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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Ndebele in Zimbabwe

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Date(s) Item
1837 Ndebele centers in Western Transvaal (South Africa) were attacked by Afrikaners. The Ndebele began to migrate north.
Mar 1838 Ndebele divided into two main migration parties. One faction went directly to present day Matabeleland in Zimbabwe.
Jun 1839 Ndebele arrived in Matabeleland.
1841 Ndebele began raiding Sotho/Tswana territories from their new base in Matabeleland. Throughout the 1840s, there were Ndebele-Kololo wars along the Zambezi in which the Ndebele were unsuccessful.
Jan 8, 1853 The Ndebele signed a treaty with Transvaal Afrikaners.
1879 Jesuit missionaries arrived in Matabeleland.
1891 The British Order-in-Council declared protectorates over Matabeleland, Mashonaland, and Bechuanaland (later Botswana).
Jul 1893 Ndebele raided Shona near Ft. Victoria.
Sep 1893 Beginning of the Ndebele War.
May 3, 1895 Present-day Zimbabwe was proclaimed Rhodesia.
Mar 20, 1896 The Ndebele revolt against Britain began. The Shona revolt began 14 June and the two groups waged simultaneous, though separate, wars. The British established control over the Ndebele for the first time and the Ndebele kingdom was effectively destroyed. Ndebele communities relocated onto reserves.
Jul 1897 The last Ndebele rebel was captured. Both rebellions ended.
1901 The administrations of Matabeleland and Mashonaland were combined under W.H. Milton.
1914 The Matabele National Home Society was created. It was a movement for an autonomous Ndebele homeland, but it failed to influence government policy.
1922 Voters in a referendum favored a responsible government as a British crown colony over union with South Africa.
1951 The Native Land Husbandry Act was passed. It transferred authority to allocate land from the government chiefs to native communities. There was widespread resistance to the law because it undermined the authority of African leaders. Those affected tended to ignore the act and carried on as before.
Feb 26, 1959 The government declared a state of emergency and proscribed the ANC (African National Council). The Unlawful Organizations Act is passed.
Jan 1, 1960 The National Democratic Party was founded as a successor to the ANC.
Jul 19, 1960 The arrest of NDP leaders led to bloody rioting.
Oct 1960 The Law and Order Maintenance Act was introduced.
1961 A referendum endorsed a new constitution creating dual voting rolls. The NDP was banned and was immediately reconstituted as the Zimbabwean African People's Union (ZAPU) led by Ndebele Joshua Nkomo.
Mar 1962 The Rhodesian Front (RF), an all-white party, was founded.
Sep 20, 1962 ZAPU was banned.
1963 The British government established "five principles" guaranteeing African civil rights and unimpeded progress toward majority rule as a precondition for independence. Northern Rhodesia seceded and the federation was formally dissolved in December. The Zimbabwe African National Union was formed by ZAPU dissidents and led by Ndabaningi Sithole. The People's Caretaker Council (PCC) was formed as a ZAPU front.
Apr 1964 Ian Smith displaced Field as Prime Minister.
Aug 1964 ZANU, the PCC and the African Daily News were banned. Highfield was declared an emergency area.
Nov 1965 Smith declared a unilateral declaration of Independence from Britain.
Apr 1966 ZANU launched its first guerrilla attack from Zambia. Also in 1966, the United Nations Security Council voted for mandatory sanctions on selected Rhodesian exports and imports.
Aug 1967 ZAPU and South Africa's ANC launched a guerrilla campaign in the Northwest.
1968 The U.N. established comprehensive mandatory sanctions against Southern Rhodesia.
1969 A two-proposition referendum approved the establishment of a Republic and endorsed a new constitution. The government outlined a policy of parity calling for the total segregation of races. The Land Tenure Act was adopted which imposed segregated land occupancy.
Mar 2, 1970 Rhodesia was formally, but illegally, declared a Republic.
Oct 1971 FROLIZI (Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe) was formed.
1972 A new phase of the guerrilla war opened with stepped-up activity by ZANU. ZANU and ZAPU were supported by the Shona and Ndebele ethnic groups, respectively.
Jan 1973 Rhodesia closed its border with Zambia. It reopened it in February, but Zambia kept its side closed.
