It is enough to hear the phrase “The mines of King Solomon” and one immediately thinks of a mysterious, distant land; a legendary fairytale country that leads us to doubt that this land really exists. Instead, there is and is Zambia, a country 4 times the size of Italy, located in southern Africa, inhabited before Christ by people of high civilization.
In 1921, the remains of a prehistoric man who lived about 60,000 years ago were found in a cave near Broken Hill in the north of the country. It was called “Homo Rhodesiensis” and shows us that the area was inhabited even before the “Bushmen” appeared (from: Bushmen = men of the bush), believed to have been the original inhabitants since the 19th century.
According to Abbreviationfinder, the populations that arrived later, in the first centuries after Christ, left us the remains of grandiose buildings as evidence of the high degree of civilization achieved. But the first news about them, more or less reliable, came to us in the mid 1500s and from these the first explorations started by the Portuguese. The first European to visit Rhodesia was Francesco Silveira, who was killed by the natives in 1561.
Centuries of struggles, wars, invasions between indigenous peoples followed until in the nineteenth century the man who explored the area, conquering it palm by palm, organized the exploitation and, better still, began its civilization in the name and on behalf of the his homeland, England. This man was Sir Cecil Rhodes, from whom Rhodesia took his name on May 3, 1895 and he also wanted to die and be buried in it.
Rhodesia became a solid British domain in the late 1800s, and it was thanks to the funds and work of the English Company of South Africa. The state, split in two by the Zambezi River, knew English colonization efficiency immediately. As early as 1897 the railway from the Cape was brought to Bulawayo, and in 1899 to Salisbury, thus joining the whole territory from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
The two parts into which the territory was divided constituted, in fact, southern Rhodesia, south of Zambezi, and northern Rhodesia, north of it.
Immediately, at the beginning of the twentieth century, with the arrival of the white colonists, the whole domain awoke to progress, in all sectors, demographic-economic, the exploitation of mines, especially gold mining, the creation of plantations, farms, urban centers and railways. All this quickly changed the life and appearance of the country.
On 12 September 1923 Southern Rhodesia, the oldest and most advanced, passed from the government of the Company to the direct one of the Crown of England. A Governor General was appointed, assisted by an Executive Council and a Legislative Assembly.
In April 1924 the same operation was performed for Northern Rhodesia. Both Rhodesians were empowered to appoint an indigenous council of local leaders. European immigration expanded a lot, so much so that at the end of the First World War it had even doubled. And with the subdivision of the lands into three parts: one for the already resident Europeans, one for any other arrivals of the whites, and one for the natives, the system of the division between whites and indigenous people was also adopted.
Agriculture had, from the beginning, a considerable importance for the economy of the country. The abundant harvests of corn, tobacco, citrus fruits, legumes and fruit have always been the assets of the area’s economy. Cattle breeding also developed considerably, especially sheep, cattle and pigs and, consequently, related industries.
The riches of the subsoil constituted a secondary wealth as the relative mines of gold, chromium, astesto and coal, were very distant from each other and poorly distributed.
An extensive railway network connected Salisbury not only to other cities in the same region, but also to other neighboring states such as Mozambique and the Transvaal.
The Parliament of Southern Rhodesia was elected by all British citizens over the age of 21, every 5 years, and was able to legislate on all matters except those relating to indigenous people.
Northern Rhodesia, more extensive than southern Rhodesia, was unable to reach the level of progress of the latter, since, not offering good conditions of the territory, it did not even favor the immigration of the Europeans. Marshy areas, arid bushes, steppes, did not seem attractive to whites. Only in the eastern part of the region, by virtue of the considerable rainfall, prosperous agricultural lands were found.
The resources of the subsoil were more inviting, such as copper, zinc, lead, but above all in the area of Broken Hill in 1931 the exploitation of laterites containing vanadium began. The extraction of gold was practiced mainly in two centers: Luiri and New Jessie. In 1933 there were the greatest exports of copper.
Here, unlike Southern Rhodesia, a clear division between whites and natives was not established and the different races coexisted peacefully.
Crown Colony, without parliamentary institutions, took over a Governor appointed by the then King of England, with the help of an Executive Council made up of 5 members and a Legislative Council made up of 16 members, 7 of whom were elected. From 1935 Lusaka was proclaimed capital.
The 1940s saw the economy of both Rhodesias grow more and more; production and exports increased, bringing the wealth of the whole country to exceptional levels.
But the most important event was political. On August 1, 1953, the Federation between the Rhodesian state and the territory of Niassa was born, with the specific purpose of protecting European populations, squeezed in the midst of the vast majority of indigenous peoples. The agreement for the birth of the Federation was opposed so much by the Niassa nationalists but, however, it was placed under the dependence of the Commonwealth Office, and it was tasked to work on foreign affairs, defense, foreign trade, finances, communications, the irrigations.
Instead, individual states had legislative competence over land ownership and the political education of indigenous people. Legislative power was exercised by a federal assembly of 35 members and under the direct control of the Governor General.
In 1960/61 a conference met in London to revise the constitution, but satisfactory results were not achieved.
The Southern Rhodesia Constitution of 1923 remained virtually unchanged. Instead there was a marked change in indigenous politics. Given the close ties to the Republic of South Africa, even apartheid was almost reached in Rhodesia.
But the Rhodesia-Niassa Federation proclaimed equality between Africans and Europeans therefore, the apartheid project, wanted above all by the older settlers, was abandoned.
