Zimbabwe Old History

By | January 3, 2023

Zimbabwe is an independent nation in Eastern Africa. With the capital city of Harare, Zimbabwe 2020 population is estimated at 14,862,935 according to countryaah. Zimbabwe has been populated by the bantu people Shona and Ndebele for almost 2,000 years. Shona built the stone city of Greater Zimbabwe, which conducted extensive trade. During the 19th century, European colonizers came. The British came to control the area, and in 1923 South Rhodesia became a British colony. When Rhodesia was declared independent in 1965, blacks were not granted the right to vote, and therefore the country was not recognized by the outside world. After a long liberation war by black nationalist groups, the nation of Zimbabwe was proclaimed in 1980. Robert Mugabe and his party Zanu-PF won big in the first free elections.

  • AbbreviationFinder.org: Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Zimbabwe, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

Between the twentieth century BC and the third century AD, Shona and Ndebele gradually migrated into the area that is today Zimbabwe. These two peoples are still almost the entire population of the country (see Population and Languages). For Zimbabwe political system, please check cancermatters.

In the 800’s, Zimbabwe’s high plateau was dominated by shona. They extracted gold, copper, iron and tin, and traded Muslim communities on the east coast. However, the main industries were agriculture, livestock and hunting. It was Shona who built the remarkable stone town of Greater Zimbabwe in the central part of the country. This city, which dates to a period similar to the European Middle Ages, has given today’s nation its name. At most, up to 20,000 people lived in the city.

Greater Zimbabwe had a favorable location in fertile agricultural countryside between the Indian Ocean coast and the gold deposits of the present Matabeleland. Historians believe that a state formation extended from the city to the east coast.

In the middle of the 1400s, Great Zimbabwe was abandoned, which became too small for the growing population. The demise of the city is typical of settlements in southern Africa: the environment gradually deteriorates, the soil is sucked out, the pastures are overgrazed, the forest is decomposed, the mineral resources are depleted and the game disappears.

Kingdoms are formed

In the mid-1800s, the Ndebele people formed a kingdom in the area that is today Matabeleland, and the court held where Bulawayo town is. Although ndebele took control of the shona and taxed a large part of them, the people could coexist, albeit under tense conditions. This was mainly because shona was a farmer and ndebele a shepherd people. In the 1880s, however, the Shona, with the help of Portuguese colonizers in neighboring Mozambique, tried to free themselves from ndebele. These struggles underlie contradictions that still exist between the two peoples (see Modern History).

During the 19th century, European missionaries, traders and adventurers came to the area. In 1890, an expedition of 700 men was organized by the Prime Minister of the British Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes. The mission was to find and extract ore deposits. Rhodes negotiated the right of extraction by the Ndebelekung and formed the British South Africa Company (British South Africa Company). The United Kingdom gave the trading company exclusive rights to enact laws, collect taxes and maintain law and order. The company’s operations expanded rapidly and the Africans were forced back when the colonizers seized their land.

Ndebele rebelled against the white settlers in 1893. Afterwards, Shona joined the rebellion which in 1896 had developed into a liberation war, the chimurenga. The resistance was crushed by the whites, who continued to colonize the country. The British South Africa Company ruled in practice until 1923 when the area became a British colony, Southern Rhodesia.

Rhodesia is not recognized

In 1953, the self-governing Southern Rhodesia merged with two directly managed colonies of the United Kingdom, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi), forming the Central African Federation. This was dissolved in 1963, and the following year Zambia and Malawi became independent.

But Britain did not want to give South Rhodesia independence unless white leaders first guaranteed black voting rights. The white minority regime did not listen to the British. In 1964, Ian Smith took office as Prime Minister, the first white political leader born in the country. In November 1965, Smith unilaterally proclaimed Rhodesia as independent. The British did not recognize the new state but instead imposed sanctions. The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in 1968 which prohibited member states from trading with Rhodesia. However, South Africa and Portugal did not follow the UN resolution, but traded openly with Rhodesia.

In the 1960s, a black nationalist movement emerged. Zimbabwe’s African People’s Union (Zimbabwe African People’s Union, Zapu) was formed in 1961 and was led by Joshua Nkomo who belonged to the Ndebele people. In 1963, Zimbabwe’s African National Union (Zimbabwe African National Union, Zanu) broke out of Zapu. The group’s secretary general was Robert Mugabe, who belonged to the Shona.