1974 Leaders of ZANU, ZAPU, and FROLIZI announced their acceptance of the ANC as an umbrella organization.
1975 ANC split into two wings, one loyal to Muzorewa, the other loyal to Nkomo. Robert Mugabe consolidated leadership over ZANU.
Feb 1975 Smith met with Nkomo, Abel Muzorewa, a bishop, and Sithole to set up a formal constitutional congress.
Mar 19, 1976 Smith-Nkomo talks broke down.
Oct 1976 Nkomo and Mugabe announced the formation of the Patriotic Front.
Dec 1976 The Conservative African Party was founded by Jeremiah Chirau. It had little popular support.
Apr 1977 The Land Tenure Amendment Act was amended to open some white rural areas to Africans. It was repealed in 1979.
Jan 1978 The government issued strict censorship laws to control reportage on the civil war.
Feb 1978 Smith announced an agreement on an eight-point plan calling for universal adult suffrage and a 100 member parliament with 28 seats reserved for whites.
Mar 8, 1978 Smith, Sithole, Muzorewa and Chirau formally signed an agreement for the transition to majority rule by the end of 1978. The multiracial government assumed full powers on 30 March.
May 2, 1978 The Rhodesian government lifted the ban on ZAPU and ZANU political activity in the country and called for guerrillas to agree to a cease-fire. Guerrillas continued their resistance throughout the summer.
Aug 14, 1978 Nkomo and Smith met secretly in Lusaka with the Nigerian Foreign Minister.
Sep 10, 1978 Smith announced the imposition of limited martial law over one-fifth of the country and warned of a crack-down against supporters of the Patriotic Front.
Oct 7 - 20, 1978 Smith and Sithole visited the U.S. unofficially. They were joined by Muzorewa and Chirau on 13 October. On 10 October, the Rhodesian government announced plans to end all remaining discriminatory laws. Rhodesian forces began major raids into Mozambique and Zambia killing up to 1500 people.
1979 Economic difficulties, declining white morale, and guerrilla inroads into rural areas led Smith to fashion an "internal settlement." A black puppet regime was set up under the leadership of Muzorewa who was unable to improve conditions for Africans, gain international recognition, or end the guerrilla war.
Sep 1 - Dec 31, 1979 Pressures on all sides in the conflict forced all parties to participate in the Lancaster House constitutional conference, under the aegis of Britain, which led to independence the following year.
1980 The creation of a largely-Shona specialist brigade (the Fifth) drew criticism. A general amnesty was granted to all participants in the conflict. During the seven-year independence struggle, 20,000, mostly blacks, were killed. Thousands of whites emigrates at independence. Most went to South Africa.
Feb 1980 Elections held. Three main parties contested the elections: ZAPU-PF, led by Nkomo; ZANU-PF, led by Mugabe; and the UANC (United African National Council), led by Muzorewa. ZANU-PF won 57 of the 80 African seats in the house, receiving 63% of the votes. ZAPU won 20 seats and became a minor partner in the government. UNAC received 3 seats. In a power-sharing arrangement, whites were guaranteed 20 seats in the house. The RF, restyled the Republican Front, won all 20 seats in an earlier election.
Apr 18, 1980 Zimbabwe achieved independence. Following independence, the question of what to do with the three armies (ZAPU, ZANU, and the former government) arose. There were clashes between guerrilla groups near Bulawayo in which several hundred are killed. By late 1981, however, the integration of the forces appears to have been successfully accomplished.
Jan 1981 Nkomo was demoted to a lesser cabinet position after the discovery of a large cache of illegal arms on property belonging to ZAPU in Matabeleland.
1981 The RF reconstituted itself the Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe (CAZ). Its negativity since independence caused many within the party to defect.
1982 Dissidents from the former ZAPU army perpetrated numerous indiscriminate acts of violence. The government launched an anti-dissident campaign by deploying a Task Force in Matabeleland. Mugabe held Nkomo responsible for ZAPU actions and the worsening situation.
1983 A CAZ faction sympathetic to Mugabe's government broke away to form the Independent Zimbabwe Group. Serious allegations of atrocities against innocent civilians were made against the Fifth Brigade as it sought to put down the ZAPU dissidents and protect the important, mostly white, commercial farming sector.
1984 The Fifth Brigade again perpetrated systematic killings of villagers in Matabeleland. It also destroyed food supplies, closed shops, and confiscated food from travelers. Matabeleland had been in the midst of a three-year drought. It was alleged the Fifth Brigade gave food relief only to those who could supply a ZANU-PF party card.
