The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia
from the South Africa Company in
1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated
that favored whites in power. In
1965 the government unilaterally
declared its independence, but the
UK did not recognize the act and
demanded more complete voting rights
for the black African majority in
the country (then called Rhodesia).
UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising
finally led to free elections in
1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe)
in 1980. Robert MUGABE, the nation's
first prime minister, has been the
country's only ruler (as president
since 1987) and has dominated the
country's political system since
independence. His chaotic land redistribution
campaign begun in 2000 caused an
exodus of white farmers, crippled
the economy, and ushered in widespread
shortages of basic commodities.
Ignoring international condemnation,
MUGABE rigged the 2002 presidential
election to ensure his reelection.
Opposition and labor groups launched
general strikes in 2003 to pressure
MUGABE to retire early; security
forces continued their brutal repression
of regime opponents.