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Zimbabwe Safari

Zimbabwe History & Safari Information

Elephants are one of Zimbabwe's biggest draws A leopard walks through fresh grass during the green season Zimbabwe's lions have a taste for warthog A lilacbreasted roller is one of Africa's loveliest birds Zimbabwe is one of the white rhino's last strongholds
Go to General Info section           Return to Safari Camps & Map of Zimbabwe

Early History
Southern Africa's human history extends back through the millennia to the first rumblings of humanity on the planet. The first upright-walking 'hominids' established themselves in the savannas of southern and eastern Africa nearly 4 million years ago. These human-like creatures slowly developed into persons-as-we-know-'em as more sophisticated tools were produced and climatic conditions became more favourable. By the middle Stone Age, which lasted until 20,000 years ago, organized hunting and gathering societies had been established, and by 8000BC, late Stone Age people occupied rock shelters and caves all over southern Africa. The first inhabitants of Zimbabwe were probably nomadic, adaptable San groups, gradually absorbed by Khoi-Khoi grazier tribes, and slowly transmuting into a culture known as Khoisan.

At the beginning of the first millennium AD the region immediately to the south of the Zambezi River, which was later to become Rhodesia, was inhabited by Neolithic hunter-gatherers related to the San or 'Bushmen' people. In succeeding centuries groups of Iron Age peoples from the north began moving into the area, bringing with them knowledge of food-crop cultivation and absorbing or pushing further south the original inhabitants. It was during this period that thousands of small gold mines began to be worked and contact was established with Swahili and Arab merchants from the East African coast.

Bantu and Shona Peoples
Bantu-speaking farmers, either Khoisan settlers or Iron Age migrants from the north, were the first occupants of the Great Zimbabwe site in the south of the country. Between 500 and 1000AD, the Gokomere (a Bantu group into gold-mining and cattle ranching) enslaved and absorbed San groups in the area. As early as the 11th century, some foundations and stonework were in place at Great Zimbabwe and the settlement, generally regarded as the nascent Shona society, became the trading capital of the wealthiest and most powerful society in south-eastern Africa. The hilltop acropolis at Great Zimbabwe came to serve not only as a fortress but as a shrine for the worship of Mwari, the pre-eminent Shona deity. By the 15th century, Great Zimbabwe's influence had begun to decline, due to a heady cocktail of overpopulation, overgrazing, popular uprisings and political fragmentation.

During the ninth and tenth centuries, Shona-speaking peoples (ancestors of the dominant linguistic group in present-day Zimbabwe) began to migrate into the area, intermingling with and absorbing the other Bantu-speaking inhabitants already there. By the beginning of the 12th century they had already established the basis for the civilization that was to develop into the two great state systems known as the Mwene Mutapa and Rozwi empires that successively dominated the area into the 19th century. Its greatest period of expansion was between 1450 and 1500 under King Mutota, and by the time of the arrival of the first Portuguese at the beginning of the 16th century its area of control included most of present-day Zimbabwe and large parts of present-day Moçambique.

The central government maintained its power through a system of tribute from its vassals. By the beginning of the 17th century the Mutapa empire was in rapid decline as a result of its constant struggles with the invading Portuguese, coupled with a debilitating series of internal dynastic disputes.

Beginning in the 14th century as a separate state from the Mutapa empire, the Rozwi kingdom reached its zenith in the 17th and 18th centuries. Not only was it able to take control of external trade, but it was also able to drive back the Portuguese invaders. Rozwi power disintegrated in the mid-19th century after invasions from the south, the most important of which was led by Mzilikazi, the chief of the Ndebele. In 1834, Ndebele raiders invaded from the south, assassinated the Rozwi leader and established a Ndebele state with the capital at Bulawayo.

Mzilikazi was a military commander in the powerful army of Shaka, the ruler of the expansionist, centralized Zulu state on the eastern coast of South Africa. Having fallen out with Shaka, Mzilikazi led his splinter group out of the reach of Shaka's vengeance, first into the Transvaal, and then across the Limpopo River into Matabeleland. The Ndebele people were a product of this migration, having conquered and assimilated local people of the areas through which they travelled.

Mzilikazi set up his capital in south-western Zimbabwe around Bulawayo. He was succeeded in 1870 by his son, Lobengula, the last of the independent Ndebele rulers. By the 1880s the Ndebele were becoming increasingly pressed by European encroachment from the south. European gold seekers and ivory hunters from the Cape were moving into Shona and Ndebele territory. The best known of these was Cecil John Rhodes who envisioned a corridor of British-style 'civilization' stretching all the way from the Cape to Cairo.

British Settlement
In 1888 Lobengula signed the so-called Rudd Concession with representatives of Cecil Rhodes, who formed the British South Africa Company the following year. What for Lobengula was seen only as an agreement for the company to mine gold was interpreted by Rhodes as virtually turning over sovereignty to the company, and in 1890 the famous 'Pioneer Column' invaded the country, setting up its capital at Salisbury (now Harare). Sanctioned by Queen Victoria, white settlers swarmed in, led by the heavy-handed Rhodes. By 1895, the new country was being referred to as Rhodesia and a white legislature was set up. By 1911 there were some 24,000 settlers.

