Zimbabwe’s post-independence history in 10 dates

Key dates in the history of Zimbabwe.


Key dates in the history of Zimbabwe:

1980: Independence

Zimbabwe is born on April 18, 1980, after 90 years as the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which ended in a brutal seven-year war between black nationalists and white supremacists trying to prevent majority rule.

Guerrilla leader Robert Mugabe becomes prime minister on a promise of reconciliation and democracy.

1983-84: Massacres in Matabeleland

Shortly after he takes power Mugabe, seeking to establish a one-power state, deploys an elite North Korean-trained army unit to crack down on dissidents loyal to his rival Joshua Nkomo in the western Matabeleland region, the heartland of the Ndebele minority.

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At least 20,000 people are killed in operation “Gukurahundi”, a term in the majority Shona language, which translates loosely as “the early rain that washes away the chaff”.

1987: Mugabe’s grip tightens in Zimbabwe

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Nkomo’s Zimbabwe’s African People’s Union (ZAPU) merge to form ZANU-PF.

Mugabe changes the constitution to become an executive president.

1999: Dawn of the opposition

Trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai founds the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which, alongside civic groups, backs the successful “No” campaign against a constitutional referendum on land redistribution and presidential powers.

2000: White-owned farms seized in Zimbabwe

Smarting from the referendum defeat, Mugabe gives the go-ahead for black veterans of the liberation war and ruling party activists to seize white-owned farms.

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Hundreds of white commercial farmers are driven off their land in the first of a series of events that precipitate a severe economic crisis. Western countries impose sanctions on Zimbabwe and donors cut aid.

2002: Election violence

Mugabe is re-elected president in an poll marked by widespread violence and intimidation of opposition supporters. The Commonwealth suspends Zimbabwe.

Five years later Tsvangirai suffers a fractured skull after being badly beaten by police in detention after being arrested as officers broke up a rally.

2009: Unity government in Zimbabwe

In March 2008 with the economy in freefall and record hyperinflation, the opposition claims victory in presidential and parliamentary elections.

The state withholds the results for a month before announcing a run-off for president between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, which the latter boycotts.

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Under pressure from Zimbabwe’s neighbours, Mugabe agrees to a power-sharing government with the MDC, in which Tsvangirai becomes prime minister in February 2009.

2017: Mugabe out, Mnangagwa in

After 37 years in power Mugabe, then aged 93, is deposed in November by the army after trying to position his unpopular wife Grace as his successor. He dies two years later in Singapore.

Army-backed vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed the “Crocodile” for his political cunning, takes over from Mugabe. He wins elections in July 2018 by a wafer-thin majority. The army kills six people after it is called in to quell demonstrations after the disputed vote.

2019: New crackdown

Mnangagwa is accused of emulating Mugabe’s tactics in January after a brutal military crackdown on nationwide demonstrations over a doubling of fuel prices. At least 17 people are killed and hundreds injured, many from gunshot wounds.

2022: Launch of new opposition

After splits in the largest opposition MDC, Nelson Chamisa launches a new party, the Coalition of Citizens for Change (CCC), ahead of the August 2023 election.

Opposition campaigns are hampered through banned meetings and jailing of opponents by the government.

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