History of Zimbabwe

Published on 11th October 2005

Located in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe is bordered on the north by Zambia, on the east by Mozambique, on the south by South Africa and by Botswana on the West. Archaeologists found Stone-Age implements and pebble tools in several areas of Zimbabwe, a suggestion of human habitation for many centuries, and the ruins of stone buildings provided evidence of early civilization. The most impressive of these sites is the \"Great Zimbabwe\" ruins, after which the country is named, located near Masvingo. Evidence suggests that these stone structures were built between the 9th and 13th centuries A.D. by indigenous Africans who had established trading contacts with commercial centers on Africa\'s southeastern coast. 

In 1888, Cecil Rhodes obtained a concession for mineral rights from local chiefs. Later that year, the area that became Southern and Northern Rhodesia was proclaimed a British sphere of influence. The British South Africa Company was chartered in 1889, and the settlement of Salisbury (now Harare, the capital) was established in 1890. In 1895, the territory was named Rhodesia after Cecil Rhodes under the British South Africa Company\'s administration. 

Following the abrogation of the company\'s charter in 1923, Southern Rhodesia\'s white settlements were given the choice of being incorporated into the Union of South Africa or becoming a separate entity within the British Empire. The settlers rejected incorporation, and Southern Rhodesia was annexed by the United Kingdom that year. Until 1980, Rhodesia was an internally self-governing colony with its own legislature, civil service, armed forces, and police. Although Rhodesia was never administered directly from London, the United Kingdom always retained the right to intervene in the affairs of the colony, particularly in matters affecting Africans. 

After 1923, European immigrants concentrated on developing Rhodesia\'s rich mineral resources and agricultural potential. The settlers\' demand for more land led to the passage of a series of land apportionment acts that reserved certain areas for Europeans in 1934. 

In September 1953, Southern Rhodesia was joined in a multiracial Central African Federation with the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in an effort to pool resources and markets. Although the federation flourished economically, it was opposed by the African population, who feared they would not be able to achieve self-government with the federal structure dominated by White Southern Rhodesians. The federation was dissolved at the end of 1963 after much crisis and turmoil, and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland became the independent states of Zambia and Malawi in 1964. 

The European electorate in Rhodesia, however, showed little willingness to accede to African demands for increased political participation and progressively replaced more moderate party leaders. In April 1964, Prime Minister Winston Field, accused of not moving rapidly enough to obtain independence from the United Kingdom, was replaced by his deputy, Ian Smith, who led his Rhodesian Front Party to an overwhelming victory in the 1965 elections.

Although prepared to grant independence to Rhodesia, the United Kingdom insisted that the authorities at Salisbury to first demonstrate their intention to move towards eventual majority rule. Desiring to keep their dominant position, the white Rhodesians refused to give such assurances. On November 11, 1965, after lengthy and unsuccessful negotiations with the British Government, Prime Minister Smith issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom. 

The British Government considered the UDI unconstitutional and illegal but made it clear that it would not use force. On November 12, 1965, the United Nations also determined the Rhodesian Government and UDI to be illegal, called on member states to refrain from assisting or recognizing the Smith regime. The British Government imposed sanctions on Rhodesia and requested other nations to do the same. 

On December 16, 1966, the UN Security Council, for the first time imposed mandatory economic sanctions on a state. Rhodesia\'s primary exports including ferrochrome and tobacco, were replaced on the selective sanctions list, as were shipments of arms, aircraft, motor vehicles, petroleum, and petroleum products to Rhodesia. On May 29, 1968, the Security Council unanimously voted to broaden the sanctions by imposing an almost total embargo on all trade.

In the early 1970s, informal attempts on settlement were renewed between the United Kingdom and the Rhodesian administration. Following the April 1974 coup in Portugal and the resulting shifts of power in Mozambique and Angola, pressure on the Smith regime to negotiate a peaceful settlement began to increase. In addition, sporadic antigovernment guerilla activity, which began in the late 1960s, increased dramatically after 1972, causing destruction, economic dislocation, casualties, and a slump in white morale. In 1974, the major African nationalists groups--the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which split away from ZAPU in 1963--were united into the \"Patriotic Front\" and combined their military forces, at least nominally. 

In 1976, because of a combination of embargo-related economic hardships, the pressure of guerilla activity, independence and majority rule in the neighboring former Portuguese territories, and a U.K.-U.S. diplomatic initiative, the Smith government agreed in principle to majority rule and to a meeting in Geneva with black nationalist leaders to negotiate a final settlement of the conflict. Blacks represented at the Geneva meeting included ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo, ZANU leader Robert Mugabe, UANC chairman bishop Abel Muzorewa, and former ZANU leader Rev. Nadabaningi Sithole. The meeting failed to find a basis for agreement because of Smith\'s inflexibility and the inability of the black leaders to form a common political front. 

On September 1, 1977 a detailed Anglo-American plan was put forward with proposals for majority rule, neutrally administered with pre-independence elections, a democratic constitution and the formation of an integrated army. Reactions were mixed, but no party rejected them. In the interim, on March 3, 1978, the Smith administration signed the \"internal settlement\" agreement in Salisbury with Bishop Muzorewa, Rev. Sithole, and Chief Jeremiah Chirau. The agreement provided for qualified majority rule and elections with universal suffrage. Following elections in April 1979, in which his UANC party won a majority, Bishop Muzorewa assumed office on June 1, becoming \"Zimbabwe-Rhodesia\'s\" first black prime minister. However, the installation of the new black majority government did not end the guerilla conflict that had claimed more than 20,000 lives since 1972. 

Shortly after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher\'s conservative government took power in May 1979, the British began a new round of consultations that culminated in an agreement among the Commonwealth countries as the basis for fresh negotiations among the parties and the British involving a new constitution, free elections and independence. 