A war broke out between Lobengula and the British South Africa Company in 1893, in which the Ndebele were decisively defeated and forced to forfeit their lands. Three years later, however, the Ndebele rose up again, this time in conjunction with the Shona, their erstwhile enemies. The first chimurenga (war of liberation) was finally put down in 1897 after much bloodshed, though few whites were killed. Despite its defeat the chimurenga provided an inspiration to the later nationalist movement as a symbol of resistance and national unity.

From an original invasion force of 200 settlers and 500 armed police, the white population of what was called Southern Rhodesia (after Rhodes) grew to 12,000 in 1904 and doubled again by 1911. In a 1922 referendum, whites chose 'responsible self-government' over inclusion in the Union of South Africa or continued company rule. In 1923 Southern Rhodesia officially became a self-governing colony, with the British government retaining some powers in those areas dealing directly with Africans. The franchise was theoretically non-racial, but financial qualifications effectively limited any significant African vote. In the late 1940s, moves began to create a Central African Federation of Southern and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Some whites opposed this as they would become a smaller minority in such a federation, since the European population of the latter two colonies was minimal and the 'winds of change' on the continent, brought about by African nationalism, were already beginning to blow.

At the same time, however, Southern Rhodesia was in transition from an economy based almost entirely on settler agriculture to one that was becoming increasingly industrialized. It was these industrial interests - both local and foreign - which, along with the British government, provided the bulk of support for federation. The vision was to combine the large supply of cheap labour of Nyasaland and the vast mineral resources of Northern Rhodesia with the capital, technological know-how and coal-supplied power of Southern Rhodesia, while at the same time maintaining European dominance over all.

Initial Opposition
Almost from its beginning in 1953, the Federation was plagued by both black and white opposition. Local and foreign industrial and mining interests wanted to limit the power of settler agriculture and of the white workers by making some concessions to Africans, so as to create a broader and more racially mixed middle stratum between large-scale capital and the masses of African peasants and workers.

The year 1945 witnessed the first successful strike by African railway workers, resulting in wage increases and official recognition for their union. In the early l950s the All-African Convention was formed with nationalists from both the Rhodesias and Nyasaland to oppose federation. Joshua Nkomo, then the head of the Railway African Workers' Union became the Convention's president in 1952.

Sporadic acts of sabotage in the early 1960s indicated an increasing African impatience with the prospects for constitutional change. In 1962 The Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) was banned, and most of its leadership was restricted for three months. The People's Caretaker Council was created as a temporary replacement inside Rhodesia, but ZAPU maintained its existence externally. In 1963 the breakaway Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) was formed under the leadership of Ndabaningi Sithole, reflecting tensions concerning the pace of the nationalist struggle under Nkomo.

Ian Smith
The Central African Federation was dissolved in 1963, paving the way for the independence of Malawi and Zambia on the basis of 'majority rule'. Britain refused to decolonise Southern Rhodesia until some sort of accommodation could be worked out between black and white. Field was replaced as Prime Minister by Ian Smith, who moved rapidly to bring the crisis to a head. Both ZAPU and ZANU were banned completely in 1964, and much of the nationalist leadership was imprisoned. Another referendum showed overwhelming white support for a unilateral declaration of independence. A May 1965 general election gave all 50 upper roll seats to the Rhodesian Front, and Smith's government made a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) on 11 November 1965.

Declaring Smith's action to be illegal, the British Labour government of Harold Wilson imposed economic sanctions on the breakaway colony. After heavy Commonwealth pressure, these sanctions were made mandatory by the UN in 1968 but were ignored or sidestepped to a large extent by most Western nations, including Britain.

Guerilla War
Then in March 1970, Rhodesia declared itself a republic. In the meantime both ZANU and ZAPU had opted for a strategy of armed struggle. Guerrilla incursions began in 1966 on the initiative of ZANU, and continued rather sporadically over the next few years. In 1972 the guerrilla war escalated sharply as ZANU began to open up a new front in the north-east, operating out of Moçambique with the co-operation of the Frelimo forces who kept the Rhodesian army off their flank.

The guerrilla war, carried on primarily by the Mugabe-led ZANU forces based in Moçambique, was causing a rapid deterioration in the Rhodesian government's position. Faced with increasing pressure from his erstwhile South African and American allies, Smith agreed to meet US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Pretoria in September 1976. Given a virtual ultimatum by Kissinger in Pretoria, Smith announced to an astonished Rhodesian public later that month that he had agreed to majority rule within two years, after having promised white Rhodesians the previous March that majority rule would come about 'never in a thousand years'.

Muzorewa, Sithole, Nkomo and Mugabe each led separate delegations to Geneva. After the breakdown of the discussions with Smith the previous spring, Nkomo had again gone into exile and adopted a much more militant stance as head of the Zambia-based ZAPU guerrilla army. In order to present a common front for the purposes of negotiations, Nkomo's ZAPU and Mugabe's ZANU decided to form an alliance in the Patriotic Front (PF), while Muzorewa and Sithole still led separate delegations. After many weeks of deliberations, the conference met a sticking point over the schedule for independence and the talks broke down. Muzorewa and Sithole ended their exile and returned to Salisbury.

