History of Zimbabwe Timeline
- 1 Pre-Colonial
- 2 Colonial (BSAC Territories)
- 3 Colonial / "Responsible Government"
- 4 Colonial / Federation / Southern Rhodesia
- 5 Colonial / UDI / Rhodesia
- 6 Independence / Zimbabwe
- 7 Further Reading
1200 - 1500
Settlement of various Shona-speaking groups in the area.
1400 - 1500
António Fern.andes visits Munhumutapa.
1500 - 1600
Growth of the Rozvi confederation in what is now Matabeleland and western Mashonaland, Mwene Mutapa, and based at Zimbabwe. Regular contacts with Portuguese, Arab and Swahili traders
Portuguese Jesuit missionary Fr Gonzalo da Silveira killed in north-east Mashonaland.
Portuguese punitive expedition sent against Munhumutapa.
1600 - 1700
1700 - 1800
Supremacy of the Rozwi and period of prosperity and peace.
1830 - 31
King Lobengula Kumalo succeeds Mzilikazi as king of the Ndebele.
Moffat negotiates treaty of peace and amity between Lobengula and Britain (ratified April).
Royal Charter granted to British South African Company (BSAC) to enable it to exploit the concession.
Colonial (BSAC Territories)
Pioneer column recruited, enters the territory and establishes Fort Salisbury (12 September).
Britain establishes protectorate over Mashonaland.
Invasion of Matabeleland authorized (3 October). Bulawayo occupied (4 November). Allan Wilson patrol, pursuing Lobengula, annihilated on Shangani River (4 December).
Probable death of Lobengula. Establishment of African reserves in north and north-east Matabeleland. Hut tax imposed. Matabeleland Order in Council
Rhodesia so named by proclamation (23 April). Jameson raid on Transvaal (29 December).
Jameson raiders captured. Ndebele rebellion starts in Umzingwani district (24 March). Mashona rebellion starts with the Mangwende attack under Mchemwa on the Mrewa Native Commissioners’ camp (20 June). Storming and capture of Mkwati’s stronghold at Taba Zi Ka Mambo (5 July). Rhodes’ first of five idabas with Ndebele leaders in Matopo hills (21 August). Attacks on Chief Makoni’s fortress in caves at Gwindingwi, using dynamite to blow the defenders out (1-3 September). Makoni surrenders and is shot after a summary trial ordered by Lieut.-Col. Alderson (3 September).
Kunzwi Nyandoro’s kraal stormed (June). Mashiangombi’s kraal attacked and Mashiangombi killed (23 July). Railway reaches Bulawayo from South Africa (November).
Two Spirit mediums, Sekuru Kaguvi and Mbuya Nehanda, tried for murder (2 March). Nehenda and Kaguvi executed together with Chief Mashanganyika. Kaguvi received into the Catholic Church in the death cell, given the name Dismas; Nehenda refuses baptism, insisting she wanted to die in her home in Mazoe. BSAC promises and starts payment of £360,000 compensation to settlers. Imperial Order in Council establishes new constitution. Railway reaches Umtali from Beira.
First meeting of Legislative Council under new constitution. Railway reaches Salisbury from Beira. Boer War commences, cutting Rhodesia off from the Cape.
Mapondera rising in Mazoe.
Mapondera defeated by Mashonaland native police (March). Last battle until 1960s: Mapondera continues guerrilla raids, and to support chiefs Makombe and Chioco in their unsuccessful resistance to Portuguese authority.
Rhodes dies. Railway joins Bulawayo and Salisbury. All male Africans over 14 required by law to register and carry the Chitupa/pass at all times. Boer War ends.
Mapondera captured, tried, imprisoned, but dies after hunger strike. Immorality and Indecency Suppression Act passed, making sexual intercourse between black men and white women a criminal offence.
Railway completed across Zambezi at Victoria Falls.
Africans in urban areas prohibited by law to live outside ‘locations’ except as domestic servants.
African Labour (Identification) Act-to control recruitment of African labour - essentially to prevent unskilled labour going to South Africa.
Commission recommends changes in reserves by reducing them in both extent and quality. Long series of protests, especially in Matabeleland, organized by Nyamanda and the Matabele National Home Movement
Privy Council decisions reject case for African and Company ownership of the land, and held it belonged to the Crown.
BSAC compensated for assets taken over by the Crown. Native reserves totaling 2 1 million acres established. Legislative Council approves plan for ‘responsible government’.
