Capital : Harare
Size: 151 000 sq m Popn: 10 583 000
Manecaland, Mashonaland (East Zimbabwe), Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands, Central, East, West
A landlocked, Commonwealth country, Zimbabwe was originally inhabited by the San Bushmen who were displaced by the Bantu about 1500 years ago. The Shona began to arrive about 1000 years ago, settling Mashonaland (now East Zimbabwe) and established the Mwene Mutapa Empire. It dominated the area from the capital at Great Zimbabwe (which gave the modern country its name) from the C13th to the C16th and controlled East Coast trade. It expanded under Mutota in the C15th, but fell to a second Shona empire, the Rozwi, which arose in the C17th and C18th but fell in the C19th to the Ndebele from the south. In 1837, the Bantu Matabele people settled in West Zimbabwe after being driven out of South Africa by the Boers.
In the late C19th the first European settlers arrived and in 1888 the Ndebele ruler, Lobengula, signed the Rudd Concession giving mineral rights to Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company. He established a settlement at Salisbury (now Harare) in 1890 and in 1894 the country was named Rhodesia after him. Despite native opposition including King Lobengula' rebellion in 1893, the company ran Southern Rhodesia until it became self-governing (under white settlers) in 1923, and was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1953-63. By the 1940s and 50s some white moderates were prepared to make concessions which brought about the Central African Federation, opposed by white supremacists and African leaders.
The African National Congress, founded in 1934, was reconvened in 1957 by Joshua Nkomo to campaign for full democracy. Nkomo was exiled when the ANC was banned in 1959 but became leader of the National Democratic Party which was also banned in 1961. He then formed the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) which was banned in 1962. In 1963, Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Robert Mugabe formed a splinter group, the Zimbabwean African National Union (ZANU). The campaign for independence gathered strength under these groups in the 60s. The Federation was dissolved in 1963 and Winston Field, leader of the white Rhodesian Front party became the first prime minister but Britain refused full independence in Southern Rhodesia unless the white government accepted majority rule. Field resigned in April 1964 and his replacement, Ian Smith, declared unilateral independence in late 1965 and banned ZANU, imprisoning Nkoma and Mugabe. This was regarded as illegal and Britain suspended trade and diplomatic links and UN sanctions were imposed although multi-national companies ignored these. A state of emergency was declared in 1965.
In 1969, Rhodesia declared itself a republic, adopting a new constitution but retaining white majority rule. ZAPU and ZANU guerilla forces weakened the regime in the 70s but it was supported by South Africa. The African National Council was formed in 1971 and in 1975, its representative, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, attended a conference in Geneva with deputations from Britain and the Smith regime. Mugabe and Nkomo were released and formed the Patriotic Front.
In 1979, Smith persuaded Muzorewa to accept a new majority rule constitutuion which safe-guarded the white minority and pronounced the Bishop Prime Minister of what he now called Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Mugabe and Nkomo denounced this as perpetuating white domination and continued to lead the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army from bases in Mozambique.
In 1979, the new British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, held a conference in London at which all Rhodesia's political organisations were represented, resulting in the Lancaster House Agreement. Cabinet minister Lord Soames was sent to Rhodesia as governor general to prepare it for independence and the sanctions were lifted. Robert Mugabe, won a convincing majority in pre-independence elections and became the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe in 1980 with Reverend Canaan Banana as president. Work towards national reconciliation was fairly successful, with respect for the white minority of whom many stayed on, but there have been serious problems with the Ndebele minority based in Matabeleland. Nkomo was briefly a cabinet member but was sacked in 1982 and accused Mugabe of trying to overthrow the constitution, leading to unrest in Matabeleland.
In 1987, Banana retired and the posts of president and prime minister were combined by Mugabe. Reserved parliamentary seats for white voters were abolished. In 1989, a new constitution created a one-party state but rejected Marxist-Leninist ideology. Mugabe's former ally, Edgar Tekere, formed the Zimbabwe Unity Movement to challenge ZANU - PF in the 1990 elections but Mugabe was re-elected with a large majority despite attempting to crush Tekere. Nkomo rejoined the cabinet as Vice-President and the 1965 state of emergency was ended in July 1990. Mugabe proposed a one-party state but this was rejected. In 1992, Reverend Sithole and Ian Smith formed an opposition movement, the United Front. War in Mozambique and South African opposition to Apartheid reforms have also caused problems.
The ethnic groups are Shona, Ndebele and European, English is the official language (Shona and Ndebele are also spoken) and religions are Christianity and traditional beliefs.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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