Zimbabwe Explained! How Did We Get To Where We Are Today!

In the early 1890s there were a lot of explorers, hunters and fortune hunter who left their homelands in Britain, France, and Germany in search of a brighter future for themselves and their families. These groups landed in South Africa and decided to move north. One such group called the British South Africa Company crossed the Limpopo River and found a land rich in minerals, wildlife and open lands ideal for agriculture. They set up camp and using rifles and other weapons fought against the indigenous people they found there. They wanted the land for themselves! They set about giving each other pieces of land and decided to farm there using the local people as cheap labour. They were led by a man called Cecil John Rhodes. They decided to form government and called their “new” country Rhodesia.

A constitution which favoured the white supremacy was formulated in 1961. This gave all the power to the few whites, and discriminated against the majority, local black people who they had found there. They used them as cheap labour for their farms and mining operations. However, they had to trade with other countries; they were not recognised as a country by United Kingdom and other major powers of the day. Their only ally was South Africa.

In 1965, the political party Rhodesia Front under Ian Douglas Smith declared the country a sovereign independent state! Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). The United Kingdom and the United Nations lobbied sanctions against this new government but due to the vast wealth of the country’s natural reserves the country prospered. There were schools, hospitals, industries and lots of agricultural produce. The country was heaven except there was discrimination against the local black people. No blacks were in white schools, no blacks in white hospitals, no blacks in white residential areas (except as domestic servants and garden -boys!)

This enraged the black man – their country had been stolen from them and they were ill-treated in their own country! In 1961 ZAPU was formed under Joshua Nkomo (a Ndebele man!). All blacks rallied behind it and it was banned by the whites in 1962. It did not stop activities but it went underground. Secret meetings were held in every black township. In 1963 ZANU – a new political party was formed under Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole – a man from the Manicaland region of the country! (Robert Gabriel Mugabe was a member of the new committee) and this party was chiefly a Shona people’s party! There were 3 pronged fights – against the two black parties and also against the white regime! ZANU was banned in 1964.There were house raids from the different parties – people had to resort to having membership cards from both parties as failure to produce a membership card often resulted in being beaten up.

The black man’s struggle escalated and many people left for either Zambia or Mozambique, the party leaders were arrested, among them Robert Mugabe (imprisoned 1964 – 1974). The black man decided to engage in guerrilla warfare against the white regime!

In 1971 the British government tried to agree with Rhodesia government for an end to sanctions in exchange for a smooth transition to black majority rule! Two clergymen – Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa and Reverend Canaan Banana led an opposition to this move and formed a new initiative – United African National Council and the two exiled parties (ZAPU under Joshua Nkomo and ZANU under Reverend Sithole) brought themselves under this council! At this stage the initiative was just a forum and not a political party. It therefore was legal! It opposed violence and therefore had the support of the white government. However, when Abel Muzorewa transformed this into a party the members had their doubts and in-fighting began.

Meanwhile not all was OK in the ZANU party – leadership wrangles had started and this led to a split in the party. One faction became ZANU-PF (Patriotic Front) and the other ZANU (Ndonga – after its symbol of a knobkerrie)

On 3 March 1978 an agreement was signed in Harare (then Salisbury) between Muzorewa, Sithole, Jeremiah Chirau and Ian Smith which paved the way for an interim government with the signatories as an Executive Council, to run the affairs of the state in preparation for a general election with black men voting for the first time. However it still had a racial bias as it reserved some seats on racial lines – 10 in the Senate, 28 in parliament and a quarter of the cabinet positions! A predominantly white referendum voted for this constitution!

There were elections and as blacks had no other black party to vote for, and were a majority, UANC won! A new nation was born – Zimbabwe Rhodesia, with Josiah Gumede as president (non -executive – remember Clifford Dupont? and John Wrathall?) and Abel Muzorewa as Prime Minister! This did not go down well with the old guard – Joshua Nkomo (and ZAPU) and Robert Mugabe (with ZANU) and the guerrilla war intensified. International recognition did not come either as these two strong parties had not been involved in the elections! The plans to end the civil war had not worked.

A solution had to be found to end the civil war! Once again the British government took the initiative and called for talks in London with all parties involved. ZAPU and ZANU decided to attend under a common banner – Patriotic Front! The Lancaster House talks took place from September to December 1979, punctuated with lots of disagreements and threats to break down. The land issue was the main bone of contention. The then British foreign Secretary – Lord Carrington presided. It was agreed to hold fresh elections in early 1980.

These elections took place at the end of February 1980 and there was a lot of intimidation, violence and threats to the continuance of the war if ZANU-PF lost. People were tired of the war and guess who won – ZANU-PF! The UANC won 3 seats out of the 80 – reserved for blacks. A new nation was born – Republic of Zimbabwe! With Robert Mugabe as Prime Minister and Canaan Banana as President!

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