Aug 1984 A new party constitution was adopted by ZANU-PF. It committed itself to socialism and endorsed achieving a one-party Marxist-Leninist state.
Jun 1985 Elections were held. ZANU-PF wins 64 of 80 seats, gaining six. ZAPU retained its Matabeleland seats, but lost five others. UNAC failed to gain any seats. Following elections, the government pursued its goal of a one-party state, with reprisals against supporters of minority parties. The government continued its campaign against ZAPU rebels, but unity talks were pursued.
1987 Mugabe abruptly abandoned the unity talks on the grounds that they had been stalemated too long. A resurgence of violence in Matabeleland and further measures against ZAPU's political activities followed the cancellation of the talks.
Nov 1987 A particularly brutal massacre in Matabeleland and the worsening situation on the eastern border led to a unity agreement between ZANU-PF and ZAPU. Approximately 10,000 were killed in the clashes between security forces and the people of Matabeleland during the mid-1980s.
Dec 1987 An agreement to merge the two parties was signed by Mugabe and Nkomo. It was ratified by ZAPU and ZANU-PF in April 1988. The new party was led by Mugabe with Nkomo as one of two vice-presidents. Nkomo was given a senior position in the new cabinet and other ZAPU officials were given government posts.
Apr 1988 A second general amnesty was granted, and many who had committed major atrocities during the early-1980s were pardoned. The government granted the amnesty with the explanation that all acts that were committed were under the umbrella of "acts of war." The situation in Matabeleland rapidly improved.
Sep 1988 Anti-government protests by students led to many arrests. Rising unemployment and government corruption were catalysts to the protest.
Oct 1988 Edgar Tekere was expelled from ZANU-PF for his denunciation of the party. This led to further student protest. He later formed a new party, the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM). He had strong support in Manicaland province and in Harare and Bulawayo.
1989 Student protests against the government continue. Continued clashes between students and police led to a closing of the University between October 1990-April 1991. Student protest was the most visible sign of wide discontent throughout the country.
1990 Mugabe abandoned his ambition of a one-party state. He also abandoned socialism and embarked on a five-year economic reform program backed by the World Bank. He also lifted the state of emergency that has been in effect since Smith's declaration of independence in 1965. Ndebele still felt resentment against the government for the atrocities committed against them the 1980s. There were increasing calls for more autonomy for the Matabeleland region. A constitutional amendment was passed which allowed the compulsory acquisition of white-owned land. In 1980, about 6000 white farmers controlled 38 million acres (about half the arable land in the country). By 1991, they owned only 27 million acres. Mugabe had resettled about 5200 black families and planned to acquire one-half of white-owned land by the year 2000.
1991 At least 80 and as many as 400 people were said to have disappeared in the mid-80s during the crisis in Matabeleland. Little progress had been made by 1991 in finding them or explaining their whereabouts. In January, Agriculture Minister Witness Mangwende told white commercial farmers that the government would not negotiate on its controversial plan to transfer more land to blacks.
Jun 1991 Nkomo warned "undesirable elements" in the white community to leave Zimbabwe. He was reacting to reports that a group of whites in Bulawayo was planning to march in the city in August to commemorate the defeat of the Ndebele kingdom by white colonial settlers 100 years previously.
Oct 21, 1991 Students rioted in Harare against alleged white racists.
1992 Power and food shortages and increasing unemployment have severely decreased Mugabe's popularity. Matabeleland suffered from a severe lack of water and was in the midst of a ten-year drought. The government had been reluctant to do anything to improve the situation. The mysterious deaths of Ndebele intellectuals in car accidents increased tensions between Ndebele and the Shona. Some Ndebele called for compensation to families of victims of the early-80s massacres. Ndebele leaders continued to call for greater autonomy for Matabeleland. Some Ndebele look to their Nguni allies in South Africa as their best route to becoming part of a majority voice. They are culturally close to the Zulus of South Africa, but politically and ideologically close to South Africa's ANC. In July, several parties (UANC, ZANU-Ndonga, ZUM and CAZ) united in opposition. In October, black and white liberals formed the Forum for Democratic Reform.
