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Zimbabwe is, fundamentally, not what you think (see Supplementary panel 1). This southern African country has a rich and proud heritage best exemplified by the 12th century Munhumutapa kingdom, which was flourishing when Europe was still in the Dark Ages. Trade thrived and an ordered, hierarchical, religious society constructed ‘Great Zimbabwe’—a vast complex of structures built with hand-cut stone near Masvingo. The extensive ruins, still remarkably intact, are the country’s second greatest tourist attraction after Victoria Falls. This sacred site is the spiritual heart of the country and gives modern Zimbabwe its name (figure 1).
More recently, conditions have changed dramatically. Colonisation by Cecil Rhodes and the creation of Southern Rhodesia meant that minority white rule, with all of its oppression, took root. Then, in 1965, the Prime Minister, Ian Smith, signed a unilateral declaration of independence from the UK. In some ways, the fact that the white Rhodesians felt able to sever ties with the UK underscores the wealth and natural resource to which they had access. However, the declaration …
Contributors AS, SM and TK: applied for the grant to visit Zimbabwe and constructed the idea for the manuscript. TK, IL, GK, AM and GN: all offered enduring support during the visit to Zimbabwe and subsequently. AS: wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. All authors: commented on the draft manuscript and contributed to the final version.
Funding This study was funded by University of Oxford, AfOX Collaboration and the Oxford NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed. This paper was reviewed by Colin Mumford, Edinburgh, UK, and Myles Connor, Edinburgh, UK.