In 1923, according to topschoolsintheusa, Zimbabwe became a settler-run state, similar to South Africa in aspects such as racial segregation. Its intensive agriculture and gold mines made it the second richest country in Africa.
In 1953 Southern Rhodesia formed the Federation of Central Africa with neighboring Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia) and Nyassaland (present-day Malawi). Through the Federation the British hoped to create a counterweight to apartheid in Afrikaaner-dominated South Africa.
When decolonization in Africa began in the late 1950s, Europeans (5% of the population) owned about half of the land. Zambia and Malawi became independent in 1964. In Southern Rhodesia the African National Congress (ANC) also intensified the struggle for self-determination. Ian Smith’s settler government refused to approve an indigenous government and resisted British pressure for a gradual transfer of power to the local majority and in 1965 announced a unilateral declaration of independence. This determined the return to armed struggle by the African liberation movements ZAPU (Zimbabwe People’s Union), led by Joshua Nkomo and ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union), led by Robert Mugabe in 1975.
Smith’s Rhodesian Front regime was punished with a United Nations- imposed trade boycott, systematically circumvented with the cooperation of the South African government. After Mozambique’s independence in 1975, the guerrillas grew stronger. The guerrilla movements entered from camps located outside the country. Smith bombed Zambia and Mozambique, countries that, along with Angola, Botswana and Tanzania, had suffered a strong political and economic destabilization for having formed a common front against the racist regimes in the region.
Faced with increasing international pressure, in 1978 Smith signed with black leaders an internal agreement rejected by the liberation movements, the success of which forced the government to negotiate. London oversaw the February 1980 free elections, which Robert Mugabe won. Under the Lancaster House Accords of April 1980, Great Britain handed over power to ZANU. Whites retained some privileges, such as their lands and seats in Parliament.
Mugabe began by abolishing racist legislation and rebuilding the economy affected by seven years of war, with livestock reduced by a third, roads disabled and the scourge of diseases such as malaria. Mugabe advocated for national reconciliation and included ZAPU leaders and whites in the government, seeking support for an ambitious Development Plan. In the early years, economic growth was rapid, especially in agriculture. But Mugabe had to face the South African boycott at the exit of production and the division between ZANU and ZAPU (of Nkomo), whose mainly Ndebele guerrillas were dissatisfied with ZANU and the dominance of the Shona. A major drought in 1983 added to the setbacks.
Black peasant hopes for land reform clashed with the limitations imposed in the Lancaster House Accords, which called for the purchase and not the expropriation of white estates.
At the end of June 1985, Mugabe’s ZANU won the parliamentary elections widely throughout the country, except in the Ndebele area of Matabele; the majority of whites voted for the Rhodesian Front.
In 1986, 4,500 farmers (almost all white) owned 50% of the country’s productive lands, and employed black laborers who lived on their estates. More than 4,500,000 lived in poor, communally-owned rural areas called “tribal lands” located in dry regions, lacking in infrastructure and communications.
The Union of Commercial Farmers, made up of whites, generated 90% of agricultural production, paid a third of wages, and accounted for 40% of the country’s exports. The organization blocked many government initiatives for land reform and redistribution.
Through two constitutional reforms, in September 1987 the 30 parliamentary seats reserved for whites were abolished and executive authority was transferred to the president, elected by Parliament every six years.
In December 1987 Mugabe and Nkomo reached a merger agreement (ratified in April 1988) that created the Patriotic Front of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF).
The victory of ZANU-PF in the March 1990 elections, in which it won 116 out of 119 seats, was interpreted by Mugabe as popular support for its one-party idea. However, the newly organized Movement for Zimbabwe Unity (ZUM) obtained 15% of the vote and there was an abstention of 46%.
In 1990, Parliament passed an agrarian reform law that authorized the expropriation of land from white owners at a price set by the state, for redistribution among the black population. ZANU-PF abandoned Marxism-Leninism, and maintained a mixed and social democratic economy in which whites played a prominent role.
In 1992 the Mozambican conflict ended, eliminating the threat of destabilization for Zimbabwe. In the April 1996 elections (with 68% abstention), Mugabe obtained 93% of the votes.
The government had great difficulties in providing basic services due to structural adjustment programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which cut public spending, coupled with economic stagnation. Although 30% of the lands owned by whites had been redistributed, war veterans believed to have been forgotten since independence lobbied the government. In June 1996 they seized six farms east of Harare. In July, the government announced a new plan to establish 100,000 families on 5 million hectares to be purchased from white farmers. The IMF and the EU rejected the plan as too ambitious and instead supported a two-year pilot project. Mugabe changed his mind in November and expropriated 841 farms.
In October 1999, a 3% tax on salaries was implemented, intended, according to the government, to care for people with HIV / AIDS (25% of the country’s adults). The move was interpreted by many as a move to finance the 11,000 soldiers Mugabe sent in support of Laurent Kabila’s regime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The media denounced official corruption.