On November 15th, 2017, the then President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe was removed from power via a military coup. Current President Emmerson Mnangagwa faces a challenging transition following a leader who was both oppressive and beloved by many. Join Active Minds as we review Zimbabwe’s history as a former British Colony, the nominally independent country of Rhodesia, and a 15-year civil war involving complicated race relations. We will also cover where the country may be heading as it seeks to find its path after nearly four decades under the dictatorial rule of Mugabe.

Key Lecture Points

  • Zimbabwe is an example of a former colony that ousted its white rulers and created land reform to remove ownership of land from the white minority and place it back into the hands of the Nbele and Shona people native to Zimbabwe. United Nations sanctions were put in place in response to land redistribution policies.
  • 2017 saw a bloodless military coup that deposed 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, with support from both the majority of citizens and politicians, even from the President’s own party. The end of his thirty-year rule marks a new moment in Zimbabwean history.
  • Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa (pronounced mu-nun-GAHG-wa) has declared the county “open for business” and is rolling back these policies in an attempt to rejoin the international trade community.
  • In spite of promises to solve economic difficulties, Mnangagwa’s government has been unable to prevent extremely high rates of inflation and shortages of food, electricity, and other resources. The economic crisis is resulting in increasing frustration.
  • In March 2019, the deadly cyclone Idai tore through southern Africa and devastated Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, leaving hundreds of people dead and millions destitute without food or basic services. While facing flooding from the cyclone, Zimbabweans have also been struggling under a new wave of drought that has severely impacted food production.

Exploration Questions

  • What were the successes and failures of Zimbabwe’s land reform and international attempts to influence it?
  • What factors have affected Zimbabwe’s economic crisis? How has climate change impacted Zimbabwe’s level of poverty?

Reflective Questions

  • Have you ever visited southern Africa? What did you know about the region already that you were reminded of while learning about Zimbabwe?
  • Zimbabwe has many different cultures and languages that are used on a daily basis. How is that alike and different from the United States?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Mugabe, Tapiwa.  Zimbabwe. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. 84 pages. Zimbabwe is the first collection of poetry from Zimbabwean born, UK based writer Tapiwa Mugabe. This collection introduces a fresh and bold voice into the rich current that is emerging from young African millennial artists.
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  • Samkange, Stanlake.  On Trial For My County. Heinemann, 1967. 168 pages. This historical novel looks at the clash between Cecil Rhodes and Lobengula, the Matebele King.
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  • Vera, Yvonne.  Nehanda.  Mawenzi House Publishers, 2018.  128 pages. In the late nineteenth century white settlers and administrators arrive to occupy the African country of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia). Nehanda, a village girl, is recognized through omens and portents as a savior.
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