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Zimbabwe, pronounced zihm BAH bway, is a landlocked country in southern Africa. Most of the country is a high plateau. Zimbabwe lies in the tropics but has a pleasant climate because of the high altitude. Zimbabwe's beautiful scenery includes the famous Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River along the country's northern border. Zimbabwe is a leading mineral producer. Harare is the capital and largest city.

Since the late 1800's, the area that is now the country of Zimbabwe has had a troubled, often violent, political history. The vast majority of Zimbabwe's people are black Africans, but whites controlled the government from about 1890 to 1979. During the last years of white rule, black nationalists in Zimbabwe--then called Rhodesia--engaged in guerrilla warfare against the government. At the same time, the nation's economy was crippled by international trade sanctions (restrictions).

In the face of mounting opposition both at home and abroad, white Rhodesians finally agreed to hand over political power to the blacks. The first black-majority government was elected in 1979. However, many blacks rejected this government because they felt it was unrepresentative and that it allowed whites to retain many special privileges.

Карта Зимбабве

Widespread guerrilla violence continued until late 1979, when the government and the rebels signed a peace treaty. In return for a cease-fire, the government agreed to hold new elections in February 1980. The political party of Robert Mugabe, one of the principal rebel leaders, won a large majority of votes in these elections. Mugabe then became prime minister of the independent republic of Zimbabwe.

Government. An executive president heads Zimbabwe's government. The executive president is elected by the people to a six-year term. The executive president appoints two vice presidents and a Cabinet to carry out government operations.

Zimbabwe's laws are made by a parliament that consists of a 150-member House of Assembly. Of the members, 120 are elected by the people, 20 are appointed by the president, and 10 are held by the traditional chiefs of Zimbabwe. The members of the House serve six-year terms.

People. About 98 percent of Zimbabweans are blacks. About 1 percent are whites. The rest are Asians and Coloreds (people of mixed ancestry). About three-fourths of the blacks live in rural areas. Most of the whites, Asians, and Coloreds live in cities and towns. The largest black ethnic group in Zimbabwe is the Shona (often called the Mashona). The Ndebele (often called the Matabele) is the second largest group. The Shona speak a language called Chishona, and the Ndebele speak Sindebele.

Most blacks in Zimbabwe are farmers. Most of them raise only enough food for their families. Their main crop, corn, is pounded into flour to make a dish called sadza.

Many blacks in Zimbabwe work on commercial farms owned by whites. Other blacks work in cities and towns. The whites include farmers, who own most of the high veld (grasslands), and business and professional people.

Land. Most of Zimbabwe is a high, rolling plateau from 3,000 to 5,000 feet (910 to 1,500 meters) above sea level. The High Veld, a central plateau, crosses the country from northeast to southwest. The Middle Veld lies on either side of the High Veld. The Low Veld consists of sandy plains in the Zambezi, Limpopo, and Sabi river basins. Mount Inyangani (8,514 feet, or 2,595 meters) is Zimbabwe's highest point.

Zimbabwe's summer lasts from October to April and is hot and wet. The winter, from May to September, is cool and dry. Temperatures in the country range between 54 and 85 °F (12 and 29 °C), and rainfall varies from 15 inches (38 centimeters) a year in the west to 50 inches (130 centimeters) in the east.

Economy. Zimbabwe is an important producer of gold, asbestos, and nickel. A smelter at Kwekwe removes iron from ore mined in the area. Coal comes from the Hwange region. The country also has deposits of chromite, copper, tin, and gems. Crops include coffee, corn, cotton, peanuts, sugar, sunflower seeds, tea, tobacco, and wheat. Cattle raising on large ranches is also important.

The Kariba Gorge hydroelectric complex on the Zambezi is one of the world's largest. Its dam forms Kariba Lake, which covers 2,000 square miles (5,200 square kilometers). Its power plant supplies electricity to most of Zimbabwe. It is operated by Zimbabwe and Zambia.

History. Ancient paintings and tools made by the San (Bushmen) people have been found in Zimbabwe. These discoveries indicate that people have lived in the region for thousands of years. By the A.D. 800's, people were mining minerals for trade. Shona people began their rule about A.D. 1000. They built a city called Zimbabwe, or Great Zimbabwe. The word zimbabwe means house of stone in the Shona language. The city's ruins lie near Masvingo. They include a tower 30 feet (9 meters) high and part of a wall 800 feet (240 meters) around. The structures were made of huge granite slabs, most of which were fitted together without mortar.

During the 1400's, a branch of the Shona, called the Karanga, established the Mwanamutapa Empire. This empire included most of what is now Zimbabwe. At eastern African ports, the Karanga traded ivory, gold, and copper for porcelain from China and cloth and beads from India and Indonesia.