Dec 1993 Matabeleland's top legislator Sydney Malunga, Matabeleland's governor, and the mayor of Bulawayo alleged discrimination in jobs and training against the Ndebele. They also claimed some Shona in ZANU-PF were preventing Ndebeles from getting a fair share of the economic development, adding that the Shonas felt threatened by the merger of ZANU and ZAPU six years before.
Dec 1994 The Federal Party was formed in Bulawayo. Its chief spokesman Twoboy Jubane said a doctrine of federalism was supported as the only way to end the tribal domination imposed over Matabeleland by the Shona. Elections were scheduled for 1995.
Feb 1995 One of the grievances of the Ndebele against the government was the perception that the government is reluctant to provide funds to channel water to Matabeleland's capital, Bulawayo, from the Zambezi.
Aug 1995 Among the list of complaints against the government is the delay in funding approval for a project to pump water from the Zambezi River to Bulawayo. Matabeleland is arid and has chronic water shortage problems. (Inter Press Service (IPS), 8/10/1995)
Oct 1995 Drought in the Zambezi Valley and Matabeleland South has led to severe cattle loss. The government has made contingency plans for importing 500,000 tons of maize and has suspended maize exports.
Mar 1996 President Robert Mugabe was reelected for another six year term. Voter turnout was only 32%.
Nov 1996 Locusts destroyed $2 million worth of crops in Matabeleland. (Reuters World Service (RWS), 11/20/1996)
Mar 3, 1997 The village of Gandangula in Matabeleland North was forced to abandon a ceremony planned to give victims of the 1982-1987 massacres a proper burial. Government security forces intervened in what was to have been the first public commemoration of the victims of the massacres. (Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA))
Mar 24, 1997 The Forestry Commission has stepped up agro-forestry and woodland management projects in Matabeleland North to increase sustainability and ensure the maximum use of land. The semi-arid region is under pressure from a growing population, and lack of water threatens the projects. (Africa News Service (ANS))
May 1997 The Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace and the Legal Resources Foundation issued a 200 page report which stated that more than 2000 were killed during the 1982-1987 massacres in Matabeleland. Victims of the violence can get no compensation from the government without proof of death of their relatives. President Mugabe accused churchmen and human rights lawyers of being "mischief makers" and of trying to revive the violence. The Ndebele are angered by the absence of an official apology for the massacres and blame state official from their own ethnic group for remaining silent. (IPS, 5/20/1997; IPS 7/28/1997)
Oct 10, 1997 Violence between Ndbele and Shona students at the University left three students seriously hurt. The violence resulted from the Student Executive Council elections in which votes were cast largely along ethnic lines resulting in a majority of seats going to Shona candidates. (ANS)
Oct 24, 1997 The Legal Resources Foundation said that victims of the 1980s massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands should qualify for compensation under the War Victimsí Compensation Act. Presently, only victims of war prior to 1980 are qualified for the compensation. The Chidyausiku Commission has invited proposals for reform of legislation related to war victims. (ANS)
Feb 1998 Matabeleland North and South were peaceful in the midst of food riots in the rest of the country. In December, there was a general protest against increases in taxes on sales, fuel and electricity. (ANS, 2/1/1998; ANS 12/15/1997)
Mar 1998 Edison Zuobgo, Minister without a portfolio, said that he and many others did not at the time know of the 1982-1987 massacres in Matabeleland. The Ndebelel have sought an official apology for the massacres for more than a decade. (IPS, 3/26/1998)
Apr 1998 Discrimination against non-Shona was alleged in the selection of student s for the Chinhhoyi Technical Teachers College and Chinhoyi Hospital. One requirement is that the students must have been born and be residents of Mashonaland in West Province. (ANS, 4/26/1998)
Apr 28, 1998 Thousands of angry residents of Bulawayo and surrounding villages called on their political leaders to pull out of the government of President Mugabe. The crowd was angered by the governmentís alleged discriminatory policies in the distribution of land. The land was primarily allocated to Mugabeís Shona people. The meeting was organized by Imbovane Yamathabezulu, formed by Matabeleland students and former ZAPU supporters in 1997. (BBC). The U.N. Human Rights Committee strongly criticized the Zimbabwe governmentís review of its human rights record. The committee, a panel of 18 legal experts which reviews nationsí compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, took the government to task over excessive use of force during January food riots and asked for an independent investigation into reports of excessive use of force by government agencies in Matabeleland and the Midlands (ANS)
