April 18 – Independence Day in Zimbabwe

Posted on April 18, 2016

Zimbabwe isn't quite as large as the state of California – and yet it has 16 official languages!

We're talking Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa.

Did you notice “English” in the list? That's because Zimbabwe used to be a colony of the United Kingdom – until this date in 1980.

Actually, the land that we now know as Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia when it was a British colony, and its colonial government was run by the white minority. Southern Rhodesia provided more soldiers, per capita, fighting for the British Empire in both World War I and World War II than any other nation – including Britain itself. But after the wars, instead of awarding the African land its independence, the British glommed together Southern Rhodesia with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Malawi) in what they called the Central African Federation. This was against the wishes of the African residents of those lands, and after a decade of tumult, Britain dissolved the Union.

Northern Rhodesia became independent and renamed itself Zambia. The leader of Southern Rhodesia, a fellow named Ian Smith, convinced his government to also declared independence and to drop “Southern” from the country's name – they lived in the only “Rhodesia” now. But the Brits didn't go along with this declaration of independence (any more than they had hundreds of years earlier gone along with the American Declaration). Britain didn't go to war over the colony's “rebellion,” but instead went to the United Nations and convinced the world to put sanctions on the new government, including a trade embargo. In other words, other nations wouldn't buy stuff from Rhodesia, and they wouldn't sell stuff to Rhodesia.

In the meantime, the black majority in Rhodesia weren't happy with Smith's government, either, and there was a civil war, fought mostly with guerrilla tactics like ambushes, sabotage, hit-and-run attacks, etc. (This is in contrast to the usual pitched battles and sieges of normal warfare.)

So...bad stuff. Strife and warfare, violence and poverty. Eventually a peace agreement was drawn up, and the world – even Britain – finally recognized the nation as an independent, self-governing country on this date in 1980.

And of course, the new nation changed its name to Zimbabwe.

I hate to break it to you, but since 1980, Zimbabwe hasn't been a place of democracy and human flourishing. It has been led by just one authoritarian president / prime minister for all these years—and he keeps getting re-elected among rumors of election fraud and vote-rigging. There have been horrible problems with poor living standards and health care, and there have been terrible human-rights abuses, including torture and massacres of citizens.

It's hard to celebrate the nation that has such a terrible past and present, but here are some totally amazing, wonderful, beautiful things to see in Zimbabwe:

Chimanimani Mountains
Great Zimbabwe
Hwange National Park
Lake Kariba at sunset
Victoria Falls (above and below) 

Also on this date:

Birthday of lawyer Clarence Darrow (famous because of the “Monkey Trial” about teaching evolution)

Anniversary of the publishing of the first crossword puzzle book

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest boards for:
And here are my Pinterest boards for:

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