White settlement in Zimbabwe before 1923

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History of Zimbabwe
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Ancient history
Leopard's Kopje c.900–1075
Mapungubwe Kingdom c.1075–1220
Zimbabwe Kingdom c.1220–1450
Mutapa Kingdom c.1450–1760
Torwa dynasty c.1450–1683
White settlement pre-1923
Rozwi Empire c.1684–1834
Matabeleland 1838–1894
Rudd Concession 1888
BSA Company rule 1890–1923
First Matabele War 1893–1894
Second Matabele War 1896–1897
World War I involvement 1914–1918
Colony of Southern Rhodesia 1923–1980
World War II involvement 1939–1945
Malayan Emergency
Federation with Northern
Rhodesia and Nyasaland
Rhodesian Bush War 1964–1979
Rhodesia under UDI 1965–1979
Zimbabwe-Rhodesia June–Dec 1979
Dec 1979
British Dependency 1979–1980
Zimbabwe 1980–present
Gukurahundi 1982–1987
Second Congo War 1998–2003
Coup d'état 2017
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg Zimbabweportal

White people first came to the region in southern Africa today called Zimbabwe in the sixteenth century, when Portuguese colonials ventured inland from Mozambique and attacked the Kingdom of Mutapa, which then controlled an area roughly equivalent to eastern Zimbabwe and western Mozambique. Portuguese influence over Mutapa endured for about two centuries before fading away during the 1690s and early-1700s (decade). During the year of 1685, French Huguenots emigrated to present-day South Africa and whilst some settled there, others moved further north into the continent. Those who did, settled within modern-day Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana, and co-existed with the indigenous people; most of whom, in Zimbabwe, were the Naletale people.

White people is a racial classification specifier, used mostly and often exclusively for people of European descent; depending on context, nationality, and point of view. The term has at times been expanded to encompass persons of Middle Eastern and North African descent, persons who are often considered non-white in other contexts. The usage of "white people" or a "white race" for a large group of mainly or exclusively European populations, defined by their light skin, among other physical characteristics, and contrasting with "black people", Amerindians, and other "colored" people or "persons of color", originated in the 17th century. It was only during the 19th century that this vague category was transformed in a quasi-scientific system of race and skin color relations. The term "Caucasian" is sometimes used as a synonym for "white" in its racial sense and sometimes to refer to a larger racial category that includes white people among other groups.

Portuguese Mozambique 1498-1975 Portuguese possession in East Africa

Portuguese Mozambique or Portuguese East Africa are the common terms by which Mozambique is designated when referring to the historic period when it was a Portuguese overseas territory. Portuguese Mozambique constituted a string of Portuguese colonies and later a single Portuguese overseas province along the south-east African coast, which now forms the Republic of Mozambique.

Kingdom of Mutapa kingdom in southern Africa between 1430 and 1760

The Kingdom of Mutapa – sometimes referred to as the Mutapa Empire, Mwenemutapa, – was a Kalanga kingdom which was centered in the Zambezi valley in what are the modern states of northern Zimbabwe, north western Mozambique and south eastern Zambia. King Mwene Mutapa and his people are believed to be related to the Mwene kingdoms of Zambia, see Bemba and Mbunda, they moved to the Zambezi valley from the north. However written history is only known from their contact with the Kalanga and the Portuguese. When Great Zimbabwe collapsed mostly probably due to succession battles and attacks from the Portuguese, some BakaLanga went west, led by Dlembeu and established Khami. Some went north. Here on the Zambezi valley they found the Zezuru of the Mwene Mutapa kingdom which was already weakened by Portuguese incursions and they overran it. Continued attacks by the Portuguese and Arab traders forced the Kalanga to abandon this state and move back south. They found their relatives at Khami and a fight broke out. Khami was burnt but they later found peace and ruled side by side at Nalatale and Danangombe. They were later conquered by the Ngunis. However, the exact location of the capital of this kingdom is not known even up to today.


During the 1880s and 1890s, the British South Africa Company initiated colonisation by Whites, backed by a royal charter from Queen Victoria: company rule over the country began in 1890, when the Pioneer Column marched to Mashonaland, founded Fort Salisbury and settled in the area.

British South Africa Company former mining and colonial enterprises company

The British South Africa Company was established following the amalgamation of Cecil Rhodes' Central Search Association and the London-based Exploring Company Ltd which had originally competed to exploit the expected mineral wealth of Mashonaland but united because of common economic interests and to secure British government backing. The company received a Royal Charter in 1889 modelled on that of the British East India Company. Its first directors included the Duke of Abercorn, Rhodes himself and the South African financier Alfred Beit. Rhodes hoped BSAC would promote colonisation and economic exploitation across much of south-central Africa, as part of the "Scramble for Africa". However, his main focus was south of the Zambezi, in Mashonaland and the coastal areas to its east, from which he believed the Portuguese could be removed by payment or force, and in the Transvaal, which he hoped would return to British control.