Referendum on closer association with South Africa, or ‘responsible government’; majority for latter. A Zulu Anglican teacher, Abraham Twala, wrote: ‘. . . experience has taught us that our salvation does not lie in Downing Street'.
Colonial / "Responsible Government"
Formation by Abraham Twala of the Rhodesian Bantu Voters’ Association, the first African organization to urge Africans to depend on themselves rather than on the British Government. Rhodesia annexed to Britain as a colony (September). ‘Responsible government’ established (10 October).
First elections for Legislative Assembly, Sir Charles Coghlan first prime minister. Beginning of Rhodesia party government which continued (with a break in 1936-37) until 1962.
Morris Carter Land Commission appointed to consider setting apart defined areas outside reserves for exclusive acquisition by Africans and exclusive acquisitions by Europeans. Forty-five per cent of land still unalienated. Europeans held 31 million acres, including nearly all land over 3,000 feet and within 25 miles of railways.
Carter report recommends land apportionment.
Under Native Affairs Act, administrative, judicial and legislative powers in relation to Africans vested in Native Commissioners.
Land Apportionment Bill published. African opposition.
Land Apportionment Act passed, after approval by Britain.Divides Rhodesia into African and European areas. Compulsory education for Europeans under 1930 Education Act.
Industrial Conciliation Act provides structure for industrial bargaining in Rhodesia, excludes Africans by excluding them from the definition of ‘employee’.
Native Registration Act requires Africans in town to carry another pass (in addition to his chitupa)
Compulsory education of Asian and Coloured children. Bledisloe Commission in principle accepts amalgamation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia.
Second World War commences. Empire Air Training Scheme brings thousands of Britons into contact with Rhodesia during Royal Air Force training.
End of Second World War. Strike of African railway workers.
Native (Urban Areas) Accommodation and Registration Act requires employers and local government authorities to provide minimum housing for African workers and families. Empowers removal of unemployed from towns. Total control of local government in white hands, ‘Advisory Boards’ deal with African affairs in towns.
Native Labour Board Act empowers non-representative bodies to settle wages for African workers.
Native Land Husbandry Act introduces stringent conservation measures to force African farmers to de-stock and modify land tenure practices. Introduced and implemented without consultation with Africans. It was strongly resisted by African rural population, two-thirds of whom it would have made landless as they sought temporary employment in towns. British Labour government agrees to re-open discussions on closer association. March conference of officials unanimously recommends closer association by federation. Following Labour defeat, Lyttelton (Conservative Colonial Secretary) announces British approval of federation in principal.
Federal constitutional conferences boycotted by African delegates from northern territories.
Referendum of Rhodesian voters approved federation by 25,570 to 14,729; only 429 Africans eligible to vote (April). Federation Act becomes law. Sir Godfrey Huggins became the first prime minister of the federation, succeeded by Garfield Todd as prime minister of Southern Rhodesia (July).
Colonial / Federation / Southern Rhodesia
[Youth League]] organizes successful bus boycott in Salisbury, broken by police. Over 200 detained. Tredgold Franchise Commission to consider a ‘system for just representation of the people . . . under which government is placed, and remains in the hands of civilized and responsible persons’.
African (Registration and Identification) Act passed by Todd’s government, entitles ‘advanced’ Africans to an identity card in place of a chitupa. Winston Field, president of the Dominion Party (a predecessor of the Rhodesian Front), elected to federal parliament. Britain allows federation right to join international organizations and receive diplomatic representation. Native Councils Act passed; introduces ‘community development’ into African local government. New Franchise Act introduced by the United Federal Party (UFP) to ‘ensure that political power remains in responsible hands’, introduces a lower ‘Special Roll’, which could count for a maximum of 20 per cent of the white roll. Federal constitutional amendment effectively increases white electoral control. Southern Rhodesian African National Congress (ANC) (based on an organization started in 1934) founded as an African nationalist party demanding ‘one man, one vote’; President: Joshua Nkomo; Vice-president : James Chikerema; General Secretary: G. Nyandoro (12 September).
Garfield Todd ousted by cabinet revolt, replaced by Sir Edgar Whitehead, who is defeated by Dominion Party in a ‘safe’ seat. All meetings of ANC in rural areas banned. Whitehead and UFP win general election, but Dominion Party receives majority of first preference votes. Plewman Commission reports only 34.5 per cent of African families in urban areas living above poverty datum line.
Federation-wide emergency declared; Southern Rhodesian African National Congress banned, 500 members arrested, 300 detained. Devlin Commission reports that federation is main cause of African discontent. Unlawful Organizations Act passed. Preventive Detention (Temporary Provisions) Act provides for detention without trial. Public Order Act amended. Native Affairs Act amended. New Industrial Conciliation Act gives Africans limited rights in white-dominated unions.
National Democratic Party (NDP) formed by former leaders of ANC. Southern Rhodesian public service opened to Africans. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan makes 'wind of change speech in Cape Town. Law and Order (Maintenance) Act passed. Emergency Powers Act replaced the Public Order Act. Vagrancy Act passed. Monckton Commission report concludes that there is racial animosity in federation; demands its end or radical franchise changes. Constitutional conference in London ; African nationalists led by Joshua Nkomo, invited to attend after initial exclusion. Pass Laws repealed, but Africans still required to carry registration certificates (Chitupas)
Immorality and Indecency Suppression Act (1904) repealed. Liquor Amendment Act entitles Africans to buy ‘European’ liquor. Constitutional conference recommends new constitution. After rank and file insistance, NDP announces refusal to recognize new constitution. Further conference meetings boycotted by NDP. NDP banned, reconstituted as Zimbabwe African People’s Union ZAPU.
Rhodesian Front Party formed, merging Dominion Party and other white opponents of 1961 constitution (March). ZAPU banned (September). Whitehead speaks to United Nations Trusteeship Committee, suggests 1961 constitution would bring majority rule in fifteen years (October). Political meetings on Sundays or holidays banned (the only times when Africans in urban areas could meet). Rhodesian Front defeats Whitehead and UFP in general elections held under 1961 constitution.
Former ZAPU executive goes to Dar es Salaam. Conference on dissolution of the federation (June). Prime Minister Field discusses Southern Rhodesian independence with Britain. Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) formed, led by Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole (August). Nkomo forms Peoples’ Caretaker Council (PCC) (August). Britain vetoes United Nations Security Council resolution calling upon her not to transfer Royal Rhodesian Air Force (Federal) aircraft to Rhodesia (September).
Major-General Anderson appointed General Officer Commanding Rhodesian Army after Field promised no attempt at illegal independence would be made (January). Field, reluctant to consider illegal declaration of independence, forced to resign as prime minister, succeeded by Ian Smith (April). Smith states: ‘If in my lifetime we have an African nationalist government in power in Southern Rhodesia, then we will have failed in the policy that I believe in’ (May). African Daily News, owned by Thompson Organization, sole African mass circulation paper, banned under Printed Publications Act. Emergency declared in Highfield (Salisbury’s African township) (August). Labour government elected in Britain (October). Major-General Anderson relieved as GOC Rhodesian Army (October). Smith, under strict security, holds indaba of 600 chiefs to obtain approval of ‘independence’ (October). Referendum among voters: ‘Are you in favour of independence based on the 1961 constitution?’; 58,091 voted Yes, 6,096 voted No (November). ZANU ‘Crocodile Commando’ kills white farmer (November).
Bottomley, British Commonwealth Secretary, visits Salisbury and detained African leaders. Privately stated to Rhodesian Front the ‘five principles’ on which Britain would consider granting independence (March). ZANU raiders rounded up (April). Prime Minister Ian Smith holds general election stating the main issue to be independence. Rhodesian Front wins all fifty A roll (white) seats. Election almost totally boycotted by Africans (May). ZAPU guerrillas enter Rhodesia (May). British Prime Minister Wilson visits Rhodesia, talks with Smith and detained Africans (October). Wilson states the ‘demand for Britain to attempt to settle all Rhodesia’s constitutional problems with a military invasion is out’ (31 October). BSAC police given a pay rise (October). Emergency declared under Emergency Powers Act; uninterrupted to date. After assuring Southern Rhodesian Governor Gibbs that Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) would not take place (5 November), Rhodesian Front declares independence and promulgates the ‘Constitution of Rhodesia 1965’ to end British rule in Rhodesia.
Colonial / UDI / Rhodesia
Governor dismisses Smith and his cabinet, Britain passes the Southern Rhodesia Act, reaffirming that Southern Rhodesia is part of British Dominions and empowering the British Government to make any necessary Orders in Council. Southern Rhodesia (Constitution) Order invalidates Smith’s constitution and prohibits the legislature from making laws. Wilson calls on Rhodesian citizens ‘to refrain from all acts which would further the objects of the illegal authorities. Subject to that, it is the duty of all citizens to maintain law and order in the country and to carry on with their normal tasks. This applies equally to the judiciary, the armed services, the police, and the public services’ (November). General Assembly and Security Council resolutions call on United Nations Member States not to recognize the Smith régime (November). Security Council resolution 2 17 (1965) calls United Nations Member States to do utmost to break economic relations with Rhodesia (November).
Security Council resolution 221 (1966) permits the United Kingdom to use force to blockade illegal unloading of oil for Rhodesia at Beira (blockade never extended to Lourenço Marques
or South African ports) (April). ZANU in intermittent clashes with Rhodesian forces (April). White farmer and wife killed near Hartley (May). ZAPU activity discovered in urban areas (May). Wilson has talks with Smith on HMS Tiger. Fails (December). Security Council resolution 232 (1966) extends sanctions on imports and exports to and from Rhodesia (December).
Rhodesian Front sets up Whaley Commission to advise on a constitution to ‘ensure the harmonious development of Rhodesia’s plural society, having regard to the social and cultural differences among the peoples of Rhodesia, to the different systems of land tenure . . .’ (April). ZAPU-SAANC military alliance (August). Heavy clashes between ZAPU-SAANC groups and Rhodesian and South African security forces in Wankie area (August-September).
In a series of engagements, fifty-eight guerrillas (ZAPU-SAANC) claimed killed by Rhodesian and South African forces near Sipolilo (March). Rhodesia Appelate Division (Chief Justice Beadle) decides in Madzimbamuto v. Lardner Burke that Rhodesian Front is the legal government, rejecting Privy Council decision to the contrary (March). Smith régime hangs several Africans sentenced to death for murder in connection with guerrilla war (March). Mandatory economic sanctions imposed by Security Council resolution (May). ZAPU-SAANC groups enter north-west Rhodesia and clash with security forces. South African police suffer first admitted casualty Further talks on HMS Fearless between Prime Minister Wilson and Smith (October).
Rhodesian Front constitution approved by referendum. Provides for eventual maximum African representation in Legislature of 50 per cent. Virtually guarantees perpetual white rule (June). Land Tenure Act replaced Land Apportionment Act dividing land in equal portions between the whites (minority) and Africans (majority) (June). (No insurgent clashes reported in 1969.)
ZAPU attacks South African police camp near Victoria Falls (January). Britain and United States veto Security Council resolution seeking to condemn Britain for not using force against the rebellion (March). Rhodesia proclaimed a republic by Smith (March). Intermittent clashes between ZAPU and Rhodesian forces (March). First Rhodesia general election since rebellion, Rhodesian Front wins all fifty white seats (April). Conservative government elected in Britain (June). Lord Goodman re-commences secret negotiations with Smith on basis of 1969 constitution (June).
ZAPU and ZANU establish Joint Military Council (March). Three Rhodesian soldiers killed by land-mine (April). Proposed settlement agreed by British Government with Smith after Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Foreign Secretary) visits Salisbury (November). African National Council formed as a movement ‘to represent the overwhelming number of people in the country who rejected the proposals’, under the chairmanship of Bishop Abel Muzorewa (December).
Pearce Commission arrives in Rhodesia to ‘test the acceptability of the 1971 proposals’. First attempt by Britain to assess attitude of African majority to its agreements with the minority (January). Britain vetoes Security Council resolution calling for rejection of 1971 settlement proposals and recall of Pearce Commission (February). Pearce Commission reports the rejection of the proposals by the African majority (March). ANC manifesto published. Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI) formed in exile (October). ZANU guerrilla attacks re-open with greater intensity in rural north-east Rhodesia (December).
Some 200 ANC officials in north-east arrested. Smith creates ‘no go’ areas, and protected villages in north-east. Guerrilla incursions and attacks increase. Smith closes Zambian border to stop guerrilla incursions (January). Demands guarantee from President Kaunda that guerrillas will be stopped. Refused. Smith re-opens border, Zambia refused to do the same, lost $(R)16.1 million annual revenue.
Smith warns of more guerrilla action ahead, launches campaign to attract 1 million white settlers (January). After coup d’Etat in Lisbon, Portugal announces that Mozambique, under FRELIMO, will become independent in June 1975. Guerrilla activity continues (April). Moto, only African mass-circulation bi-weekly paper, banned. Smiths representatives (E. A.T. Smith and Gaylard) have private discussions with presidents of Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia and FRELIMO. Smith releases some leading detainees including Joshua Nkomo and Rev. Sithole. After meeting with presidents Machel, Kaunda, Khama, and Nyerere, a ‘unity agreement’ is reached. ANC FROLIZI, ZANU and ZAPU merge into the ANC ‘as the unifying force of the people of Zimbabwe’ (December 7). Ceasefire declared (December 1 i). South African police and BSAP unit ambushed near Mazoe, five killed (December 23).