Zanu and Zapu were banned at an early stage. When the regime introduced a state of emergency in November 1964, almost all of their leaders were imprisoned. The one-sided declaration of independence in 1965 led to the black nationalist movement becoming more radical and eventually becoming armed resistance. The Liberation War (Second Chimurenga) broke out in December 1972 with guerrilla attacks against white farms in the northeast.

Negotiations begin

After the Portuguese colonial empire collapsed, Mozambique became independent in 1975. Rhodesia was then almost surrounded by black states. South Africa’s Prime Minister John Vorster realized that black majority rule in Rhodesia was soon inevitable and he managed to get Ian Smith to the negotiating table.
In the fall of 1976, the Nationalists and the Smith regime gathered for a conference in Geneva on a new constitution. Before that, Zapu and Zanu had united in a loose alliance, the Patriotic Front ( PF). However, the negotiations broke down the New Year 1977.

A year later, the United Kingdom was given a new Conservative government which invited the parties to negotiations in London. In December 1979 they were able to agree on a constitution for an independent Zimbabwe (see Political system).

When the war, which had harvested about 36,000 casualties, was over, the Patriotic Front disbanded, and Zanu-PF was formed. When elections were held in February 1980, Zanu-PF with Mugabe in the lead won big. On April 18 of that year, Zimbabwe became independent.



cholera outbreak

A national crisis situation is announced due to a cholera epidemic. Healthcare threatens to completely collapse.


Ministerial posts are distributed

Disagreement over the distribution of ministerial posts causes MDC to threaten to withdraw from the agreement. Mugabe gives party friends the heaviest items, with responsibility for, for example, the Defense, Foreign, Justice and Information Ministries. Thus, Zanu-PF retains control over the army, the police and the media.


Power sharing agreement

A historic agreement on power sharing is signed. Under the agreement, Mugabe remains the head of state and government as well as commander-in-chief. Tsvangirai will be given a newly appointed office as prime minister and lead the daily government work. The ministerial posts should be divided approximately equally between the parties. The unifying government will prepare a new constitution.


Opposition politician new president

Parliament is gathering. The election of the Speaker of the House of Commons becomes dramatic when Zanu-PF chooses to support MDC-M’s candidate for the Speaker’s post. But MDC-T’s candidate Lovemore Moyo wins and Zimbabwe gets an opposition politician as president for the first time since independence.


Accusations of opposition harassment

The MDC states that at least 200 of the party’s sympathizers have been murdered since the March elections, and about 200,000 have been forced away from their homes. The government rejects the information.

mediation Attempts

During South African mediation, Mugabe and Tsvangirai initiate talks about the distribution of power and a transitional government.


Tsvangirai withdraws from elections

Violence is rising sharply: black farm workers are being chased from their homes, dozens of people are being murdered and Tsvangirai and other MDC leaders are repeatedly arrested, but soon released. On June 22, Tsvangirai withdraws from the elections. He states as a reason that the conditions for a fair election are completely lacking. The UN Security Council condemns the threats and violence against the opposition. African countries are also unusually sharp in their criticism of Mugabe’s regime. In the election, Mugabe, the only candidate, gets 85 percent of the vote. The turnout is 42 percent. Independent observers judge the election.


Tsvangirai wins first round of elections

On May 2, over a month after the election, the election commission announces the results of the presidential election: Tsvangirai has received 48 percent of the vote and Mugabe 43 percent. The remaining votes go to two independent candidates. The result means that a second round of elections must be held between Tsvangirai and Mugabe. The date is set for June 27.


Tense the wait for presidential election results

The results of the presidential election are waiting. Many people interpret it as Mugabe’s loss. Zanu-PF militia is accused of increasing violence against opposition supporters.

Parliamentary elections Results

Both before and during the election on March 29, it is tense but no major violence erupts. The opposition complains of cheating and foreign observers describe the election as flawed. Results in the parliamentary elections will come after a few days: in the lower house, Zanu-PF has received 99 and Tsvangirai’s MDC faction 100 seats. Thus, Zanu-PF has lost the majority in the lower house after 28 years in power. MDC-Mutambara gets 10 seats and one goes to an independent candidate. In the Senate, Zanu-PF receives 30 of the 60 electoral seats and opposition 30 (MDC-T 24, MDC-M 6). As the president appoints some senators, Zanu-PF retains control of the senate.


Selection date is announced

The government announces that the election will be held on March 29, despite no new constitution being in place. MDC’s two factions are protesting and believe it means too little time for the electoral movement. They still decide to participate.

Zimbabwe Old History