The Anglo-American proposals were presented to Smith by British Foreign Secretary David Owen and US Ambassador to the UN Andrew Young in mid-1977. The new proposals called for a six-month interim period in which a British-appointed commissioner would assume absolute control. A new Zimbabwe army would be created out of a combination of the Rhodesian forces and elements of the guerrilla armies. All whites' property rights would be guaranteed, and whites would be assured an influence far in excess of their numbers over any future government policy.

Road to Independence
In the face of the widening war, rising white emigration and a collapsing economy, Smith decided in December 1977 to bring about an 'internal settlement'. Negotiations were started with Muzorewa and Sithole along with Jeremiah Chirau of the Zimbabwe United People's Organization (ZUPO), a narrow grouping organized by government-appointed chiefs. On 3 March 1978, an agreement was signed outlining the broad parameters of a new constitution and creating a Transitional Government to rule until 31 December - the proposed date of independence.

It was also charged with writing a new constitution that would be subject to the approval of the nearly all white electorate. On both levels of the new government, the white Rhodesian Front members held veto power. The three African signatories agreed that the new constitution would include provisions giving whites 28 out of 100 legislative seats; a veto over any legislation for at least ten years; the maintenance of all white property and pension rights; and white control of the civil service, police and judiciary. Finally, Smith would continue as prime minister during the transition period.

The new Transitional Government announced an amnesty programme for PF guerrillas, but within a couple of months it became clear that this effort had failed - instead the war intensified. Muzorewa and Sithole, in turn, blamed Smith and the Rhodesian Front for vetoing any attempt to ameliorate the conditions under which the mass of Africans lived. Faced with the obvious failure of the internal settlement to achieve an end to the war and the lifting of international economic sanctions, Smith made a bold attempt in August 1978 to split the Patriotic Front and bring ZAPU's Nkomo into the Transitional Government.

The initial Smith-Nkomo meeting took place on 14 August in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, with the knowledge and encouragement of Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda and that of Nigeria, the US and Britain. Other Frontline States - Tanzania, Botswana, Moçambique and Angola - were not informed, nor was Nkomo's Patriotic Front partner, Mugabe. A week later Mugabe, who had been in Nigeria, was accompanied to Zambia by the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Joseph Garba, who informed him that the negotiations had gone on and that another meeting was taking place at the time in Lusaka. An incensed Mugabe refused to conduct secret negotiations with Smith. It also became clear that the negotiations had been conducted without the knowledge or approval of Smith's colleagues in the Rhodesian Transitional Government.

Only days after the whole affair was made public, any slim remaining chances that it would bear fruit were dashed when an Air Rhodesia plane was shot down by a guerrilla rocket (for which ZAPU claimed responsibility) resulting in the deaths of 48 people. Reacting to the near-hysterical response of Rhodesian whites, Smith unleashed a series of large-scale attacks on refugee camps and suspected guerrilla bases in Zambia and Moçambique.

As the elections scheduled for the end of December approached amid the rapidly escalating war, the Transitional Government was forced to announce a postponement until the third week in April. All three African members of the Executive Council were rapidly losing any internal political support they had previously enjoyed, since they were constantly unable to deliver any tangible improvement to the conditions of the mass of Zimbabweans.

New Constitution
In late January 1979 the new constitution was submitted to a referendum of the 90,000 registered white voters. The constitution now included one more victory by Smith over his fellow Executive Council members: the name of the new country would be 'Zimbabwe-Rhodesia' instead of the previously agreed upon African name - Zimbabwe. With about 70% of the white electorate voting, the new constitution received 85% approval. The 6.5 million Africans had no voice in approving the document.

The referendum took place on 30 January amid the accelerating disintegration of Rhodesian society. Reports on the previous year's economic performance were disastrous. In December PF guerrillas blew up the largest fuel storage depot in the country. The fire raged for a week, destroying 17 million gallons of fuel. In early January only 300 of a listed 1,500 men reported for duty in the first national call-up of Africans. An even more severe blow to white morale was that 30% of the whites scheduled to report for duty the same day had also joined the ranks of the war resisters.

Initial Zimbabwe Elections
The four-day elections for the new parliament in April resulted in the expected victory for Bishop Muzorewa's UANC, but it took a government mobilization of 100,000 men under arms to bring it off. Sithole, who had called the elections 'a great democratic experiment' several days before they began, referred to them as 'one big cheat' several days later. But perhaps the most devastating and best documented critique of the elections was that of the British All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights. The report labelled the elections 'a gigantic confidence trick' and said that a climate of intimidation surrounded the entire election with threats of death directed at anyone who urged people not to vote.