Jun 1998 MPs have questioned the Minister of Lands and Agriculture on the de-listing of some farms that had been slated for the resettlement of thousands of landless peasants. Of 1436 farms designated in November for compulsory acquisition, 623 have been de-listed, the majority in President Mugabeís home region of Mashonaland West. In Matabeleland, a row has erupted over the de-listing of 16 of 65 farms, allegedly due to interference from influential government officials. (ANS, 6/1/1998). The International Center Against Censorship said that the governmentís virtual monopoly over the media allows it to censor information, especially that related to the unpopularity of the ruling ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front) (IPS, 6/11/1998). The army is reportedly suffering from low morale, and only about 30% are said to support the president. (The Daily Telegraph, 6/13/1998)
Sep 1998 Former ZANU member Enos Nkala said he regreted his involvement in the Matabeleland and Midlands atrocities of the 1980s. He maintained that he did not have a hand in unleashing the 5th Brigade in Matabeleland, and blamed Mugabe for giving the orders for the Brigade. (ANS, 9/25/1998). A government proposal to make Shona and Ndebele compulsory in schools has angered Sotho-speakers in the South. The current policy is that minority languages such as Sotho are taught for three years in primary schools in areas where the minority language is dominant. English is also taught in schools. (ANS, 9/22/1998)
Dec 12, 1998 Zimbabwe rights groups, lawyers and journalists are exerting pressure on President Mugabe to uphold the rule of law following the detention of journalists by security forces over the past two months. Mugabe asked two Supreme Court justices who petitioned him over the arrest of the journalists to resign. The journalists were arrested and reportedly tortured for reporting an attempted coup. In a recent speech, Mugabe attacked the media, the justices, and white media executives. He also banned the Trade Unions Congress from staging demonstrations and banned discussion of the issue in Parliament. (IPS)
Dec 21, 1998 A group trying to revive the defunct PF-ZAPU said it would hold a rally tomorrow on the anniversary of the Peace Accord which resulted in PF-ZAPUís absorption into the ruling ZANU-PF. (IPS)
Mar 2, 1999 The Trade Unions Congress and civic groups announced they would form a new political party. Analysts said the constitution in heavily in favor of the ruling party, but admitted that the new party would pose a serious threat to the ruling ZANI-PF. (IPS)
Apr 30, 1999 A new incarnation of Matabelelandís ZAPU party has emerged to fight the "Shonalization" of the country. It is not yet a full-fledged party, but is set to contest local elections in August. Locals believe that the ruling party discriminates against the Ndebele. For example, the civil service and private sector are 80-90% non-residents and they donít speak Ndebele, and educational services are poor in the region. ZAPU defines itself as a broad, non-racial, non-tribal movement for the whole country and seeks to establish a federation of five provinces with greater autonomy and equality (ANS).
Jul 1, 1999 Joshua Nkomo, Vice President and Ndebele leader, died. (DPA)
Jul 2, 1999 Mike Auret, the respected executive director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, resigned over the churchís continued suppression of a report that catalogued the stateís campaign in Matabeleland in the 1980s. He said the decision to withhold the release of the document was partially based on tribal prejudice within the eight-member Bishopís Conference which is dominated by Shona. The bishops demanded the Commission end its association with the Legal Resources Foundation. (DPA)
Jul 5, 1999 Joshua Nkomo was buried to a funeral oration from President Mugabe that attacked whites, scorned the IMF and said western democracy was not compatible with Zimbabwe;s culture. There were fears that Nkomoís death would unleash renewed conflict between the Shona and Ndebele.
Aug 1999 President Mugabe refused to sign two bills meant to replace the 40 year old laws giving the authorities sweeping powers over the press. Parliament was pressing for the resubmission of the Public Order and Security Bill in September. Mugabe was reportedly dissatisfied with the press freedom granted by the bill. (DPA, 8/18/1999; ANS, 9/9/99)
Sep 9, 1999 Local authority elections were ignored by about 95% of the voting population, humiliating the ruling party and casting severe doubts over the governmentís ability to stage national elections next year. The state run electoral supervisory commission pulled out in protest at the incompetence of the Registrar-Generalís Office which oversees the elections. (BBC)


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Information current as of January 10, 2007