The government continued to support, with considerable means, the spread of culture among the indigenous people, even though they could not benefit from many political rights.
In Northern Rhodesia, however, the Constitution was modified in 1945 and this protectorate reached almost self-government, at least for internal affairs.
In 1959 the Constitution then had the opportunity to modify the Legislative Council so that a wider political freedom in the local administration could be entrusted to the natives. And also the trade union organizations were activated, so that more and more qualified tasks were entrusted to the indigenous workers, even without the relative salary recognition.
In 1963 the Federation between Northern Rhodesia and Niassa broke up. Various political formations arose, first of all the Rhodesian Front, proponent of European independence. In April 1964 Premier J. Smith completely repressed the African opposition; in November 1965, following a favorable referendum, unilateral independence was proclaimed, while remaining within the Commonwealth. The British government did not accept this deliberation and, also urged by the United Nations, promoted several clarification meetings in Gibraltar, between Smith and Wilson, British premier.
The Rhodesian position strengthened more and more, until in 1966 it detached itself from the Commonwealth; in 1968 new Smith-Wilson talks failed; in 1969, a new racist constitution was approved by referendum; on March 2, 1970 the Republic was proclaimed.
In 1971 a constitutional evolution plan was agreed with the British government, but it did not achieve any appreciable result. In 1972 guerrilla warfare began. In 1974, due to controversies with Mozambique and negotiating pressure from South Africa, Rhodesia’s position began to weaken and African organizations, led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, took advantage of this.
In 1976, a conference was held in Geneva in which Smith proposed the appointment of a multiracial government in Rhodesia. After the 1977 elections Smith concluded an agreement with the moderate nationalists and on March 3, 1978 there was the handover of power to the African majority.
In April 1979 the elections were won by the party of Bishop Murozewa. On April 18, 1980 the new state was called Zimbabwe and the capital was Harare. The elected president was Josiah Gumede.
The government lasted until the election when the Patriotic Front won. The new premier was R. Mugabe, of Marxist tendencies, and the president of the republic was Reverend Banana.
With the new structure, the state of tribalism changed to a more modern socio-economic situation. To reach a more complete urbanization, many natives left the agricultural areas to move to the cities, creating many social and urban problems.
In this regard Mugabe immediately applied an agrarian reform, with a partial distribution of the lands, to prevent the natives from abandoning the crops. But the long-awaited social transformation was not undertaken; The necessary structural reforms were lacking, so that discontent arose, especially among the Ndebeli, of the Matabeleland region, where an insurrection began in 1982.
In the 1985 elections the majority party reconfirmed itself. In 1987 the Constitution was reformed, the seats hitherto reserved for whites were abolished in Parliament. The President of the Republic was also invested with the position of Head of Government.
The Marxist-Leninist ideology was reiterated and the construction of a single party state was planned, which would have significantly strengthened Mugabe’s position, who, in fact, on December 30, 1987, was the only candidate and was elected First Executive President.
In 1988, however, opposition to the system grew and E. Tekere founded the Zimbabwe Unity Movement. There were harsh repressions against students from Harare University; protests and complaints arose from various humanitarian agencies and from the Church. In 1989 Mugabe still won the election.
In 1990 the Parliament was modified and had only one Chamber. But the turnout had been very low and this was a sign of the decline of Mugabe and his party, also because no problems related to land and unemployment had been solved.
In 1992 land reform was finally launched, among the many disputes by whites, and 11 million hectares of land were distributed to many indigenous and destitute families.
Zimbabwe was increasingly involved in the work of evolution and decolonization of Southern Africa and when Mozambique found itself embroiled in a civil war, Mugabe sent his troops to ensure transit in the territory of Beira, an important port for Zimbabwe, land landlocked.
But the assistance that Mugabe could provide would not have been enough if South Africa had intervened with its overpowering power. Fortunately, the apartheid regime ended there and in Southern Africa the complete dismantling of racism could begin and conditions of conciliation and pacification were established everywhere.
The 1995 elections confirmed Mugabe in power that he continued his liberalization and privatization policy.
Mugabe provided for the revitalization of the agrarian reform already in 1996 and for this purpose in 1997 the expropriation of the land began. The agricultural development plan called for the allocation of eight million hectares to farmers. Instead, less than half were given and most remained with the landowners.
In the political field, although he declared his intention to revisit the Marxist-Leninist system, he reduced the freedom of strike to a minimum. But the most contested decision was to send troops to help Kabila in the Congo, despite the contrary suggestion by Nelson Mandela, towards which Mugabe had feelings of impatience, surely due to the charisma of the man who had managed to break down the structure racist in South Africa, where it seemed an impossible undertaking.
This is because Mugabe had long cherished the idea of representing the leading role in that area of Africa with Zimbabwe. And this was due to the fact that the level of Zimbabwe, especially cultural, was at that time far superior to that of all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
And as South Africa proceeded on its path of development and democratization, in every sense, Zimbabwe was instead going through a period of involution, due to rampant corruption, the difficult problem of the earth and growing political instability. To all this was added another serious calamity, the sudden spread of AIDS which had reached the highest level there on the whole continent.
The crisis became unsustainable in February 2000 when the government’s proposal to expropriate the lands without compensation, did not pass the approval requested by a referendum. Opposition to Mugabe’s programs came from the Democratic Change Movement. And then the veterans of the war of liberation, in March and April, with the tacit consent of the government, forcibly seized numerous farms belonging to the whites and with this made diplomatic relations with Great Britain very critical.