Useful Notes: Zimbabwe
From Bad to Worse — the country! A republic in Southern Africa. Famous recently for tension between its current President Robert Mugabe and the United Kingdom over land issues. Was formerly the British colony of Southern Rhodesia; in 1965 it declared unilateral independence and spent 14 years under a conservative white government likened to The Apartheid Era. This led to an armed struggle with several partisan groups, most notably the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and its offshoot, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). Finally saw segregation dismantled in 1979 and was renamed "Zimbabwe-Rhodesia" and then just "Zimbabwe" in 1980, when the world recognized its independence. Robert Mugabe, then chairman of ZANU, became the nation's first black prime minister. The good times didn't last: by the mid-90s, now-President Robert Mugabe (upon becoming president, he abolished the PM post but kept all its powers) had gone Ax-Crazy and turned the country into a totalitarian dictatorship — hyper-inflation, economic ruin and mass poverty ensued, as well as persecution of ethnic minorities and of all opposing political organizations (including the Movement for Democratic Change, who formed in response to Mugabe's crazy dictatorial actions). A botched election in 2008, which Mugabe secured via massive electoral fraud (with a healthy dose of intimidation by his militants), threatened to escalate into an all-out bloodbath. Eventually, the MDC managed to negotiate a power sharing arrangement with Mugabe; Morgan Tsvangirai took the reconstituted post of Prime Minister, while Mugabe remained as President with reduced powers. Several years on, times are still very tough, with rampant poverty, famine, undevelopment, and a devastating exodus of skilled nationals to other countries, namely South Africa. Used to be the "bread basket of Africa" before its current economic woes. The reason for the nickname was because Zimbabwe traditionally had a lively agricultural sector and was a net food exporter to neighboring African states. Most of this food was produced on commercial farms managed by white landowners. In 1998, Mugabe introduced a chaotic redistribution campaign which saw war veterans attacking the farms and forcibly evicting their occupants. Unfortunately, these veterans (and Mugabe) failed to realize that productive farming is actually pretty complicated. With little knowledge of how to use modern farm equipment and NO knowledge of effective commercial agriculture — since they'd, y'know, gotten rid of the people who knew what they were doing — the expropriated farms quickly went to seed. Food shortages followed, helped along by the worst drought in decades. To deal with the slump, Mugabe decided that the best way out would be printing more money, which led to Zimbabwe's infamous hyperinflation. It must be pointed out that, like the rest of Africa, Zimbabwe had a history before being conquered by Europe; and it's a very impressive one. In medieval times, (about 1220-1450), it was the heart of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, perhaps best remembered these days for its stone cities, the biggest of which, Great Zimbabwe, served as their capital and is the largest manmade stone structure in all Sub-Saharan Africa. They controlled the gold and ivory trade on the southeastern African coast, and enjoyed commerce with Arabic and Asian traders. From the 15th to 17th centuries, the land was controlled by the the Kingdom of Mutapa. Contact with the Portuguese led to trade, but eventually brought about the kingdom's downfall; but the lands would not fall entirely under European control until the arrival of the British in the 19th century. Information about the Zimbabwe and Mutapa kingdoms, and the stone city of Great Zimbabwe is available on The Other Wiki. There is also a very good chapter on the Zimbabwean ruins in Henry Louis Gates's Wonders of the African World. Keep in mind that, as this is a country which essentially transitioned from rule by white supremacists to a monumentally disastrous personality cult, the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement applies.
Tropes as portrayed in fiction:
- Butt Monkey: It's a prime source of jokes due to the hyperinflation, and the fact that its president is one of the last remaining Africa-type Certified Nuts™.
- Lost World: The ruins of Great Zimbabwe inspired H. Rider Haggard and countless other "jungle explorer" authors to write tales of mysterious civilizations hidden away in Darkest Africa.
Zimbabwe in Fiction
- Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
- The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu
- The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
- The lost civilization in King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard was inspired largely by the stone ruins of Zimbabwe.
- Zimbabwe plays a small but significant part in the science fiction novel Alien In A Small Town, as the site of Earth's capital city and the home of one of the main characters.
The Zimbabwean flag
The twin green, yellow and red stripes symbolize the peasants and agriculture, mineral wealth, and the blood of the fallen during Zimbabwe's struggles for independence, respectively; the black central stripe stands for the people; the white triangle symbolizes peace, containing the red star of the revolution, upon which is superimposed the Zimbabwe Bird, a soapstone sculpture of an African Fish Eagle found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe.