the parts most suitable for agriculture.

World War II led to economic upswing in Southern Rhodesia, and after 1945 the white population increased from 80,000 to 205,000 in 1958 - and with that demand for independence. At the same time, urbanization increased, even with a large influx of Africans, which promoted political organization and demands for equal rights. In 1953–1563 Southern Rhodesia was part of the Central African Federation along with Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). The federation collapsed when Zambia and Malawi became independent in 1964.

The white minority in Southern Rhodesia opposed independence with majority rule, and after the Rhodesian Front (RF) won the election in 1965, the new government, led by Prime Minister Ian Smith, declared Rhodesia an independent state on November 11, 1965. Smith's regime was illegal and was condemned by the United Nations, which in 1968 adopted financial sanctions against the country. The British colonial power did not want to intervene against the rebels, although Rhodesia was still formally British. Under Smith's rule, racial segregation was tightened, and earlier attempts at liberalization were reversed. On March 2, 1970, Smith declared Rhodesia a republic.

Resistance Game

The fight against white rule in Zimbabwe started as early as the invasion of 1890, but access to superior weapons allowed the white minority to defeat. The political struggle for majority rule increased with great difficulty in the 1950s and 1960s, following the emergence of several political and professional organizations. The Nationalist Party Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) was formed in 1962, led by Joshua Nkomo. In 1963, an outbreak group, led by Ndabaningi Sithole, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), later founded by Robert Mugabe. In 1964, ZAPU and ZANU were banned. It was not until 1971 that a new party was formed, the African National Council, later renamed the United African National Council (UANC), led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa.

From 1966 there were regular battles between ZANU and the government. The liberation war began in earnest in 1972–1973, when ZANU's military branch, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), established close cooperation with the liberation movement FRELIMO in Mozambique and eventually operated from liberated Mozambican territory. Mozambique's independence in 1975 led to a strong escalation of the resistance struggle in Zimbabwe, and to the Rhodesian forces carrying out attacks into Mozambique. ZAPU's armed branch, the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), had bases in Zambia. The guerrilla war spread in scope, and the Smith regime responded by moving hundreds of thousands of people to so-called sheltered villages.

In 1976, ZANU and ZAPU joined the Patriotic Front (Patriotic Front, PF). ZANLA and ZIPRA were put under one command but continued in practice as two separate forces. The pressure of the guerrilla's progress and political pressure from the UK, South Africa and the United States agreed to find a solution to the conflict with other and more moderate African politicians than the PF. In 1978, Abel Muzorewa, Jeremiah Chirau and Ndabaningi Sithole adopted a new constitution that would still guarantee the white minority great economic and political power, but where ordinary voting and majority voting would be introduced. The 1979 election was boycotted by PF, and UANC won. Muzorewa became prime minister in what was called Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

The new government received no international recognition and failed to end the war. In 1979 new negotiations started between the parties in London, and in December an agreement was signed which became the basis for the ceasefire and free elections. Muzorewa's government resigned and a British governor, Christopher Soames, took over the board for a transitional period until the election and independence the following year.


In February 1980, free elections were held. ZANU chose to stand independently of ZAPU and gained a pure majority in parliament, with 20 out of a total of 100 seats reserved for whites. All of these were won by RF in a separate election. ZANU won 57 of the remaining 80 seats, ZAPU took 20 and UANC 3. Robert Mugabe formed a unity government with members also from ZAPU and the white minority, and became Zimbabwe's prime minister from independence, April 18, 1980. Canaan Banana became president. Mugabe placed great emphasis on reconciliation between the people groups, with assurances that reprisals against the former oppressors would not be implemented. The white minority lost its political power, but retained its dominant economic position. Nevertheless, during the first ten years of independence, the white people group was halved, to approximately 100,000. Immediately after independence, the two guerrilla forces were integrated with the Rhodesian army into one national defense force.

At the election of a new national assembly in 1985, ZANU went further, and the party secured a pure majority in all elections for the next 15 years. In 1987, the 20 white seats reserved for the white minority were abolished under the Constitution. From 1988, another constitutional amendment, which abolished the prime ministerial position and made the presidential post, with Robert Mugabe as president. In the fall of 1987, ZANU and ZAPU were merged into one party, ZANU-PF. This was part of an attempt to establish a one-party state, which however was later stated. But in practice, ZANU-PF's political dominance made the country a one-party state, until new opposition parties were formed in the 1990s.

The Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM), led by the defunct ZANU veteran Edgar Tekere, achieved significant support in the 1990 elections, but was given little room in parliament due to the electoral system. Texans voted against Mugabe in the presidential election, gaining 17 percent of the vote. Several parties voted in the 1995 parliamentary elections, but ZANU-PF retained its support of over 80 percent of the vote. Only one party (ZANU-Ndoga, who was also represented in the 1990 elections) in addition to the ruling party was elected in the National Assembly. In the 1996 presidential election, Mugabe obtained 92.7 percent of the vote; two veterans from the fight against minority rule - Abel Muzorewa and Ndabaningi Sithole - opposed him, but withdrew just before the election.

The 2000 election was the first time a strong opposition was able to take a seat in parliament. A new party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was established in the fall of 1999, receiving 47 percent of the vote, against ZANU- PF's 48.6 percent. The election result was a significant defeat for Mugabe, and ZANU-PF lost special support in the big cities and in Matabeleland. The strong support for the MDC showed dissatisfaction with ZANU's authoritarian rule and was a threat to the ruling party, which responded with increasing repression. MDC leader, former leader of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Morgan Tsvangirai, was repeatedly arrested and charged with high treason, and a number of MDC members and supporters were arrested, beaten and killed.

Zimbabwe and President Mugabe have been increasingly criticizing human rights violations since the late 1990s, including the suppression of the media and irregularities in elections. Tsvangirai challenged Mugabe in the 2002 presidential election, gaining 42 percent of the vote, against Mugabe's 56 percent. Opposition to the government party and the president also emerged when their proposal for a new constitution, put forward in a referendum in 2000, was rejected. The proposal strengthened the president's powers and the opportunity to confiscate lands from white farmers for distribution without compensation.

In the early 2000s, strong international criticism was also directed at the government for its handling of land redistribution, which according to political plans was to take place substantially from white big farmers to black small farmers. The land reform of the 1980s, based on voluntary and compensated transfer of land, led only to a small extent, and was also linked to corruption, which contributed to the acquisition of land not distributed to landless, but purchased by people who stood the regime close. The government has later passed laws that allow direct expropriation without compensation. Such takeovers have also occurred through widespread use of terror, and farmers have been displaced from their properties. In 2000, about 1300 large farms were occupied by so-called war veterans, and the owners - as well as many farm workers - were displaced; several farmers as well as workers were killed.

The very uneven distribution of land from Rhodesia, and land distribution as a major driver of the liberation struggle and Zimbabwean politics after independence, has meant that the government has widespread support in the population for the demand for increased pace in the redistribution of land. Resistance to other economic policies increased towards the end of the 1990s, when there were several strikes and demonstrations against raising the price of food and imposing new taxes.


The first decade of the 2000s was marked by political, economic and social crisis, with the emergence of authoritarian governance and with a disintegrating society - and growing opposition to the ZANU regime and President Mugabe. A tougher political line from Mugabe and the ZANU-PF government became clear after the proposal for a new constitution was rejected in 2000; his first political defeat. Then came the outrageous campaign of confiscation of farms owned by white families and a spiral of oppression and disintegration.

Despite growing discontent and opposition, as shown in the 2000 election, Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF managed to retain power until 2009, when a power-sharing agreement was signed with the MDC, and Morgan Tsvangirai was appointed prime minister for a unifying government. Mugabe retained his position despite national opposition and international pressure, striking a tougher political line than in the 1990s. In 2002, he announced that Zimbabwe was in its third chimurenga(liberation struggle), and land acquisition intensified, violence against the opposition and criticism of the West escalated as part of a clearer ideology in which ZANU-PF reverted to rhetoric and practice from the 1970s and 1980s. As an instrument of land acquisition and perpetration of violence, the so-called war veterans - many of whom were too young to have even participated in the war - were also used as a way to link the new struggle to the historical, which is the very foundation of Mugabe's and ZANU's PF's power. The struggle for land was central to the liberation struggle, and was taken out as a central card in the 2000s, when thousands of white peasants were driven from their estates and the farms taken over to be handed over to blacks, most often to the ruling elite and its allies.. The land question was also used in the rhetoric against Britain, which was increasingly portrayed as an opponent - responsible for colonization and unwilling to fund land reform. The West, and the local business community, were also accused of being behind the MDC.

In 2005, the government launched a clean-up operation in and around Harare, Operation Murambatsvina (Restoration Order), when around 700,000 people were displaced from their homes. The operation came in a situation where Zimbabwe was in a deep economic crisis, which was described by the then UN head of humanitarian operations, Jan Egeland, as a meltdown. The crisis led to a sharp rise in unemployment (estimated at 95 per cent in 2009), and between one-fourth and one-third of the population escaped to neighboring countries. Large parts of the economy, including important agriculture, stalled and Zimbabwe experienced hyper inflation which, according to official figures, was 231 million percent in July 2008; unofficially far higher. A parallel economy with the use of foreign currency emerged; in April 2009, the country's own currency was taken out of use. A banknote of 1 000 000 000 Zimbabwean dollars was then issued.