Royal charter document issued by a monarch, granting a right or power to an individual or organisation

A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative as letters patent. Historically, they have been used to promulgate public laws, the most famous example being the British Magna Carta of 1215, but since the 14th century have only been used in place of private acts to grant a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organisations such as boroughs, universities and learned societies.

Queen Victoria British monarch who reigned 1837–1901

Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. On 1 May 1876, she adopted the additional title of Empress of India.

The company domain was named "Rhodesia" after its founder, Cecil Rhodes, in 1895; the portion south of the Zambezi became officially called Southern Rhodesia in 1898. Concurrently with the expiry of the company's charter in 1923, Southern Rhodesia was granted responsible government by the UK, and became a self-governing colony.

Cecil Rhodes British businessman, mining magnate and politician in South Africa

Cecil John Rhodes was a British businessman, mining magnate and politician in southern Africa who served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. An ardent believer in British imperialism, Rhodes and his British South Africa Company founded the southern African territory of Rhodesia, which the company named after him in 1895. South Africa's Rhodes University is also named after him. Rhodes set up the provisions of the Rhodes Scholarship, which is funded by his estate. He also put much effort towards his vision of a Cape to Cairo Railway through British territory.

Zambezi fourth-longest river in Africa

The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, the longest east-flowing river in Africa and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa. The area of its basin is 1,390,000 square kilometres (540,000 sq mi), slightly less than half of the Nile's. The 2,574-kilometre-long river (1,599 mi) rises in Zambia and flows through eastern Angola, along the eastern border of Namibia and the northern border of Botswana, then along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe to Mozambique, where it crosses the country to empty into the Indian Ocean.

Southern Rhodesia self-governing British colony from 1923 to 1980

The Colony of Southern Rhodesia was a self-governing British Crown colony in southern Africa. It was the predecessor state of what is now Zimbabwe.

Portuguese and the Rozvi Empire

In the early 16th century, the Portuguese arrived, destroyed Mutapa's trade with Swahili merchants and began a series of wars which left the empire so weakened that it was near collapse in the early 17th century. Several Kalanga communities came together to form the Rozwi Empire, which covered more than half of present day Zimbabwe. By 1690 they forced the Portuguese off the plateau and the Rozwi controlled much of the land formerly under Mwene Mutapa.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe. It is bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

The Swahili people are an ethnic and cultural group inhabiting East Africa. Members primarily reside on the Swahili coast, in an area encompassing the Zanzibar archipelago, littoral Kenya, the Tanzania seaboard, and northern Mozambique. The name Swahili is derived from the Arabic word Sawāhil سواحل, meaning coasts. The Swahili speak the Swahili language, which belongs to the Bantu branch of the Niger-Congo family.

The Rozvi Empire (1684–1834) was established on the Zimbabwean Plateau by Changamire Dombo. After Dombo's death, his successor adopted the title Mambo. The term "Rozvi" refers to their legacy as a Warrior Nation known as the plunderers.

With relative peace and prosperity for the next two centuries, the Kalanga centres of Dlo-Dlo, Khami, and Great Zimbabwe reached their peaks. As a result of the mid-19th century turmoil in Transvaal and Natal, the Rozvi Empire came to an end. Ndebele peoples migrating from the Mfecane came to the Kalanga Rozvi Empire and made war with it. They conquered it and assimilated the inhabitants.

Khami ruined city and capital of the Kingdom of Butua

Khami is a ruined city located 22 kilometres west of Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe. It was once the capital of the Kalanga Kingdom of Butwa of the Tolwa dynasty. It is now a national monument, and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

South African Republic independent Boer-ruled country in Southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century

The South African Republic, often referred to as the Transvaal or as the Transvaal Republic, was an independent and internationally recognised country in Southern Africa from 1852 to 1902. The country defeated the British in what is often referred to as the First Boer War and remained independent until the end of the Second Boer War on 31 May 1902, when it was forced to surrender to the British. After the war the territory of the ZAR became the Transvaal Colony.


Mfecane, also known by the Sesotho name Difaqane or Lifaqane, was a period of widespread chaos and warfare among indigenous ethnic communities in southern Africa during the period between 1815 and about 1840.