On 29 April, the UN Security Council condemned the elections as illegal and called for the maintenance of sanctions by a 12-0 vote, with France, the US and Britain abstaining. Four days later, however, in what would seem a contradiction in the light of his Security Council abstention, American UN Ambassador Andrew Young denounced the elections as 'rigged'. The immediate post-election policy of the coalition government headed by Bishop Muzorewa was to get sanctions lifted and achieve international recognition. In early May, after a three-day meeting in Addis Ababa, the Patriotic Front leaders, Nkomo and Mugabe, announced the creation of a joint military command for their respective armies. They also rejected a request from some of the Frontline States that they form a provisional government that could be accorded recognition. The obvious reason for this was that the two organizations were still unable to bring about sufficient unity (on political questions at least) to form such a government.

The Commonwealth meeting in Lusaka in August 1979 produced another 'last chance' attempt to bring about a settlement. Discussions between Thatcher, Kaunda and Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere produced an agreement signed by all 39 members of the Commonwealth calling for new all-party talks in London the following month. On 10 September, the latest negotiations to bring about a settlement began under the chairmanship of British Foreign Minister Lord Carrington at Lancaster House in London. After 14 weeks of negotiations, the Lancaster House agreement was finally signed on 17 December 1979. It was agreed that independence would be achieved in stages. First on 28 December a formal ceasefire would come into effect. Then there would be a laying down of arms, followed by free elections, the formation of an African government and, at long last, independence.

The agreement specified that upon the granting of independence, the country's name would be Zimbabwe. The same day, the U.N. Security Council endorsed the settlement agreement and formally voted unanimously to call on member nations to remove sanctions. During the transitions 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.

Mugabe and ZANU Party Take Power
Nearly 94% of the country's black electorate of 2.9 million people voted during the three days of polling at the end of February. The results were announced on 4 March. Robert Mugabe's ZANU(PF) party won an absolute majority. The scale of Mugabe's victory surprised most observers. He had taken 63% of the votes cast and 57 seats; Nkomo's ZAPU-PF had won only 20 seats with 24% of the votes. Bishop Muzorewa was totally routed, with only three seats. No seats were won by the minor parties.

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. Mugabe stated that Zimbabwe would follow a non-aligned foreign policy while seeking assistance from all actions and would pursue a pragmatic relationship with South Africa. He noted that while Zimbabwe opposed apartheid and would support democratic change in South Africa, it would not provide bases for anti-South African guerillas.

The British government formally granted independence to Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980. Most nations recognized Zimbabwe following independence. The United States was to first nation to open an embassy in Salisbury on that day. Parliament convened for the first time on May 13, 1980. Zimbabwe became a member of the United Nations on August 25, 1980. In seeking national reconciliation, Prime Minister Mugabe's first cabinet comprised members of ZANU-PF, PF-ZAPU, and independent white members of parliament (MPs) and senators. The government embarked on an ambitious reconstruction and development program and instituted increases in minimum wages. Land redistribution proceeded under four experimental models on land that the government had purchased at market rates from willing sellers.

Since independence Prime Minister Mugabe's policy of reconciliation was generally successful during the country's first two 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.

Mugabe revealed himself as more of a pragmatist than a Marxist. He consistently followed policies designed to achieve the maximum national unity. This meant leaving the existing economic structure largely untouched while concentrating his efforts on the problems of resettling up to a million refugees who had left Zimbabwe during the war and reintegrating the guerrillas, who remained in their camps until jobs could be found for them. Most whites accepted the new political situation. Though white emigration continued as it had done throughout the UDI era, it was far less dramatic than most expected. Those whites not prepared to live under an African government steadily drifted away, mostly to South Africa.

Factional ZANU-ZAPU Fighting
Splits soon developed, however. 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.

Terrorism and violence in Matabeleland aggravated by the worst drought for more than a century and acute land problems became particularly bad in 1982, especially after the discovery of the arms caches in February. In March, two senior commanders of Nkomo's former guerrilla army were arrested, and Nkomo, after getting permission to address public meetings to calm the situation, remained defiant and accused the government of trying to overthrow constitutional government. On 8 March 1983 Nkomo fled from his Bulawayo home, took refuge in Botswana and then went into exile in Britain. He had been in hiding from government security forces since a weekend raid on his home in which his chauffeur was injured and 1,000 of his supporters were detained.

The situation in Matabeleland gradually improved in 1984 with the appointment of a government commission of inquiry on 10 January, though the press was still banned from the area and the government renewed the state of emergency for the eighth time since independence. Outside food supplies were allowed into the area from February. Mugabe visited Matabeleland for the first time in April 1984 and lifted the dawn-to-dusk curfew to allow the local stores to restock with foodstuffs.

On 8 August 1984 ZANU-PF held its first congress in 20 years and adopted a new constitution which greatly enlarged the central committee from 26 to 90 members and introduced a new 15-member Politburo, whose members were to be selected by Mugabe and the Deputy Prime Minister. This was seen as strengthening Mugabe's position. ZAPU held its party congress on 14 October. Nkomo was re-elected as President, a post he had already held for 20 years. He attacked the government's record in Matabeleland and firmly rejected its plans for a one-party state. He also rejected the idea of a united opposition front with the other opposition parties.

