The first European to view the falls was Dr. David Livingstone, the Scottish-born missionary-doctor who gave 32 years of his life to Africa. On 16 November 1855, the Africans took him by dugout canoe to see what they called, “the smoke that thunders”, because of the white spray above the falls. His diary entry for that day. “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed on by angels in
their flight”. He named them Victoria Falls for his queen.
Though Zimbabwe’s history date to the Stone Age culture, 500, 000 years ago, the most solid information starts around 300 A.D. with the arrival of the Bantu, who drove the San (Bushmen) into the Kalahari Desert. Five hundred years later, another culture built the great Zimbabwe, along with more than 200 other structures. The Muslims came in the 10th century, the Portuguese in the 17th. First half of the 19th century, the Ndebele, a Zulu clan from the south, arrived and conquered the resident Shona, but were outwitted by that empire builder, Cecil John Rhodes.
Son of a priest, Cecil Rhodes left England to join his brother in South Africa. The younger Rhodes made his fortune buying rights to diamond fields in Kimberly; in a few years he owned the rights to 90% of the world’s treasure. Spurred by tales of King Solomon’s mines, he raised a private army and in 1890 crossed the Limpopo River, tricked the king, Lobengula, into the signing away prospecting rights and finally defeated him, native spears no match for English Gatling and automatic Maxim machine guns. Rhodes ran the
territory like his own private reserve until 1923 when it became Southern Rhodesia, a self governing British Colony. But the mines were never as rich as the prospector’s imaginations.
Southern Rhodesia formed a federation with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. After ten years it fell apart in 1963, with the two other countries gaining independence as Zambia and Malawi. Against the growing tide of nationalism raging on the continent, Prime Minister Ian Smith declared Rhodesian independence on 11 November 1965. Great Britain declared it an illegal act: the UN imposed sanctions. By 1972, black, armed resistance independence was declared giving the blacks an opportunity to be part of the government. Fearing bloodbaths, in the next few years over 3/4s of the white population fled. Of Zimbabwe’s eleven million populations today, whites represent only about 80, 000. Recently, blacks, impatient with the slow land distribution, have taken over forms of whites. President Robert Mugabe has most of the
time supported the seizures In contradictory rulings, the courts have ruled for and against the actions of the blacks. The bloodbaths haven’t happened, though there are individual incidents of white farmers being killed. Some whites have drifted back, but overall, enormous challenges confront Zimbabwe.