British settlement

Traditional African Huts, 1884 AfricanHuts2.jpg
Traditional African Huts, 1884

The British entered Matabeleland in the 1880s, under the leadership of Cecil Rhodes, who extracted mining rights from King Lobengula of the Ndebele. He sent John Moffat, son of the missionary Robert Moffat, who was trusted by Lobengula, to persuade the latter to sign a treaty of friendship with Britain. Moffat persuaded Lobengula to look favourably on Rhodes' proposals carried by his agent Charles Rudd. Rudd assured Lobengula that no more than ten white men would mine in Matabeleland, but left this stipulation out of the document which Lobengula signed, the Rudd Concession. It stated that the mining companies could do anything necessary to their operations. When Lobengula discovered later what the concession really declared, he tried to renounce it, but the British Government ignored him. [1] [2]

Robert Moffat (missionary) Scottish missionary

Robert Moffat was a Scottish Congregationalist missionary to Africa, father-in-law of David Livingstone, and first translator of the Bible into Setswana.

Charles Rudd main business associate of Cecil John Rhodes

Charles Dunell Rudd was the main business associate of Cecil Rhodes.

Rudd Concession written concession for exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland and other adjoining territories in what is today Zimbabwe

The Rudd Concession, a written concession for exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland and other adjoining territories in what is today Zimbabwe, was granted by King Lobengula of Matabeleland to Charles Rudd, James Rochfort Maguire and Francis Thompson, three agents acting on behalf of the South African-based politician and businessman Cecil Rhodes, on 30 October 1888. Despite Lobengula's retrospective attempts to disavow it, it proved the foundation for the royal charter granted by the United Kingdom to Rhodes's British South Africa Company in October 1889, and thereafter for the Pioneer Column's occupation of Mashonaland in 1890, which marked the beginning of white settlement, administration and development in the country that eventually became Rhodesia, named after Rhodes, in 1895.

Rhodes used the concession to persuade the British government to grant a royal charter to his British South Africa Company (BSAC) over Matabeleland and its subject states, such as Mashonaland. Through such concessions and treaties, many of which were similarly deceitful, [1] he promoted the colonization of the region's land, labor, and precious metal and mineral resources. [3] In 1895 the BSAC adopted the name 'Rhodesia' for Zambesia and in 1898 'Southern Rhodesia' was officially adopted for the part south of the Zambezi River, [4] which later became Zimbabwe.

The Rudd Concession was a first step towards occupation of good land, but Lobengula's Ndebele were too strong for a direct invasion. Rhodes planned to surround Matebeleland with British-controlled lands, as British Bechuanaland was already established in the west. To the east was Mashonaland, and as the Shona were at the time subjects of Lobengula, they were covered by the Rudd Concession.

In 1890 Rhodes used this fact to justify sending the Pioneer Column of white settlers, protected by well-armed British South Africa Police (BSAP), the BSAC's own paramilitary force. Rhodes said they hoped to start a "new Rand" from the ancient gold mines of Mashonaland. The gold had been largely depleted, and the settlers became farmers. Rhodes declared that Lobengula had never really conquered the Shona, so he proclaimed Mashonaland as independent of Matabeland, exploiting tribal rivalries to cement the British settlers' occupation. [1]

Rhodes provoked the neighbouring Ndebele into war, and the BSAP defeated them in the First Matabele War (1893–94). Lobengula won the battle of the Shangani Patrol but he died while fleeing north; with the Ndebele defeat, immigration of more Europeans increased greatly. John Moffat belatedly realised that he had been used by Rhodes and opposed the war. The British government suspected that Rhodes knew that the gold was depleted and that Rhodes' primary aim was to settle Mashonaland and Matabeleland all along. After that and the Jameson Raid on the Transvaal, they did not trust him to the same extent. [1]

Soon after the Jameson Raid, the Ndebele and Shona rose up in rebellion against the encroachment on their native lands by white settlers, a struggle known in Zimbabwe as the First Chimurenga. Europeans called it the Second Matabele War (1896–97).[ citation needed ] The BSAP defeated them again. The American scout Frederick Russell Burnham killed Mlimo, the Ndebele leader of the rebellion. Soon after Rhodes entered unarmed into the Ndebele stronghold in Matobo Hills and persuaded the impi to lay down their arms, effectively ending the Second Matabele War. [5] The Ndebele and Shona became subject to the Rhodes administration, which led to the land distribution favouring whites and displacing Shona, Ndebele and other Black African people. Land holdings in Zimbabwe continue to be a controversial issue.