Factional fighting between rival ZANU and ZAPU party supporters occurred frequently in the build-up to the elections of June 1985. Twenty ZAPU members were killed on 10 November 1984 in a riot in Beitbridge following the murder of a ZANU central committee member. On 8 January 1985 Nkomo claimed that his car was stoned and shot at by government supporters at Masvingo, a strongly pro-ZANU area. A passionate demonstration followed in which Nkomo was forced to take refuge in the local police station. In February 1985, the government postponed the forthcoming elections, ostensibly to complete election preparations but also because of the escalating violence and fighting between rival political parties. ZAPU complained that restrictions being placed in its way were making it difficult to campaign. ZAPU areas were under heavy military control, and its supporters were subjected to continual harassment. The government meanwhile pointed to continued killings by anti-government rebels.

Mugabe Increases Stronghold
On 23 December 1985 it was announced that the government planned to enact a new law that would give the President sweeping powers to allow him to adopt regulations to deal with any urgent situation involving defence, public order, safety, morality, health or the economy. Parliament's only role would be to endorse cabinet decrees. The bill was intended to help the government handle difficult situations if the 20-year state of emergency were lifted.

The election finally took place on 27 June 1986 for white voters and on 1-2 July for black voters. ZANU-PF won an overwhelming victory, increasing its share of the seats from 57 to 63 out of the 79 seats on the common roll, and taking 77% of the votes cast. ZAPU held only 15 of the 20 seats it had in 1985 and all these were in the Matabele area. The UANC of Bishop Muzorewa won no seats at all. Sithole's ZANU party won a solitary seat. On the white roll, Ian Smith's Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe (CAZ) won 15 of the 20 white-reserved seats on an extremely low poll in which only 33,000 of the 65,000 whites bothered to vote.

In April 1986 Mugabe, addressing parliament on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of independence, said he planned to abolish the 20 white reserved seats within the next 12 months. 'Racial representation will just have to go,' he said. The white seats were abolished in September 1987. He also declared that he planned to change the constitution to allow the creation of a one-party state, but he made no mention of the unity talks with ZAPU.

In October 1987 parliament adopted the proposed constitutional reform, creating an executive presidency with wide powers including all those previously wielded by the prime minister. Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was the only candidate nominated for the new post and formally became President on 31 December 1987. Deputy Prime Minister Simon Muzenda became Vice President. Former President Canaan Banana retired. Mugabe reiterated his call for Zimbabwe to become a one-party state; his drive towards this end became known popularly as 'perming', with reference to the permanent hold on power for Mugabe that a one-party state would bring. Mugabe also proposed that the next elections would be for seats in a new 150-seat unicameral legislature, replacing the existing bi-cameral parliament. The one-party chamber was to go ahead, but Mugabe had to fight the March 1990 elections against four other parties.

Violence and 1990 Elections
The run-up to the 27-28 March poll was marred by violence, but the two-day voting period was relatively calm. Mugabe was re-elected to a third five-year term with 78.3% of the votes cast, as against Tekere's 16%. The united ZANU Party won 116 of the 120 elective seats, and ZUM took only two. The Sunday Mail reported that of the 4.8 million Zimbabweans who were eligible to vote, 2.6 million actually voted, for a voter turnout of 54%. Mugabe immediately declared that his victory in the elections constituted 'a firm mandate' for his proposed one-party state. The government embarked in a policy of taking over large tracts of commercial farmland under the Land Acquisition Act passed in March 1992. Over 70 farms, mostly owned by whites, had been designated. Twenty seven of these were to be taken against their owners' will. This raised a storm of protest from farmers' organizations, opposition politicians and foreign donors. The government pointed out that 4,300 white farmers owned half of the country's farmland while 7 million blacks lived on less viable land.

Mugabe Wins Fourth Term - 1996
In the March 1996 presidential elections Mugabe, standing for a fourth term, was opposed by his old opponents Bishop Abel Muzorewa (United Party) and Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole (ZANU-Ndonga). He swept the board, winning 92.7% of the vote, but only 31.7% of the electorate turned out. Muzorewa gained 4.7% of the vote and Sithole 2.4%. In June, Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, announced his intention to retire because of ill health. In August, Mugabe married his former secretary Grace Marufu, who had already had two children by him in a ten-year relationship.

In September 1996 a 14th amendment of the constitution provoked a row over the continued erosion of human rights. The amendment imposed strict regulations on foreign spouses who no longer had the right to automatic citizenship. On 28 October ZANU-PF formally dropped Marxism-Leninism as its guiding principle because it no longer reflected the practical and realistic aspirations of the country.

Mugabe Still In Power Today
Mugabe, a committed Marxist, has hung on to power ever since. He's survived resurgent rivalry and guerilla activity through a canny combination of dirty government, gerrymander and intimidation. It seems unlikely that Mugabe will ever get his one-party state - especially after the collapse of the USSR, the landslide defeat of Kaunda (a very mixed-up Marxist) in neighbouring Zambia and the increasingly strident demands by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and aid donors for the introduction of greater democratic measures in return for loan or aid.

