July 26th, 2005
Border Jumpers
Timeline: Southern Africa
1830s Ndebele people flee South Africa and move north into an area that becomes known as Matebeleland (present-day Zimbabwe) where the Shona people have already been living for centuries.
1867 European gold prospectors arrive in Botswana and mining begins.
1885 The British proclaim a protectorate over Botswana and call it Bechuanaland.
1889 Explorer Cecil John Rhodes of the British South Africa Company colonizes what becomes Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
1890 A pioneer ground of white settlers arrives in the area that will become Harare — the future capital city of Zimbabwe.
1893 In Zimbabwe a rebellion of the Ndebele people against BSA (British South Africa Company) rule is crushed.
1922 BSA command over Zimbabwe ends as the white minority decides to become self-governing.
1930 Zimbabwe’s Land Apportionment Act restricts black access to their land, which results in severe misallocation of resources and an increasingly fractured society.
1953 Britain establishes the Central African Federation, which is comprised of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), and Nyasaland (Malawi).
1960s Zimbabwean nationalist groups emerge to oppose colonial rule.
1963 The Central African Federation dissolves when Zambia and Malawi gain their independence.
1964 Ian Smith of the Rhodesian Front becomes prime minister of Zimbabwe. Smith is intent on attaining Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain.
1965 The Bechuanaland Democratic Party wins legislative elections in Botswana and Serete Khama becomes prime minister. Ian Smith — then prime minister of Zimbabwe — declares independence from Britain, and this results in international uproar and economic sanctions against the African nation.
1966 The Immigration Act of 1966 allows unrestricted entry into Botswana for nationals from most neighboring countries.
September 1966 Bechuanaland is granted independence from Britain and officially becomes the Republic of Botswana. Seretse Khama retains his power as president.
1967 Diamonds are discovered at Orapa in Botswana.
1972 In Zimbabwe guerrilla war against white rule escalates.
January 1977 The U.N. Security Council resolution demands that the Rhodesian hostilities taking place on the border of Botswana cease. The Botswana Defence Force is established.
1979 Talks at Lancaster House in London result in a peace agreement between Zimbabwe and Britain, as well as a new constitution guaranteeing rights for Zimbabwean minorities.
1980 Botswana becomes a founding member of Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) — an organization that aims to reduce the region’s economic reliance on South Africa. Then-president of Botswana, Seretse Khama, dies and Vice President Quett Masire becomes president. Meanwhile, nationalist Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe and his Zanu party win independence elections under British supervision in Zimbabwe.
April 18, 1980 Zimbabwe officially declares independence from Britain.
1982 Zimbabwean Prime Minister Mugabe accuses cabinet member Joshua Nkomo of plotting to overthrow the government. Nkomo is removed from his position, which results in years of violent conflict between governmental forces and pro-Nkomo rebels.
1985 In June, several buildings in Gaborone, Botswana are raided and South African forces allegedly seeking members of the African National Congress, one of South Africa’s political parties, kill 12 people.
1987 In Zimbabwe, Mugabe and Nkomo join their respective political parties to form Zanu-PF, a move which ends the violence in the southern parts of Zimbabwe. Mugabe changes the Zimbabwean constitution and becomes executive president.
Early 1990s Botswana actively recruits non-nationals to help the relatively small country, which contains a disproportionate number of highly skilled and well-educated workers, support its thriving economy.
1995 Botswana’s government begins relocating thousands of Bushmen to settlements near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
1998 Masire resigns from the presidency and Festus Mogae, the former vice president, becomes president under new constitutional regulations that limit the presidential term to two five-year periods. In Zimbabwe, an economic crisis is accompanied by riots and strikes.
1999 Zimbabwe’s economic situation continues to worsen due in part to Zimbabwean troops’ involvement in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which opposes Mugabe and his policies, is formed.
Late 1990s Repressive regimes in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa, plus the extremely violent civil war in Angola, begin to produce a large number of refugees in the Botswana region. Many refugees seek solace within the increasingly stable borders of Botswana, the self-proclaimed “Gem of Africa.”
February 2000 Zimbawean squatters seize hundreds of farms owned by whites, claiming that they are only repossessing what white settlers illegally stole from them. The Zanu-PF party fends off serious challenges from the opposition party, MDC.
May July 2000 Finance Minister Simba Makoni acknowledges Zimbabwe’s economic crisis by declaring the country’s foreign reserves have run out and that Zimbabwe is facing serious food shortages. Western donors like the World Bank and IMF have already cut aid to Zimbabwe because of Mugabe’s land seizure programs.
2000 Botswana experiences devastating flooding, which results in more than 60,000 homeless residents. President Mogae declares that AIDS drugs will be available for free from 2001 onwards. A collapse of the economy resulting from the land reform program in Zimbabwe leads to a massive influx of econmic refugees to neighboring countries, including Botswana. More than 1/4 of the population is now living abroad.
March 2001 Botswana’s national diamond corporation — Debswana — announces that it will subsidize drugs for workers infected with the AIDS virus.
February 2002 The Zimbabwean parliament passes a law restricting the media and the European Union imposes sanctions on the despairing African nation.
March 2002 The Kalahari Bushmen take the Botswana government to court to oppose a forced eviction from the Kalahari’s land but the case is dismissed on a technicality. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe is re-elected president in elections that are widely condemned as fraudulent and steeped in violence.
April 2002 The Zimbabwean government blames severe drought for alarming food shortages, but the U.N.’s World Food Program says disruption of agriculture thanks to Mugabe’s land-redistribution policies is a huge factor.
September 2002 Leaders of South Africa, Nigeria, and Australia fail to agree on whether or not to pass further sanctions against President Mugabe.
November 2002 Zimbabwean Agriculture Minister Joseph Made announces that the government has seized 35 million acres of land from white farmers. He also says the land grab is over.
2002 – 2003 Devastating foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in Botswana threaten to destroy the profitable cattle industry. Botswana points a finger at diseased cattle crossing over the border from Zimbabwe.
March 2003 In Zimbabwe a general strike begins and is met by arrests and alleged violent beatings of hundreds of people by Mugabe’s government.
June 2003 Opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai is arrested twice and charged with treason.
September 2003 Botswana begins to build a 300 mile, 8-foot high fence along its border with Zimbabwe, officially as a foot-and-mouth disease prevention method. Critics claim the fence’s true purpose is to discourage the influx of illegal Zimbabwe immigrants. A Zimbabwean official declares the fence a violation of human rights and calls it “Africa’s Gaza Strip”.
March 2004 Botswana’s HIV infection rate falls to 37.5 percent, meaning that Botswana no longer has the world’s highest rate of infection. Botswana introduces an amendment to its long-standing Immigration Act of 1966. The amendment clearly means to discourage immigration by allowing for much more punitive measures to be taken against any undocumented residents of Botswana, and both illegal migrants and any Botswanans who assist them can be severely punished via fine or even imprisonment.
October 2004 Mogae is elected to a second term as Botswana’s president. Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is acquitted of treason charges stemming from accusations that he plotted to kill President Mugabe, but he still faces a second treason charge.
March 2005 In Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party wins two thirds of the votes in the parliamentary polls, but many claim the elections were severely rigged.
May-June 2005 In Zimbabwe, tens of thousands of shanty dwellings and street stalls are destroyed by the government in an alleged effort to “clean up” the country. U.N. estimates say the drive has left as many as 250,000 people homeless.

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