Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, is a mid-sized landlocked country at the heart of Southern Africa. Rhodesia was so named by British settlers in 1895, in honour of the imperialist-adventurer Cecil Rhodes. Two main ethnic groups held the land before the settlers' arrival: the Shona and the Ndebele (Matabele), an offshoot of the Zulus who arrived in the area in 1838.
The Limpopo River to the south forms the border with South Africa; in the northwest the Zambezi River, incorporating Lake Kariba and the Victoria Falls, forms the border with Zambia. A range of mountains and highlands including Mt Inyangani (2,592m/8,504ft) and the Chimanimani Mountains mark the eastern border.
Although it's been years since I lived here, Chimanimani (which used to be called Melsetter, after the Orkney town) remains stuck in my mind as that central reference point from which all other places radiate. It lies in an isolated valley along the eastern border with Mozambique, nestled in the crook of a winding range of glittering granite mountains from which the village now takes its name. Peter Godwin Zimbabwe Situation report
Peter Godwin was asked, "What is your favourite place in the world?"
Probably still on the Chimanimani Mountains - gazing up at the jagged granite peaks above, wreathed often with wisps of clouds, and sweeping views down over the eastern highlands at the rolling countryside; or further north from World's View in Nyanga; or maybe in late summer, the hypnotic sight from Devil's cataract of the might Zambezi river in full flow, tumbling over the lip of Victoria Falls. Pan Macmillan Interview, 2005
Umtali, now called Mutare, is Zimbabwe's fourth largest city, with 170,000 people.
Close to the border with Mozambique, the town began life as a fort. Gold was found nearby, attracting the first white settlers, and in 1896 a railway was constructed between Bulawayo and Beira on the coast, passing through the Mutare area and raising the importance of the new town.
Today, the city is sometimes seen as the Gateway to the Eastern Highlands.
1961 Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) formed, with Joshua Nkomo as its leader
1963 Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) formed, with Robert Mugabe as its secretary
1964 Ian Smith became prime minister and rejected British terms for independence requiring steps towards black majority rule
1965 Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) causing Britain to sever all relations
1966-68 The United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Rhodesia, although help was still received from South Africa and Portugal
1969 Rhodesia declared itself a republic
1974 Nkomo and Mugabe were released from prison and together formed the Patriotic Front to fight the Smith regime in an escalating civil war
1978 At the height of the civil war, 1,000 whites were leaving Rhodesia every month
1979 White minority regime ended with an all-party adoption of the Lancaster House Agreement
1980 Zimbabwe achieved independence from Britain with full transition to African majority rule. Mugabe became Prime Minister with Rev. Canaan Banana as President
1984 ZANU-PF party congress agreed principle of a one-party state
It was founded in 1890 as a British fort, and named after the Prime Minister of the day. Between 1953 and 1963 it was the capital of all the territory now forming modern Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.
Today, Harare's population is estimated at 1.6 million.
Zimbabwe has a rich diversity of flora and wildlife, much of it concentrated in the country's private reserves and national parks. At the time of Mukiwa, visitors could be assured of seeing any number of elephants, lions, rhinos, giraffe and antelope. However the collapse in law and order and the breakdown of food supplies have led to poaching on a massive scale. Since 2001, the World Wildlife Fund estimates, up to 80% of all wild animals on "reclaimed" farms have been slaughtered.