Zimbabwe's citizens have become increasingly impatient with Mugabe as his large-scale mismanagement has filtered down as hip-pocket pinch. In Harare in early 1998, the dissatisfaction spilt over into open hostility, riots and looting. Although the country is recovering from the catastrophic drought of the early 1990s, the economy remains in dire straits. Zimbabwe, and Mugabe in particular, have come under increasing scrutiny due to the worrying increase in politically motivated human rights abuses and general climate of fear.

Mugabe was reelected in March 2002, but the election was controversial and marred by scandal. Ignoring international condemnation, it is widely accepted that Mugabe rigged the 2002 presidential election to ensure his reelection. Opposition and labor groups launched general strikes in 2003 to pressure Mugabe to retire early; security forces continue their brutal repression of regime opponents.  The rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has united with other civic organizations in continuing protests for a new constitution and against Mugabe's dictatorial tactics. Mugabe has accused his rivals of treason and clamped down on journalists who dare criticize his regime.

Opposition and labor strikes in 2003 were unsuccessful in pressuring MUGABE to retire early; security forces continued their brutal repression of regime opponents. The ruling ZANU-PF party used fraud and intimidation to win a two-thirds majority in the March 2005 parliamentary election, allowing it to amend the constitution at will and recreate the Senate, which had been abolished in the late 1980s. In April 2005, Harare embarked on Operation Restore Order, ostensibly an urban rationalization program, which resulted in the destruction of the homes or businesses of 700,000 mostly poor supporters of the opposition, according to UN estimates. ZANU-PF announced in December 2006 that they would seek to extend MUGABE's term in office until 2010 when presidential and parliamentary elections would be "harmonized."

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party won the 2005 parliamentary elections with an increased majority. The elections were said by (again) South African observers to "reflect the free will of the people of Zimbabwe", despite accusations of widespread fraud from the MDC.

On 6 February 2007, Mugabe orchestrated a cabinet reshuffle, ousting ministers including five-year veteran finance minister Herbert Murerwa.

On 11 March 2007, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and beaten following a prayer meeting in the Harare suburb of Highfields. Another member of the Movement for Democratic Change was killed while other protesters were injured. Mugabe claimed that "Tsvangirai deserved his beating-up by police because he was not allowed to attend a banned rally" on 30 March 2007.

General elections 2008:
The presidential elections were conducted on 29 March 2008, together with the parliamentary elections. On 2 April 2008, the Zimbabwe Election Commission confirmed that Mugabe and his party had lost control of Parliament to the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. This was confirmed when the results were released. Both the opposition and his party challenged the results in some constituencies. According to unofficial polling, Zanu-PF took 94 seats, and the main opposition party MDC took 96 seats. On 3 April 2008 Zimbabwean government forces began cracking down on the main opposition party and arrested at least two foreign journalists, who were covering the disputed presidential election, including a correspondent for the New York Times.

On 30 March 2008, Mugabe convened a meeting with his top security officials to discuss his defeat in the elections. According to the Washington Post, he was prepared to concede, but was advised by Zimbabwe's military chief, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, to remain in the race, with the senior military officers "supervising a military-style campaign against the opposition". The first phase of the plan started a week later, involving the building of 2,000 party compounds across Zimbabwe, to serve as bases for the party militias. On an 8 April 2008 meeting, the military plan was given the code name of "CIBD", which stood for: "Coercion. Intimidation. Beating. Displacement."

The official results for the presidential elections would be delayed for five weeks. When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown attempted to intervene into the election controversy, Mugabe dismissed him as "a little tiny dot on this planet".

When the official results for the presidential elections were finally published by the Zimbabwe election commission on 2 May 2008, they showed that Mr. Mugabe had lost in the first round, getting 1,079,730 votes (43.2%) against 1,195,562 (47.9%) collected by Mr. Tsvangirai. Therefore no candidate secured the final win in the first round and a presidential run-off would be needed. The opposition called the results "scandalous daylight robbery", claiming an outright victory in the first round with 50.3% of the votes.

Mugabe's run-off campaign was managed by Emerson Mnangagwa, a former security chief of the conflict of Gukurahundi. The Washington Post asserts that the campaign of violence was bringing results to the ruling party by crushing the opposition party MDC and coercion of its supporters. By 20 June 2008, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights had "recorded 85 deaths in political violence since the first round of voting". News organizations report that, by the date of the second-round election, more than 80 opposition supporters had been killed, hundreds more were missing, in addition to thousands injured, and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.

Zimbabwean officials alleged that activists of the MDC, disguised as ZANU-PF members, had perpetrated violence against the population, mimicking the tactics of the Selous Scouts during the liberation struggle. They alleged that there was a "predominance" of Selous Scouts in the MDC. The Sunday Mail published an article which claimed that former Selous Scouts were training MDC youth activists in violent tactics, at locations near Tswane (Pretoria) and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa] In addition, at least 100 officials and polling officers of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission were arrested after the first round election.

