History, Independent Zimbabwe
splinter parties, Lancaster House agreement, Mugabe, corruption scandals, Matabeleland
The Lancaster House agreement had protected the position of Zimbabwe’s white inhabitants, who were allocated 20 seats in parliament. Land reform, specifically the redistribution of white-owned land to landless black peasants, was promised but was delayed in order to smooth the transition to majority rule. During the 1980s the new government increasingly moved away from its Marxist rhetoric and toward supporting a capitalistic economy. The civil war in Mozambique and unresolved political conflict in South Africa threatened the stability of the new state. Zimbabwe incurred the wrath of South Africa by supporting both the African National Congress (ANC), which opposed South Africa’s minority-rule government, and Mozambique’s government, which South Africa was attempting to overthrow by supporting a rebel group. South Africa threatened to attack ANC bases in Zimbabwe and blocked Zimbabwean exports through South African ports. Zimbabwe consequently suffered economic dislocation as it was forced to export its products through Mozambique. This required the Zimbabwean armed forces to protect the railroad corridor to the Mozambican port of Beira from South African-sponsored rebel attacks. Mugabe was one of the founders of the Southern African Development Cooperation Committee (SADCC), an organization formed to reduce regional economic dependence on South Africa, and he played a prominent role in trying to counter the influence of South Africa.
The 1980s also saw unrest within Zimbabwe. Insurrection threatened in Matabeleland in the southwest, as Ndebele dissidents who questioned the validity of the 1980 elections began to stockpile arms. The government severely repressed the Ndebele opposition, and Nkomo and other members of the Ndebele-supported ZAPU were expelled from the government. In 1985 legislative elections, ZANU won again by a landslide everywhere but in Matabeleland. However, corruption scandals rocked Mugabe’s government, and several splinter parties broke away from ZANU-PF. In an effort to consolidate his power, in 1987 Mugabe had the constitution revised, replacing the office of prime minister with that of president, which combines the posts of head of state and head of government. In 1988 Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Nkomo’s ZAPU agreed to merge under the name of ZANU-PF, and Zimbabwe’s ethnic and political tension eased greatly. Mugabe appointed Nkomo one of two joint vice presidents in 1990.
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