One of Africa’s largest and most advanced civilisations lived on present-day Zimbabwe during the 13th and 14th centuries. European colonisation was resisted until the late 1890’s when Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company seized control, finally running the country (then known as Southern Rhodesia) up until 1923 when it became a British Colony. A ‘white-only’ vote rejected a move to join the Union of South Africa let by Smuts. This in turn led to Southern Rhodesia forming and therefore joining the Central African Federation with Northern Rhodesia (modern day Zambia) and Nayasaland (now Malawi).
In 1965 a resistance to decolonisation, heavily supported by South Africa, issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). A violent civil war broke out between the white minority government and those believing in African independence. This continued until 1980 when the granting of independence was issued with a general election under British auspices. This was decisively won by the ZANU Party, with Robert Mugabe as their leader, with the ZAPU Party in opposition under Joshua Nkomo. After a few years of dissent from the ZAPU Party, the country’s domestic affairs remained relatively calm, with marked tranquil relations between the white minority (still holding the majority of Zimbabwe’s resources) and ZANU government.
The two parties joined peacefully in 1988 forming the ZANU Party. In 1990 they won 147 of the total 150 seats in parliament – this appeared to have followed Robert Mugabe’s plan of a One Party State, however, as the months and years went by this changed to a more totalitarian system akin to other African countries. With the lack of any substantial opposition Mugabe proceeded as chief controller both politically and economically.
Economically Zimbabwe followed trade liberalisation and land reform. Mugabe’s strong anti-apartheid stance continued to rule foreign policy with an ever-watchful eye on the progress, or lack of progress, of events in South Africa. Zimbabwe maintained to have good relations with the West (in particular The U.K.) as well as continuing friendly relations with China, North Korea and various eastern European countries. The deployment of Zimbabwe troops in war torn Mozambique, protecting the vital Beira Railway, cost enough money to encourage the Zimbabwe government to play an active part in helping to settle one of Africa’s more depressing civil wars.
In the 2000s, with enormous economic instability, widespread famine, and a lack of resources or machinery to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which affects an estimated one quarter of the population, President Mugabe soon earned himself widespread scorn from the international arena.
A historic power-sharing agreement was signed in 2008 by President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change. Following elections in July 2013, the results of which have been widely disputed, Mugabe was sworn in as president (his seventh term in office as Zimbabwe’s leader) after allegedly securing more than 60% of the ballot.