Before You Go Guide to
“Breakfast With Mugabe”

The Before You Go Guide in Adobe PDF

(for Teachers and Students interested in further study)

  Historical Past Figures  


Glossary of Shona and Culturally Specific Terms

Ambuya – respected female, roughly equivalent to auntie or, in the play’s context, madam

Chimurenga – uprising or revolutionary struggle (see note under Nehanda, below)

Chiremba – respectful term for doctor

Concession – town and rural area an hour’s drive north of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare

Muntu – derogatory term for black African

Murungu – ambivalent term for white person

Ndebele – second most populous tribe in Zimbabwe, mainly living in the south and west of the country (Matebeleland)

Nehanda – a senior royal ancestor spirit, one of whose mediums (Charwe) was hanged by the British South Africa Company on the suppression of the first Chimurenga at the end of the 19th century

Ngozi – a bitter, malevolent spirit. A departed spirit may become an ngozi by dying violently, by remaining childless, or by not receiving proper burial rites.

Pamberi ne... – “Power to…”

Shona – largest tribe in Zimbabwe, dominating the center and east of the country and, progressively since independence, the government.  Shona also refers to the spoken language of this tribe.

War Veterans – a loose organization of former combatants in the War of Liberation, whose members demand compensation for their service – sometimes seizing property on their own initiative

ZANU-PF – political party, formed in 1987 via a Unity Accord that merged ZANU, the largely Shona party headed by Robert Mugabe, and ZAPU, the predominantly Ndebele party then led by Joshua Nkomo





Cecil Rhodes and the BSAC

The British South Africa Company (BSAC), led by Cecil Rhodes, attains a concession for gold mining, which leads to colonization of the land that was under Ndebele rule. The name Southern Rhodesia is adopted for the region.


The First Chimurenga  (revolutionary struggle)

Several tribes in the region unite in an unsuccessful rebellion against the rule of the British South African Company.  The leaders of the rebellion are assassinated or hanged, including the famous spirit medium, Nehanda Nyakasikana.


The Land Appointment Act

The Land Appointment Act denies land ownership to Africans and simultaneously forces Africans to work the land.

1966 - 1979

The Second Chimurenga: 
Guerrilla Warfare by ZAPU & ZANU

Sustained campaigns against white rule by the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) ultimately lead to the overthrow of white rule.  Leaders of the 2nd Chimurenga include Robert Mugabe, Josiah Tongogara and Herbert Chitepo.


The Lancaster House Agreement

The Lancaster House Agreement, brokered by the British and signed by the white Rhodesian regime and ZAPU and ZANU leaders, requires the new government to protect the land of white farm owners for 10 years following independence. Zimbabwe receives 44 million pounds to resettle the land.


Independence for Zimbabwe

Southern Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe, and its independence is internationally recognized. Canaan Banana becomes the first president of Zimbabwe. Robert G. Mugabe is elected prime minister.


Change of Constitution

Mugabe changes Zimbabwe’s constitution, making himself president and moving toward one-party rule.


The Land Acquisition Act

This act strengthens the power of the government to acquire land for resettlement. The government is required to provide “fair” compensation for the land it acquires.


Land Seizure

Of 162,000 families, 71,000 families resettle on approximately 3.5 million hectares of land, most of which is unsuitable for grazing or cultivation. Mugabe announces that he will seize an additional 1,500 farms and says the British should pay for them.


Economic Crisis

Economic crisis hits Zimbabwe as inflation rises, inciting riots and strikes.


Reclaiming of Land

The government and squatters seize land owned by white farmers, claiming that the land was originally stolen by white settlers. Large portions of the reclaimed land are given to inexperienced, novice farmers, leading to what some call an “economic freefall.”


Re-election, Food Shortages,
and Displacement

Mugabe is re-elected. The opposition contends that the election was rigged and stolen. Food shortages add to the threat of famine hanging over the country. Many white landowners are forced to leave their land under the terms of a land acquisition act.



(for Teachers and Students interested in further study)