Lardner-Burke declared no further releases of detainees until ‘a cessation of terrorist activities’. ANC leaders refused permission by Smith to visit Lusaka to meet British Foreign Secretary. Incidents continue in north-east province including landmine fatalities. ANC and Smith régime accuse one another of breaches of ceasefire-Smith alleging ANC failure to stop killings, ANC alleging that the régime had wrongly dropped leaflets in the area demanding that guerrillas ‘abandon their arms and surrender or return to their bases’, and were attempting to disarm guerrillas they made contact with (February). Three guerrillas convicted of terrorism hanged. Rev. Sithole re-detained after Smith alleges he plotted assassination of ‘certain opponents he considered to be a challenge in his bid for the leadership of the ANC’ -a list of thirty potential victims is mentioned without details, and a hearing in camera arranged (March). Two weeks later additional allegations made that ‘he is the President of ZANU.. and Commander-in Chief of ZANLA’. ANC leaders reject the allegation. Herbert Chitepo (ZANU chairman) assassinated by a bomb in Lusaka (March). Zambian authorities arrest members of ZANU supreme council. Reports of killings arising from internal conflicts within ZANLA (February/March). In Rhodesia the Special Court to consider the re-detention of Sithole, declines to consider the assassination allegations and deals only with the allegation that as Commander-in-Chief of ZANLA ‘he had . . . been responsible for the death, since the ceasefire.. . of terrorist victims in the north-east area’. After hearings in public on this charge alone, in which Rev. Sithole refused to participate, the court found his re-detention ‘fully warranted’. The court stated that since 1972, 53 members of the Rhodesian security forces, 13 European civilians and 220 African civilians had been killed by guerrillas. ANC delegation, including the re-released Rev. Sithole, attends the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Council of Ministers, discussion on southern Africa in Dar es Salaam. Bishop Muzorewa attends Commonwealth Prime Minister’s conference (Jamaica), obtaining assurances of assistance for Mozambique to enable it to close its railways to Rhodesian sanctions-breaking activities. June 1, Rhodesian police, breaking up a demonstration outside an ANC National Executive meeting in Salisbury (Highfield), shot and killed thirteen and wounded others.
Independence / Zimbabwe
18 April, Independence.
Minimum wage introduction.
Establishment of VOICE.
Student demonstrations against dissidents.
Bishops reassert control of Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP).
Nkomo and ZAPU ministers removed from Cabinet.
Former ZIPRA soldiers arrested for treason.
President Banana announces unity of church with government.
University of Zimbabwe Act.
Paweni grain scandal.
Licensing of emergency taxis.
Remaining ZAPU ministers removed from Cabinet.
Creation of District Councils.
ZAPU and UANC offices ransacked.
Election of activist SRC.
Official establishment of Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA)
Establishment of Indigenous Businessmen's Development Centre (IBDC).
May Day demonstrations.
University Amendment Act.
National Council for Higher Education Act.
New National Anthem introduced.
Establishment of Affirmative Action Group (AAG).
Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA) ruled unconstitutional.
Establishment of Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project Trust (MZWPT).
CCJP / Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) publish report on Matabeleland atrocities.
Formation of National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
Private Voluntary Organisations Act (PVO) and Political Parties Acts ruled unconstitutional.
War Veterans protests.
Creation of Unity Day.
Traditional Leaders Act.
Troops sent to DRC.
Land Reform Donors conference.
Protests over fuel prices and Congo War.
Stay-aways and demonstrations banned.
Establishment of Zimbabwe Union of Democrats (ZUD).
Daily News shuts down.
Compensation granted to ex-detainees.
Establishment of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Resettlement land nationalised.
Partial floating of ZWD.
Operation Chikorokoza Chapera begins.
Unveiling of Nkomo monument.
Itai Dzamara abduction, March.
- [Dorman, Sara Rich, C. Understanding Zimbabwe: From Liberation to Authoritarianism], Understanding Zimbabwe: From Liberation to Authoritarianism, (C. Hurst and Co, United Kingdom, 2016), Retrieved: 15 October 2019
- [Katherine Sayce (Ed), Tabex, Encyclopedia Zimbabwe], Tabex, Encyclopedia Zimbabwe, (Quest Publishing, Harare, 1987), Retrieved: 25 July 2019
- [R. Kent Rasmussen (ed), Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia] (The Scarecrow Press, London, 1979) Retrieved 8 August 2019"