The crisis was exacerbated by a widespread cholera epidemic in the fall of 2009, which claimed more than 4,000 lives and led to the introduction of an emergency state. Before that, the government had revoked the aid organizations' aid to operate in the country when they were accused of working for the opposition. Declining food production and drought led to about five million people needing food aid. Despite good crops in 2009, three million carpet allocations still needed, according to the UN. The economic situation also improved throughout the year, as several countries also expressed their willingness to resume aid to Zimbabwe.

As in the 2000 election, MDC was a real challenger to ZANU-PF again in 2005, when the relatively clear victory of the ruling party was far from explained by widespread violence against MDC, which was in many ways prevented from running a normal election campaign. At the same time, ZANU-PF maintained much of its traditionally strong support in the countryside. ZANU-PF achieved 59.6 percent of the vote, MDC 39.5 percent - and an even larger majority in the subsequent Senate election. After several years of economic and social crisis, ZANU-PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in the 2008 elections: MDC-led by Tsvangirai gained 42.9 percent of the vote and a breakout group, MDC-M led by Arthur Mutambara gained 8.4 percent - against ZANU-PF's 45.9 percent. This election was also characterized by irregularities and violence against the opposition, which claimed to have won the election.

At the 2008 presidential election, Tsvangirai gotmost votes in the first round (47.9 percent against Mugabe's 43.2 percent), but not a pure majority - and a second round had to be held. ZANU-PF admitted to losing the first round, but Tsvangirai withdrew from the decisive round, citing widespread violence against his supporters. Mugabe was then deployed for his sixth presidential term - though politically weakened. ZANU-PF militia groups as well as the so-called war veterans were actively involved in the political violence that was aimed at both MDC members and supporters, and partly at others who were forced to vote. The systematic use of violence was criticized by a number of teams, both human rights organizations and several African heads of state. The MDC requested that peacekeeping forces from the region be sent to Zimbabwe prior to the second presidential round,

After extensive international pressure, financial sanctions and mediation led by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and the regional cooperation organization SADC, President Mugabe agreed to a power distribution with Tsvangirai, where the president would keep his control of the security service, the prime minister responsible for the economy. The agreement was signed in September 2008, but the implementation was postponed due to disagreement over the allocation of Cabinet positions between ZANU-PF and the two MDC factions that were part of the government. In February 2009, Tsvangirai was appointed prime minister; Arthur Mutambara became Deputy Prime Minister.

Formed in 1999, MDC was weakened by a split in 2005 when two factions emerged: one (MDC-T) led by Morgan Tsvangirai and another (MDC-M) led by Arthur Mutambara - with the former being by far the largest. The two factions announced after the 2008 election they wanted to merge. Contradictions within ZANU-PF were partly about strategies in relation to MDC and the distribution of power, and partly about the takeover of power after Mugabe resigned as the undisputed leader (which only happened in 2017). Mugabe was re-elected as party leader on ZANUs party congress in December 2009 - and thus also as the party's presidential candidate 2013. As the party's vice president, John Nkomo, one Ndebele and ally with Secretary of Defense Emmerson Mnangagwa, elected. Mnangagwa controlled the state's power apparatus, and formed one of the main factions of ZANU-PF. The second was led by the couple Joice and Solomon Mujuru, both veterans of the liberation struggle, the former Zimbabwe Vice President in the period 2004–2014. Zimbabwe's top military leadership, most notably a visible security group known as the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which is also linked to the violence to influence elections, had great influence, both within ZANU-PF and towards Mugabe.

Early in the morning on Wednesday, November 15, 2017, the military in Zimbabwe took over large parts of the state apparatus and placed President Mugabe in house arrest. The bloodless coup was a reaction to Mugabe's resignation of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa a week earlier, which the military and many in the ruling party believed was a maneuver to make sure Mugabe's 41-year-old wife, Grace, could take over the post of president after the 93-year-old. Mugabe was pressured to announce his own departure, which he finally did on November 21. He died in 2019.

On November 24, 2017, Mnangagwa was sworn in as the country's new president, stating that he wanted to restore democracy and get the chess economy back on track. Although many Zimbabweans are skeptical of Mnangagwa as well, the deposition of Mugabe's has generally been welcomed by large sections of the population.

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