This Thursday, Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, will preside over the country’s 39th independence celebrations, an event that comes as his government is promising to partially compensate white commercial farmers whose lands were confiscated and redistributed to blacks during the decades-long rule of Robert Mugabe.
On this day in 1980, Southern-Rhodesia gained independence from the British, taking the name Zimbabwe. The day marked the end of racial segregation after a protracted war of liberation that claimed many lives. In the ninety year span that Zimbabwe was a colony, it was administered by the British South African Company (BSAC) under the name Rhodesia and the Responsible Government under the name Southern Rhodesia. Both administrative systems were under the British monarchy.
In 1965, Zimbabwe became autonomous and was led by a white segregationist government after Ian Douglas Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Britain. This was after the British government had made majority rule a condition for the independence of Rhodesia from Britain. Smith followed the UDI by declaring Rhodesia a Republic, which however, did not have international recognition. From June 1979, the Republic of Southern Rhodesia was replaced by Zimbabwe-Rhodesia after Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa won the first majority elections.
Lacking international recognition, after about three months, the country was taken back into the hands of Britain, as per the Lancaster House Agreement which was meant to facilitate transition. The country once again became a British colony known as Southern Rhodesia. In the April 1980 elections, Robert Mugabe, head of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) won the majority and became the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe has been at the helm since 1980. And was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa in November 2017.
Once the bread basket of the region, since 2000 Zimbabwe has struggled to feed its own people due to severe droughts and the effects of a land reform programme that saw white-owned farms redistributed to landless Zimbabweans, with sharp falls in production. The new leadership is promising economic improvements so we remain optimistic.
Zimbabwean independence is celebrated on 18 April each year.
Happy Independence Zimbabwe!