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Impressions of Malawi and Zimbabwe

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Malawi and Zimbabwe have a lot of history in common. But things are not less complicated because of that!


In colonial times Malawi was known as Nyasaland and Zimbabwe as South Rhodesia. Both had been brought under British colonial rule in the late 19th century, with the president of the British South Africa Company, Cecil Rhodes, in an important role. To the extent that what is now Zimbabwe was even named after him, South Rhodesia.


If there is a South Rhodesia, there must be a North Rhodesia too, right? Well yes, and the British even united the three territories in 1953 in a Federation, of course firmly under their control. It lasted a decade and then the Federation broke up in 1963 under decolonization pressure. The three entities went their own way in self-administration. Nyasaland became independent Malawi, North Rhodesia became independent Zambia, and South Rhodesia became the not-so-independent Rhodesia, where white governance continued under Ian Smith and the 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). While Malawi and Zambia were eagerly settling in majority rule and independence, Smith was of course given hell by the main majority blocks of the Shona tribe in the East and the Ndebele tribe in the West. In the end, the Shona leader, Robert Mugabe, did away with UDI, sidelined his Ndebele rival Joshua Nkomo in the process and crowned himself to president of the newly founded republic of Zimbabwe in 1980. It took several more years until the civil war between Mugabe's Shona and Nkomo's Ndebele was ended, the former having the upper hand again. From then onward it became possible to travel safely to Bulawayo and other parts of Matabeleland, West Zimbabwe, just in time for us to visit the area before we left Southern Africa for good, after nearly five years, in 1987.


So, the images you are about to see date back a while, indeed. And many things will certainly have changed over the years. But the pristine beauty of Lake Malawi is certainly still the same and so is the variety of hilly landscapes of Eastern Zimbabwe, while more to the West we are still intrigued at the sight of the impressive ruins of the mysterious Monomatapa Kingdom into which the Portuguese explorers bumped in the 17th century.


* Scanned slides

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