In the highlands of Zimbabwe lies the largest stone structure in Africa. For many years it was virtually unknown to the outside world. It is known simply as “Great Zimbabwe”, which translates as great house of stone. Until just recently, its origin has been highly contested by colonial settles and western scholars. They would argue in a very racially motivated manner, that no “black” peoples could have had the skill or technological knowledge to build something like Great Zimbabwe. It turns out not only are they wrong about the skin color and heritage of the people who built it, but they also would be shocked to learn that this was just as advanced as any of the western technology at the time.
Around 1200, a great civilization grew out of Zimbabwe and spread all the way to the Swahili coast in Eastern Africa. These people would send the gold, ivory and precious stones found in the Zimbabwe highlands throughout the world, and make the Swahili coast (and in particular an island town known as Kilwa Kisiwani) a trade hub connecting China and India and the Middle East.
In the early 1800’s, a man by the name of Cecil Rhodes would obtain mining rights to an area that would affectionately become known as Rhodesia. This would in include “Northern Rhodesia” which is present-day Zambia, and “Southern Rhodesia” which was located in the present day country of Zimbabwe.
The British would exploit the land at first for its mineral resources, and then for it’s farming land. White settlers around this time would claim much of the area’s farming land as their own.
In 1965, after over 100 years of colonial rule, the nation of Rhodesia was ready for independence. Guerrilla warfare, civil unrest and sanctions issued by the United Nations all played key roles in shaping the outcome of this struggle.
By 1970, independence had been won from Britain, but there were still various factions of militants in the country, and only South Africa had recognized Rhodesia as an independent nation. In 1978, an agremment was reached with three African leaders, lead by a bishop named Abel Muzorewa. The agreement was that the white population would be left alone to their lands in exchange for the establishment of a biracial democracy. The result of the first election in 1979 concluded with the UANC (United African National Council) carrying the majority of seats in the parliament. On June 1, 1979, Muzorewa became the first prime minister and promptly changed the country’s name to Zimbabwe Rhodesia.
During the elections in 1980, a charasmatic leader from the newly formed ZANU party won the election in a landslide. His name was Robert Mugabe. During his first few years, he would see opposition from the people in Matebeleland. What happened next was nothing less than mass genocide. Over 20,000 of the opposition were killed by Mugabe’s personal 7th brigade army fromt 1985 – 1988. The result of which was that almost all of those who spoke against Mugabe were now dead. This became known as Gukurahundi, or the “Matabeleand Massacres”.
Subsequent elections in 1990 found that only 54% of the people turned out to vote, and that the elections were far from fair. People were scared to voice an opposition opinion, and voting was manipulated by Mugabe and his controlling party.
An uprising by the war veterans after their benefits were cut would see a march on Mugabe and result in a settlement that would see the veterans get their money but ultimately lead to the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar. In fact, inflation was so high at one point that the central bank was printing 100 Trillion dollar notes (pictured below).
In 2000, Mugabe began to forcibly redistribute the land from the white Zimbabwe to members of his ruling party. Whites were literally kicked off their land by force, sometimes resulting in death or injury to themselves or their workers. The result however, was that many of the workers were left without jobs, adding to the unemployment rate, which stands today around 80% (one of the highest in the world).
To learn more about Zimbabwe’s more recent history, the documentary below from AlJezeera is a fascinating look into the struggle that continues between racial, political and social factions in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe relies very heavily today on foreign aid for food supply. Much of the country’s farm land has been planted with maize, which is made available for public consumption. But that was not always the case, and the dish we will make today is an example of how brilliant the cuisine of Zimbabwe can truly be. Today we are making Dovi, which is basically a peanut butter curry with chicken. Cornmeal and Water (known as Sadza) is a dietary staple of Zimbabwe, but since we had so much extra rice in our house, today we will be making this with rice, which is also acceptable. (The third option is mashed potatoes).
- 600-800g Chicken (Boneless)
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 Green Chillies
- 2 Peri Peri (African Birdseye Chillies/Red Chillies)
- 2 Green Peppers (Capsicum)
- 1 Medium Onion
- 3 Tomatoes
- 2 Carrots
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 300g spinach (1 large bushel – fresh)
- 1 cup boiling water (250ml)
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 3 Garlic Gloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- t teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 Cups rice (washed)
- 3 1/4 cups water
The first step is to chop all of the vegetables. Chop the onion and green pepper to place in one bowl. In a 2nd bowl the garlic, chillies and salt, and in a third bowl, the carrots, tomatoes and thyme. At this time also chop the chicken. Wash and shred the spinach as well, although if you want to be as fresh as possible, this can wait until later once the Dovi is simmering.
Next, wash the rice in cold water and then start the rice cooker or pot of rice so that it times perfectly with your dovi. Funny enough, I forgot all about cooking the rice until the Dovi was completely done so don’t make my mistake 🙂
Boil 1 cup of water in a kettle (or just use really hot water from the faucet) and dissolve 1 chicken stock cube into it.
Now its time to get cooking….Heat up the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion and green pepper for about 5 minutes or until the onion is clear but not brown. Next, add the garlic, chillies and salt and fry for a couple of minutes more.
Add the chicken stock mixture to the pot and then add the chicken, carrots, tomatoes and thyme. If your frypan is not big enough like mine, you can transfer the veggies over to a large pot before/after you add the remaining vegetables, stock and chicken.
Once everything has been added, place a lid on the pot/pan, and simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
After about 8 minutes, it is time to prepare the peanut butter. Measure 8 tablespoons into a bowl. (A trick that my wife told me was to heat up a spoon under hot water which helps the peanut butter come off the spoon better) Scoop about 10 tablespoons of the broth out of the pot into the bowl with the peanut butter and mix until dissolved through.
Now add the shredded spinach and the peanut butter mixture to your pot and stir through. Allow this to cook for about 5 minutes or until the spinach is nice and soft.
At the very end, combine about 1 tablespoon of cold water with the cornstarch to make a paste. Stir this through your mixture to thicken up the sauce. (This is optional)
By this time your rice should be finished (assuming you put it on at the right time unlike me!). Plate out a bed of rice and then top with the Dovi and enjoy!.
Zimbabwe is home to one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the largest waterfall in the world….Victoria Falls. It is the Nation’s number one natural landmark and also it’s top tourist attraction.
If you are interested in sport…Zimbabwe has a fairly decent cricket team as well!
For more information and up-to-date news about the situation in Zimbabwe, there is a great site you can visit called “The Zimbabwe Situation”.
Credit for this recipe can go to a post on a website called Mzansi Style Cuisine.