The Rozwi, a southern Karanga group, rebelled in the late 1400's and founded the Changamire Empire. This empire became stronger than the Mwanamutapa Empire, and the Rozwi took over the city of Zimbabwe. The Rozwi built the city's largest structures. The Changamire Empire was prosperous and peaceful until Nguni people from the south defeated much of the empire in the 1830's. The city was abandoned after the fall of the Changamire Empire.

Portuguese explorers introduced Christianity to what is now Zimbabwe in the 1500's. But few people accepted Christianity until the late 1800's. In 1888, the Ndebele granted mineral rights in the area to Cecil Rhodes, a British financier. By 1893, Rhodes's British South Africa Company occupied most of the region. In 1895, this company named its territory Rhodesia.

The British South Africa Company crushed black African uprisings in 1896 and 1897, and reports of gold brought more Europeans to the area. In 1897, Britain recognized Southern and Northern Rhodesia as separate territories. In 1922, the white settlers of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) voted for self-government, and Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony in 1923. In 1953, Britain set up the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which included Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and Nyasaland (now Malawi).

In 1961, Britain and Southern Rhodesia approved a new constitution. But the leading black African party boycotted the first election, because it felt too few blacks could vote. Later, the government banned two black parties, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union. Both demanded a greater part in government for blacks.

The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was dissolved in 1963. In 1964, Northern Rhodesia became the independent nation of Zambia, and Nyasaland became independent as Malawi. Southern Rhodesia became known as Rhodesia. Its government demanded independence in 1964. Britain declared that Rhodesia must first guarantee the black majority a greater voice in the government. Rhodesian talks with Britain finally broke down. On Nov. 11, 1965, Prime Minister Ian Smith declared Rhodesia independent. Rhodesia was the first colony to break with Britain without consent since the American Colonies did so in 1776. Britain called Rhodesia's action illegal and banned all trade with Rhodesia. Rhodesia rejected British proposals for a settlement. In 1966, the United Nations imposed economic sanctions against Rhodesia. Most countries then stopped or reduced their trade with Rhodesia.

In 1969, Rhodesian voters--mostly whites--approved a new constitution designed to prevent the black African majority from ever gaining control of the government. The Constitution took effect in 1970. Rhodesia declared itself a republic on March 2, 1970. But no country recognized its independent status. Led by the United Nations, many countries continued to apply political and economic pressure to end white rule in Rhodesia.

In 1971, Britain and Rhodesia reached an agreement that included provisions to gradually increase black representation in the government. But most Rhodesian blacks opposed the pact, and it did not take effect. In the early 1970's, fighting erupted between government troops and black guerrillas in Rhodesia. In 1974, the two sides agreed to a cease-fire.

In 1976, fighting again broke out between Rhodesian government troops and black guerrillas. Mozambique and other black African nations joined in the demand for an end of white rule in Rhodesia. Clashes between Rhodesian government troops and troops of Mozambique broke out near the border between the countries.

In the mid-1970's, Rhodesia's white rulers, led by Prime Minister Smith, began making plans to establish a new government with a majority of black leaders. In 1978, the whites reached an agreement with moderate Rhodesian blacks to form a government. Voting procedures were changed to allow all people 18 years old or over to vote. Previously, strict economic and educational requirements had prevented most blacks from voting. Elections in April 1979 resulted in a government with a majority of black leaders. Abel T. Muzorewa, a Methodist bishop, became the first black prime minister. But many blacks rejected the new government as unrepresentative, and no other country officially recognized it.

Widespread fighting between black guerrillas and the government went on until September 1979, when Britain arranged a peace settlement between the government and the rebels. Both sides finally agreed to the formation of a new government. In elections held in February 1980, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party won a majority of the seats in the House of Assembly. Robert Mugabe, the party's leader, became prime minister. On April 18, 1980, Britain recognized the country's independence, and Rhodesia's name was officially changed to Zimbabwe. Most countries and the United Nations soon recognized the new government and lifted the remaining trade sanctions against the nation. Since the blacks gained control of the government, many whites have left.

In 1981, fighting broke out in southwestern Zimbabwe between the national army and guerrilla forces formerly aligned with ZAPU. Some members of ZAPU claimed their party did not receive a fair share of power after the country gained independence. In 1982, Prime Minister Mugabe dismissed ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo from his Cabinet. Clashes between the guerrilla groups and the army continued until early 1984. By that time, the army had put down most of the rebellion.

Mugabe's party won the 1985 national elections. In 1987, the office of prime minister was abolished. The office of executive president was created to replace it as the highest government post. Parliament elected Mugabe to the new office. Negotiations begun in 1986 between Mugabe's ZANU-PF and Nkomo's ZAPU led the parties to formally merge in 1989. The new party uses the name ZANU-PF. In 1990 and 1996, the voters reelected Mugabe executive president.


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