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Shona and Ndebele

A thousand years ago, the Shona settled in what is now Zimbabwe. To this day, the Shona are the largest ethnic group in Zimbabwe. The Shona were mainly farmers and hunters. Much later, in the middle of the 19th century, the Ndebele, cattle herders and closely related to the Zulus from South Africa, settled in the south of the region and established a powerful empire there. To this day, the relationship between these two population groups is strained and still influences the current political climate.

A third, much smaller group of Europeans arrived at the end of the 19th century under the leadership of the British Cecil Rhodes in search of mineral resources. The exploitation of the mines was not as successful as expected, but the Europeans stayed and settled down as farmers.


South Rhodesia (Cecil Rhodes Asia), as the country was called, was managed by Rhodes' British South Africa Company (BSAC) until 1923. (The British government had little direct interest in the country (partly due to disappointing mining) and in 1923 left the country (i.e. the white minority) to choose between annexation to South Africa or becoming a self-governing colony. It was the latter.

In 1962, a new party came to power, the Rhodesian Front (RF), which insisted on white (minority) rule and was in favour of complete independence from Britain. Ian Smith, leader of the RF, declared Zimbabwe's independence in 1965 with the publication of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). This unilateral declaration of independence was annulled by Great Britain and followed by economic sanctions and a UN trade embargo.

Independence struggle, ZANU and ZAPU

In the early 1960s, an organised African movement emerged to oppose years of white supremacy. The first large organisation was the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Nkomo. A branch of this, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), later began to focus mainly on the interests of the Shona, while the ZAPU found its supporters mainly among the Ndebele. From the late 1960s, ZANU and ZAPU began what were initially sporadic guerrilla activities against the government. From the early 1970s these actions intensified and in 1976 the parties joined forces to form the Patriotic Front (PF). Under pressure from the trade embargo, PF guerrilla activities and declarations of independence in neighbouring countries, Ian Smith eventually paved the way for a majority regime in Rhodesia as well, thus increasing the influence of African leaders.

In the elections leading up to independence, Robert Mugabe (ZANU) emerged as the big winner and later formed Zimbabwe's first government. On 18 April 1980, Zimbabwe formally became independent. ZANU ruled from 1980 to 2000 with an almost absolute majority. There was no opposition. For many years, public protests and criticism were kept to a minimum by the government with the help of the media and the deployment of security forces. Since the end of 1997, the population and trade unions have become much more politically aware, as a result of the decline in purchasing power. Strikes and unrest were regular occurrences in 98 and 99, culminating in a new opposition political movement in September 99, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

21th century

In March 2002, Mugabe was re-elected in disputed elections. Morgan Tsvangirai the leader of the opposition was repeatedly arrested. In March 2005, the ruling Zanu party won two-thirds of the vote in parliamentary elections. There are again allegations of manipulation. In March 2008, the opposition led by Tsvangirai wins the elections. In June 2008, Tsvangirai withdrew from the presidential elections because, according to him, fair elections were not possible. Hundreds of supporters were killed or intimidated. In July 2008, Tsvangirai and Mugabe agreed to talks to put a temporary end to the crisis situation.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing agreement in the Zimbabwean capital Harare in September 2008. The agreement, which comes after three decades of Mugabe's exclusive rule, could put an end to months of political crisis in Zimbabwe. This broke out after Tsvangirai withdrew from the presidential elections due to the violence.

In February 2009, Tsvangirai was appointed Prime Minister. In July 2009, the IMF refused to grant a loan to Zimbabwe. China agreed to provide a loan. In September 2009, the IMF agreed to grant a loan to Zimbabwe. In June 2010, white farmers reported new attacks on them. In the years 2011 and 2012, Tsvangirai and Mugabe clashed in the run-up to the 2013 presidential election. The July 2013 elections result in a victory for Mugabe. The opposition considers the elections a fraud. Since the elections, Mugabe has been the sole ruler of Zimbabwe; he has abolished the post of prime minister. In August, Grace, Mugabe's wife, was appointed leader of the women's wing of the Zanu; rumours are that she will one day succeed her husband. In 2015, Mugabe is president of the African Union for the year. In August 2016, there are protests against Mugabe's policies and person. also in 2017 there are many protests against Mugabe, he resigns in November 2017 forced by the military, Emerson Mnangagwa becomes the new president. He is also elected by rule in 2018. On Friday 6 September 2019, the former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, died at the age of 95. He was one of the longest-serving heads of state in Africa. Between 1980 and 1987, Mugabe was Prime Minister and then President of Zimbabwe until 2017.

Economic conditions remain dire under Mnangagwa. Inflation is rising sharply in 2019 and the country's export earnings will fall drastically in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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