Morgan Tsvangirai initially agreed to a presidential run-off with Robert Mugabe, but later withdrew (on 22 June 2008), citing violence targeted at his campaign. He complained that the elections were pointless, as the outcome would be determined by Mugabe himself.

The run-off election was held on 27 June 2008 and Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission released the results two days later. The official results showed that Mugabe had managed to double his votes since the first round, to 2,150,269 votes (85.5%), while his opponent Tsvangirai obtained only 233,000 (9.3%). However Tsvangirai had pulled out previously because of widespread violence from the Zanu PF's forces. The violence included beating, rape and others. Many voted because if they didn't, they could face violence against them. Although witnesses and election monitors had reported a low turnout in many areas of the country, the official tally showed that the total vote had increased, from 2,497,265 votes in the first round to 2,514,750 votes in the second round.

Two legal opinions commissioned by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) declared the run-off election illegal because it occurred outside the 21 day period within which it had to take place under Zimbabwean law. Under item 3(1)(b) of the Second Schedule of the Electoral Act, if no second election is held within 21 days of the first election, the candidate with the highest number of votes in the first election has been duly elected as President and must be declared as such. According to the figures released by Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission, that would mean that Morgan Tsvangirai is the de jure President.

Mugabe's inauguration to his sixth presidential term of office was a hastily arranged ceremony, convened barely an hour after the electoral commission declared his victory on 29 June 2008. None of his fellow African heads of state were present at his inauguration; there were only family members, ministers, and security chiefs in the guests' tent. The Zimbabwean military, and not President Robert Mugabe, is now considered to be running the troubled country, in the opinion of a South Africa-based NGO called the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF) - 10 Jul 2008.

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Political Summary
The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980.  Robert MUGABE, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence.

Chief of state: Executive President Robert Gabriel MUGABE (since 31 December 1987); Vice President Joseph MSIKA (since December 1999) and Vice President Joyce MUJURU (since 6 December 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government.
Head of government: Executive President Robert Gabriel MUGABE (since 31 December 1987); Vice President Joseph MSIKA (since December 1999) and Vice President Joyce MUJURU (since 6 December 2004).
Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president; responsible to the House of Assembly.
Elections: presidential candidates nominated with a nomination paper signed by at least 10 registered voters (at least one from each province) and elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); elections last held 28 March 2008, followed by a run-off on 27 June 2008 (next to be held in 2013); co-vice presidents appointed by the president.
Election results: Robert Gabriel MUGABE reelected president; percent of vote - Robert Gabriel MUGABE 85.5%, Morgan TSVANGIRAI 9.3%, other 5.2%; note - first round voting results - Morgan TSVANGIRAI 47.9%, Robert Gabriel MUGABE 43.2%, Simba MAKONI 8.3%, other 0.6%; first-round round polls were deemed to be flawed suppressing TSVANGIRAI's results; the 27 June 2008 run-off between MUGABE and TSVANGIRAI were severely flawed and internationally condemned.

The Republic of Zimbabwe covers 390,580 square kilometres, an area slightly larger than the state of Montana in the U.S. The landlocked country is bordered on the south by South Africa, on the east by Moçambique, to the west is Botswana, and to its north lies Zambia.

Most of Zimbabwe consists of a central plateau, 3,000-4,000 feet above sea level. The highveld stretches from southwest to northeast from 4,000 to 5,000 feet with a mountainous region along the eastern border from 6,000 to 8,000 feet in altitude. The Zambezi River runs along the northern border and the Limpopo River along the southern border. The Zambezi Valley is an extension of the Great Rift Valley. The southern edge of the Zambezi Valley is formed by the Zimbabwean Escarpment. The Zambian Escarpment, situated north of the Zambezi River, forms the northern edge of the Zambezi Valley.

The capital city of Zimbabwe is Harare.

Ethnicity and Population
Zimbabwe's ethnicity is as follows: African 98% (Shona 82%, Ndebele 14%, other 2%), mixed and Asian 1%, white less than 1%. Fifty percent of the population are syncretic (part Christian and part traditional beliefs), 25 percent are Christian, 24 percent traditional, and one percent are Hindu and Muslim. One-quarter of the population lives in urban areas, with half of that number residing in the cities of Harare and nearby Chitungwiza alone. English is understood by a majority of the population.

Its estimated population of 11.35 million people (July 2008) is uncertain due to the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS.  The HIV adult infection rate is currentlly estimated at 33.7% (2004 est) with 2.3 million adults living with the disease.  Approximately 200,000 deaths per year are attributed to HIV/AIDS.

The Flag
Zimbabwe's FlagThe National flag has seven equal horizontal bands of green, yellow, red, black, red, yellow, and green with a white isosceles triangle edged in black with its base on the hoist side; a yellow Zimbabwe bird is superimposed on a red five-pointed star in the center of the triangle. The green represents Country's vegetation and land resources. The yellow represents the country's mineral wealth. The red represents the blood spilt during the liberation struggle. Black represents the black majority. The Zimbabwe Bird is the National Emblem of Zimbabwe. White triangle for peace and the "way forward". Red Star for internationalism (and reflects the ruling party's socialist credentials).

