Racism in Zimbabwe

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Racism in Zimbabwe began under British colonial rule in the 19th century, with a white minority population imposing racist policies in all spheres of life. In the 1960s–70s, African national liberation groups waged an armed struggle against the white Rhodesian government, culminating in a peace accord that brought the ZANU–PF to power but which left much of the white settler population's economic authority intact.

Violent government repression following independence included massacres against African ethnic groups, embittering ethnic divides within the population. The government led by Robert Mugabe during the 1980s was benevolent to white settlers while violently repressing illegal incursions on white land by African peasants who were frustrated with the government's broken promises of land reform. Mugabe's government would change policies in 2000 and encourage violence against the white population, with many fleeing the country by 2005. Zimbabwe's society continues to face significant divisions along racial lines.


In the 19th century, the British colonized Zimbabwe and imposed racist social and economic organization within their territory. White colonists held full citizenship rights as well as other significant economic and legal advantages over indigenous African people. Racial division would continue under Rhodesian governance, sparking an armed struggle to overthrow white rule led by the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). This conflict culminated in the establishment of the modern state of Zimbabwe. The coalition of African forces was fragile, and the government led by Robert Mugabe and the majority-Shona ZANU committed massacres against Northern Ndebele people in ZAPU strongholds, producing resentment between the African ethnic groups.[1]

Land reform[edit]

Following the end of armed conflict, the white minority in Zimbabwe continued to exert disproportionate control over the economy, owned the majority of arable land in Zimbabwe, and maintained racially segregated social circles. White settlers were protected by generous provisions established by the Lancaster House Agreement, and thus continued to exert significant political and legal control over the African population. Wide disparities existed in access to sports, education and housing.[1][2] The ZANU-led government did not engage in significant expropriation of white settlers despite promising land reform to the African population, with one white commercial farmer commenting that Mugabe's government in the early 1980s was "the best government for farmers that this country has ever seen". Dissatisfaction with the slow pace of land reform led to the illegal seizing of white-owned land by African peasants.[1] The government responded with heavy-handed repression against the African peasants.[3] Resentment of continued white control of the economy continued through the 1990s, spurred by the perception that the white business community was disinterested in improving the economic lot of the African population or otherwise changing the status quo.[4]

By 2000, as ZANU grew politically isolated, it increasingly criticized the white population's segregationism and racism,[1] and began to encourage violent farm invasions against the white population, which drew condemnations from the international community.[3] A dozen white farmers and scores of their African employees were killed in the ensuing violence, with hundreds injured and thousands fleeing the country.[5] Zimbabwe today continues to be fractured by enmity along racial lines.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Mlambo, Alois S. (2014). A History of Zimbabwe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 222–224, 254–256. ISBN 978-1-139-86752-8.
  2. ^ Masocha, Vincent; Mugari, Abisha (2014). "Sport and Racial Inequality: An Analysis of Pre-Independence Zimbabwe (1890-1979)". Greener Journal of Sport and Physical Education. 1 (1): 1–7. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.3918.9845.
  3. ^ a b Mlambo, Alois S. (30 October 2012). "Becoming Zimbabwe or becoming Zimbabwean: Identity, nationalism and state building in the historical context of Southern Africa". Inaugural Lecture presented at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
  4. ^ Gaidzanwa, Rudo (1999). "Indigenisation as empowerment? Gender and race in the empowerment discourse in Zimbabwe". In Cheater, Angela (ed.). The Anthropology of Power. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-65048-4.
  5. ^ Koinage, Jeff (30 March 2005). "Tale of two farms in Zimbabwe". CNN. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  6. ^ Abednico, Siambombe (2017). "A wrong without design: assessing racism and white color crime in Zimbabwe". AFFRIKA Journal of Politics, Economics and Society. 7 (1): 127–134. ISSN 1998-4936.