The British and the African parties began deliberations on a Rhodesian settlement at Lancaster house in London on September 10, 1979. On December 10, 1979, in preparation for the transition under British authority to officially recognize independence, the \"Zimbabwe-Rhodesia\" reverted de facto to colonial status. On December 12, British Governor Lord Christopher Soames arrived in Salisbury to reassert British authority over the colony. His arrival signaled the end of the Rhodesian rebellion and the \"internal settlement,\" as well as the beginning of Zimbabwe\'s transition to independence.

On December 21, after 3 months of hard bargaining, the parties signed an agreement at Lancaster House calling for a cease-fire, new elections, a transition period under British rule, and a new Constitution implementing majority rule while protecting minority rights. The agreement specified that upon the granting of independence, the country\'s name would be Zimbabwe. The same day, the UN Security Council endorsed the settlement agreement and formally voted unanimously to call on member nations to remove sanctions. 

During the transition period, nine political parties campaigned for the February 27-29 pre-independence elections. The elections were supervised by the British Government and monitored by hundreds of observers, most of whom concluded that, under the prevailing circumstances, the elections were free and fair and reflected the will of the people. Robert Mugabe\'s ZANU (PF) party won an absolute majority and was asked to form Zimbabwe\'s first government. 

In a series of public statements during the transition period, Prime Minister Mugabe indicated that he was committed to a process of national reconciliation and reconstruction as well as moderate socioeconomic change. His priorities were to integrate the various armed forces, reestablish social services and education in rural areas, and resettle the estimated one million refugees and displaced persons. Mugabe also announced that his government would begin investigating ways of reversing past discriminatory policies in land distribution, education, employment, and wages. 

Prime Minister Mugabe\'s policy of reconciliation was generally successful during the country\'s first 2 years of independence, as the former political and military opponents began to work together. Although additional blacks were hired to fill new places in the civil service, there was no retribution for those whites who had worked for the Smith regime. Smith and many of his associates held seats in the parliament where they participated freely in debates. Likewise, Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe\'s rival as leader of the nationalist forces, was included in the first cabinet along with several other members of PF-ZAPU. 

Splits soon developed. In 1981, several MPs from Smith\'s party left to sit as \"independents,\" signifying that they did not automatically accept his antigovernment posture. More importantly, government security officials discovered large caches of arms and ammunition on properties owned by ZAPU, and Nkomo and his followers were accused of plotting to overthrow Mugabe\'s government. Nkomo and his closest aides were expelled from the cabinet. 

As a result of what they perceived as persecution of Nkomo (known as \"Father Zimbabwe\") and of his party, PF-ZAPU supporters, some of them deserters from the army, began a loosely organized and ill-defined campaign of dissidence against the government. Centering primarily in Matabeleland, home of the Ndebeles who were PF-ZAPU\'s main followers, this dissidence continued through 1987 and 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. Occasionally, some demanded the Nkomo and his colleagues be reinstated in the cabinet. More frequently, however, dissidents called for the return of farms and other properties seized from PF-ZAPU. 

Because of the unsettled security situation immediately after independence and the continuing anti-government dissidence, the government kept in force a \"state of emergency,\" which was first declared before UDI. This gave government authorities widespread powers under the \"Law and Order Maintenance Act,\" including the right to detain persons without charge. 

In 1983-84, the government declared a curfew in areas of Matabeleland and sent in the army in an attempt to suppress dissidents. Credible reports surfaced of widespread violence and disregard for human rights by the security forces during these operations, and the level of political tension rose. The pacification campaign, known as the “Gukuruhundi,” or strong wind, resulted in as many as 20,000 civilian deaths. Nkomo and his lieutenants repeatedly denied any connection with the dissidents and called for an all-party conference to discuss the political problems facing the country. In the 1985 elections, ZANU-PF increased its majority, holding 67 of the 100 seats. ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU agreed to unite in December 1987, and the parties formally merged in December 1989. 

In October 1987, in accordance with the Lancaster House Accords, the Constitution was amended to end the separate roll for white voters and to establish an executive presidency to replace the whites whose reserved seats had been abolished. Elections in March 1990 resulted in another overwhelming victory for Mugabe and his party, which won 117 of the 120 election seats.

Since 1999, Zimbabwe has experienced a period of considerable political and economic upheaval. The opposition to Mugabe’s ZANU-PF is currently led by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), established in September 1999.

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

The rich heritage of traditional music present in Zimbabwe since its earliest times survived with difficulty once British colonisation was established by the mid-nineteenth century. In rural areas of Zimbabwe, African traditions are still very much alive today, although they are more and more replaced by modern, Western lifestyles in the cities, popular mainly with the young people. A closer look at modern Zimbabwe and its people reveals, however, that in the suburbs of big cities such as Harare, Bulawayo or Chitungwiza, the often-nightlong traditional ceremonies have lost nothing of their original impact.

Below is an analysis of Zimbabwe according to The 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation Heritage and The Wall Street Journal:

Rank: 51

Score: 4.36

Category: Reoressed

Population: 13,001,000

Total area: 390,580 sq. km

GDP: $6.8billion

GDP growth rate: -5.6 %

GDP per capita: $520

Major exports: tobacco, gold, textiles and clothing

Exports of goods and services: $3 billion

Major export trading partners: China 5.8%, Germany 5.6%, South Africa 5.6%, UK 4.8%, Japan 4.6%

Major imports: transport equipment and machinery, chemicals, manufacturers, petroleum products

Imports of goods and services (fob): $2.83 billion

Major import trading partners: South Africa 47.7%, Mozambique 5.3%, UK 3.1%, US 3.0%

Foreign direct investment (net): $8.9 million




The 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation Heritage and The Wall Street Journal

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