Climate            For temperature and rainfall details in Victoria Falls, click African Safari Weather
The climate is moderate with winter days (May-August) being generally dry and sunny with day temperatures averaging 59-68 degrees-F (15-20 degrees-C). Summer daytime temperatures average 77-86 degrees-F (25-30 degrees-C), with October being the hottest month. The rainy season in December-March.

The chief industries in Zimbabwe are mining (coal, gold, copper, nickel, tin, clay, numerous metallic and nonmetallic ores), steel, wood products, cement, chemicals, fertilizer, clothing and footwear, foodstuffs, and beverages. Agricultural products include corn, cotton, tobacco, wheat, coffee, sugarcane, peanuts; cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs.

The economy of Zimbabwe is collapsing under the weight of economic mismanagement, resulting in 85% unemployment and spiraling hyperinflation. The economy poorly transitioned in recent years, deteriorating from one of Africa's strongest economies to the world's worst. Inflation has surpassed that of all other nations at over 80 sextillion% (although it is impossible to calculate an accurate value), with the next highest in Burma at 39.5%. The government has attributed the economy's poor performance to ZDERA, a US congressional act hinging debt relief for Zimbabwe on democratic reform, and freezing the international assets of the ruling class. It currently has the lowest GDP real growth rate in an independent country and 3rd in total (behind Palestinian territories.)

The country has reserves of metallurgical-grade chromite. Other commercial mineral deposits include coal, asbestos, copper, nickel, gold, platinum and iron ore. However, its ongoing political turmoil and the world's highest rate of AIDS infection have greatly hampered its progress. Spiraling inflation, which many critics argue was caused by president Robert Mugabe's policies towards land reform, have led to internal upheaval and population displacement, and poverty.

The currency is the Zambian Kwacha. Recent historical exchange rates are as follows: Kwachas per US dollar - 240.7 (12/31/2006 revalued); 82,902 (12/31/2005); 5,609 (12/31/2004); 826.4 (12/31/2003); 57.1 (12/31/2002); 57.3 (12/31/2001); 55.2 (12/31/2000); 38.0 (12/31/1999); 37.3 (12/31/1998); 18.6 (12/31/1997).

The official Zimbabwean dollar exchange rate had been frozen at Z$101,196 per U.S. dollar since early 2006, but as of 27 July 2006, the parallel (black market) rate had reached Z$550,000 per U.S. dollar. By comparison, 10 years earlier, the rate of exchange was only Z$9.13 per USD.

In August 2006 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) revalued the Zimbabwean Dollar by 1000 ZWD to 1 (revalued) dollar. At the same tim,e Zimbabwe devalued the Zim Dollar by 60% against the USD. The new official exchange rate was revalued ZWD 250 per USD. The parallel market rate was about revalued ZWD 1,200 to 1,500 per USD (28 September 2006).

In November 2006 it was announced that sometime around 01 December, there would be a further devaluation and that the official exchange rate would change to revalued ZWD 750 per USD. This never materialized; however, the parallel market immediately reacted to this news with the parallel rate falling to ZWD 2,000 per USD (18 November 2006) and by year end it had fallen to ZWD 3,000 per USD.

On 01 April 2007 the parallel market was asking ZWD 30,000 for $1 USD. By year end, it was down to about ZWD 2,000,000. On 18 January 2008, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe began to issue higher denomination ZWD bearer cheques (a banknote with an expiry date), including $10 million bearer cheques - each of which was worth less than US $1.35 (70p Sterling; 0.90 Euro) on the parallel market at the time of first issue. On 04 April 2008 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced new $25 million and $50 million bearer cheques. At the time of first issue they were worth US$0.70 & US$1.40 on the parallel market respectively.

On 01 May 2008, the RBZ announced that the dollar would be allowed to float in value subject to some conditions.

On 06 May 2008, the RBZ issued new $100 million and $250 million bearer cheques. At the date of first issue, the $250 million bearer cheque was worth approximately US$1.30 on the parallel market. On 15 May 2008, a new $500 million bearer cheque was issued by the RBZ. At time of first issue it was worth US$1.93. In a widely unreported parallel move, on 15 May 2008, the RBZ issued three "special agro-cheques" with face values $5 billion (at time of first issue - $19.30), $25 billion ($96.50), and $50 billion ($193). It is further reported that the new agro-cheques could be used to buy any goods and services like the bearer cheques.

On 30 July 2008, the Governor of the RBZ, Gideon Gono announced that the Zimbabwe dollar would be redenominated by removing 10 zeroes, with effect from 01 August 2008. ZWD 10billion became 1 dollar after the redenomination.

International Disputes
• Botswana built electric fences and South Africa has placed military along the border to stem the flow of thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing to find work and escape political persecution.
• Namibia has supported, and in 2004 Zimbabwe dropped objections to, plans between Botswana and Zambia to build a bridge over the Zambezi River, thereby de facto recognizing a short, but not clearly delimited, Botswana-Zambia boundary in the river.


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