Rule by the British South Africa Company and Legislative Council

British South Africa Company Stamp, 1897 1897BSACstamp.jpg
British South Africa Company Stamp, 1897
Opening of the railroad to Umtali in 1899 1899railroad salisbury.jpg
Opening of the railroad to Umtali in 1899

From 1894 the colony's executive branch was run by the BSAC's administrator. The Southern Rhodesia Order in Council created a quasi-legislature called the Southern Rhodesia Legislative Council. Elections were held in 1899, 1902, 1905, 1908, 1911, 1914 and 1920.

There was a gradual de facto transition from complete rule by the British South Africa Company to self-government by the white settlers. By 1903 the Southern Rhodesia Legislative Council consisted of seven officials of the British South Africa Company and seven elected settlers. In 1907 and later the settlers had the majority of the seats. By the outbreak of the First World War, settlers had formed the Campaign for Responsible Government (later the Responsible Government Association) under Charles Coghlan, who became Rhodesia's first Prime Minister.

In 1918, the BSAC cut back on expenditure and public services such as the mail system, which worsened its popularity among settlers. Agitation continued to grow for self-rule independent of any private corporation. The Legislative Council election of 1920 resulted in a majority who favoured immediate moves towards establishing 'Responsible Government' within the colony. Immediately after the election, the Legislative Council passed a resolution requesting the United Kingdom government to inaugurate responsible government. The UK established a Commission under Earl Buxton, a former Liberal minister. The Commission reported in 1921 that the Colony was ready for responsible government and that a referendum should be held to confirm it. On 27 October 1922 a referendum was held to determine whether the colony should join the Union of South Africa or establish self-government. The self-government camp won the referendum by a wide margin. [6]

Related Research Articles

Chimurenga is a word in the Shona language, roughly meaning "revolutionary struggle". In specific historical terms, it also refers to the Ndebele and Shona insurrections against administration by the British South Africa Company during the late 1890s—the Second Matabele War, or First Chimurenga—and the war fought between African nationalist guerrillas and the predominantly white Rhodesian government during the 1960s and 1970s—the Rhodesian Bush War, or Second Chimurenga.

Lobengula King of Matabeleland

Inkos'uLobengula Khumalo (1845–1894) was the second and last king of the Northern Ndebele people. Both names, in the isiNdebele language, mean "the men of the long shields", a reference to the Ndebele warriors' use of the Zulu shield and spear.

Matabeleland Place

Modern-day Matabeleland is a region in Zimbabwe divided into three provinces: Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South. These provinces are in the west and south-west of Zimbabwe, between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. The region is named after its inhabitants, the Ndebele people. Other ethnic groups who inhabit parts of Matabeleland include the Tonga, Kalanga, Venda, Nambia, Sotho, Tswana and Khoisan. As of August 2012, according to the Zimbabwean national statistics agency ZIMSAT, the southern part of the region had 683,893 people, comprising 326,697 males and 356,926 females, with an average size household of 4.4 in an area of 54,172 square kilometres (20,916 sq mi). As for the Matabeleland Northern Province, it had a total population of 749,017 people out of the population of Zimbabwe of 13,061,239. The proportion of males and females was 48 and 52 percent respectively within an area of just over 75,017 square kilometres (28,964 sq mi). The remaining Bulawayo province had a population of 653,337 in an area of 1,706.8 square kilometres (659.0 sq mi). Thus the region has a combined population of 2,086,247 in an area of just over 130,000 square kilometres (50,000 sq mi) and that is just over the size of England. The major city is Bulawayo, other notable towns are Plumtree and Hwange. The land is particularly fertile but dry. This area has important gold deposits. Industries include gold and other mineral mines, and engineering. There has been a decline in the industries in this region as water is in short supply. Promises by the government to draw water for the region through the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project have not been carried out. The region is allegedly marginalised by the government.

Pioneer Column military force of the British South Africa Company

The Pioneer Column was a force raised by Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company in 1890 and used in his efforts to annex the territory of Mashonaland, later part of Southern Rhodesia.

The Northern Ndebele people are a Bantu nation and ethnic group in Southern Africa, who share a common Ndebele culture and Ndebele language. The Northern Ndebele were historically referred to as the Matabele which was a seSotho corruption of 'Ndebele'. Their history began when a Zulu chiefdom split from King Shaka in the early 19th century under the leadership of Mzilikazi, a former chief in his kingdom and ally. Under his command the disgruntled Zulus went on to conquer and rule the chiefdoms of the Southern Ndebele. This was where the name and identity of the eventual kingdom was adopted.

See also: 1880s in Zimbabwe, 1900 in Zimbabwe and Years in Zimbabwe.

Articles related to Zimbabwe include:

First Matabele War war

The First Matabele War was fought between 1893 and 1894 in modern day Zimbabwe. It pitted the British South Africa Company against the Ndebele (Matabele) Kingdom. Lobengula, king of the Ndebele, had tried to avoid outright war with the company's pioneers because he and his advisors were mindful of the destructive power of European-produced weapons on traditional Matabele impis attacking in massed ranks. Lobengula had 80,000 spearmen and 20,000 riflemen, armed with Martini-Henry rifles, which were modern arms at that time. However, poor training meant that these were not used effectively. The British South Africa Company had no more than 750 troops in the British South Africa Company's Police, with an undetermined number of possible colonial volunteers and an additional 700 Tswana (Bechuana) allies. Cecil Rhodes, who was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and Leander Starr Jameson, the Administrator of Mashonaland also tried to avoid war to prevent loss of confidence in the future of the territory. Matters came to a head when Lobengula approved a raid to forcibly extract tribute from a Mashona chief in the district of the town of Fort Victoria, which inevitably led to a clash with the Company.

Stanlake John William Thompson Samkange (1922–1988) was a Zimbabwean historiographer, educationist, journalist, author, and African nationalist. He was a member of an elite Zimbabwean nationalist political dynasty and the most prolific of the first generation of black Zimbabwean creative writers in English.

John Smith Moffat (1835–1918) was a British missionary and imperial agent in southern Africa, the son of missionary Robert Moffat and brother-in-law of missionary explorer David Livingstone. He is also known for his various publications and essays detailing his journeys and experiences in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.

Military history of Zimbabwe

The military history of Zimbabwe chronicles a vast time period and complex events from the dawn of history until the present time. It covers invasions of native peoples of Africa, encroachment by Europeans, and civil conflict.

The colonial history of Southern Rhodesia is considered to be a time period from the British government's establishment of the government of Southern Rhodesia on 1 October 1923, to Prime Minister Ian Smith's unilateral declaration of independence in 1965. The territory of 'Southern Rhodesia' was originally referred to as 'South Zambezia' but the name 'Rhodesia' came into use in 1895. The designation 'Southern' was adopted in 1901 and dropped from normal usage in 1964 on the break-up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and Rhodesia became the name of the country until the creation of Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1979. Legally, from the British perspective, the name Southern Rhodesia continued to be used until 18 April 1980, when the name Republic of Zimbabwe was formally proclaimed.

Patrick William Forbes was a leader of the paramilitary British South Africa Police, who commanded a force that invaded Matabeland in the First Matabele War.

<i>Shangani Patrol</i> (film) 1970 film by David Millin

Shangani Patrol is a war film based upon the non-fiction book A Time to Die by Robert Cary (1968), and the historical accounts of the Shangani Patrol, with Brian O'Shaughnessy as Major Allan Wilson and Will Hutchins as the lead Scout Frederick Russell Burnham. Also includes the song "Shangani Patrol" by Nick Taylor.

Mthwakazi is the traditional name of the proto-Ndebele and Ndebele kingdom that existed until the end of the 19th century within the area of today's Zimbabwe. Mthwakazi is widely used to refer to inhabitants of Matebeleland and Midlands provinces in Zimbabwe.

Company rule in Rhodesia

The British South Africa Company's administration of what became Rhodesia was chartered in 1889 by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, and began with the Pioneer Column's march north-east to Mashonaland in 1890. Empowered by its charter to acquire, govern and develop the area north of the Transvaal in southern Africa, the Company, headed by Cecil Rhodes, raised its own armed forces and carved out a huge bloc of territory through treaties, concessions and occasional military action, most prominently overcoming the Matabele army in the First and Second Matabele Wars of the 1890s. By the turn of the century, Rhodes's Company held a vast, land-locked country, bisected by the Zambezi river. It officially named this land Rhodesia in 1895, and ran it until the early 1920s.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Parsons, Neil (1993). A New History of Southern Africa, Second Edition. London: Macmillan. Pages 178–181.
  2. Hensman, Howard. Cecil Rhodes: A Study of a Career. Page 106-107.
  3. Bryce, James. Impressions of South Africa. Page 170.
  4. Gray, J. A. "A Country in Search of a Name". The Northern Rhodesia Journal III (1) (1956). Page 78.
  5. Farwell, Byron (2001). The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Land Warfare: An Illustrated World View. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 539. ISBN   0-393-04770-9.
  6. "Robert Thorne Coryndon: Proconsular Imperialism in Southern and Eastern Africa, 1897–1925 By Christopher P. Youé". Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 1986.