By Sanya Burgess, news reporter
Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe led the country for 37 years after independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Initially seen as a hero, his resignation last year was welcomed after years of alleged vote-rigging, repression of opposition, violent land seizures, economic crisis and his evolution into a de facto dictator.
Many hope the sanctions imposed as a result of those actions will be lifted off the back of credible elections on Monday.
:: A look back at key moments that have shaped Zimbabwe into the country it is today:
The death of Zulu general Mzilikazi
Mzilikazi and his tribe permanently settled in what is now known as Matabeleland in the southwest of present-day Zimbabwe.
He organised his society into a military system and held off attacks from the Boers, Dutch-speaking settlers.
When Mzilikazi died in 1868, he was succeeded by his son Lobengula, who became the second and last king of the Northern Ndebele people.
In 1888, Briton Cecil Rhodes obtained a concession for mining rights from King Lobengula. He used this as grounds to gain a British mandate for his British South Africa Company (BSAC) to colonise what becomes Southern Rhodesia.
Unsuccessful revolts were crushed by the invasive population. The Ndebele and other indigenous groups were gradually displaced as European settlers arrived.
In 1923, Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony, after the BSAC administration ends.
In 1930, the Land Apportionment Act restricts black access to land.
Two decades later in 1953, Britain created the Central African Federation. It was made up of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi).
In 1963, the Federation was dissolved and turned into three colonies after concentrated Black opposition.
The Rhodesian Front, the white-minority government led by Ian Smith, declared itself a republic in 1970.
The Republic of Rhodesia was not recognised internationally or by the United Kingdom. International outrage was provoked and economic sanctions were applied.
The move to a republic sparked a civil war, with Robert Mugabe’s ZANU and Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU securing help from other African governments in the fight.
Over the years, guerrilla war fiercely intensified.
On 1 June 1979, Bishop Abel Muzorewa became prime minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia after a transition deal was struck with the British.
He led the United African National Council (UANC), which ZANU and ZAPU both aligned themselves with.
Mugabe and Nkomo rejected the outcome of the election – which they had not been allowed to take part in because they continued to use arms – and the civil war rumbled on.
The historic Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 internationally recognised majority rule in 1980, with the United Kingdom ceremonially granting Zimbabwe independence on 18 April that year.
Part of the agreement saw Muzorewa accept the need for fresh elections which were held in early 1980.
Mugabe grasps power
The British government, who had resumed power during the interval, briefly considered disqualifying ZANU who used intimidation and flouted the rules of the Agreement during the election campaign.
On 4 March 1980, Mugabe and ZANU won and Zimbabwe Rhodesia became the Republic of Zimbabwe, or as it is more commonly known, Zimbabwe.
With Mugabe as prime minister, he brought Nkomo into his cabinet. Not two years passes before Mugabe sacks him, accusing him of preparing to overthrow the government.
Subsequent pro-Nkomo rebel action sees government forces be accused of killing thousands of civilians over next few years.
1987 was a pivotal in Zimbabwe’s history: Mugabe and Nkomo merge their parties to create the still ruling Zanu-PF as Mugabe changes the constitution to become executive president.
The country entered what was largely period of peace, with the Commonwealth’s 1991 adoption of Harare Declaration in Zimbabwe prioritising international peace, security, democracy, freedom of the individual and equal rights for all.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s Zimbabwe’s economy began to deteriorate.
Riots and strikes in conjunction with the country’s involvement in DR Congo’s civil war saw Mugabe’s popularity wilt.
In 2000, Zanu-Pf almost lost the election and saw its powers decrease as a result of the vote.
That same year, hundreds of white-owned farms are seized as campaigners say the land is being taken back from the invasive settlers. The debate over land ownership will rumble on for the next two decades.
The following year, the government is forced to acknowledge the economic crisis and warns of serious food shortages; the land seizures saw many Western donors cut aid.
By 2002, press restrictions are put in place. More sanctions are piled on and election observers are pulled out by the EU.
Mugable is re-elected, but the vote is viewed with suspicion and was marred by violence.
Zimbabwe in “meltdown”
In 2003, when protesters take to the streets over food shortages, there are arrests and beatings. An opposition politician is arrested and charged with treason.
Mugabe pulls the country out of the Commonwealth that same year.
Zimbabwe is described as in “meltdown” by UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland in 2005, following a rumoured rigged election and a “clean-up” that left an estimated 700,000 homeless.
Over the next few years, allegations that Union leaders are tortured are touted, a ban on rallies and demonstrations is enforced, extensive power cuts occur and attempts to delayed the election – and extend Mugabe’s rule – for two years are made.
The 2008 run-off election sees opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pull out days before, citing intimidation. More sanctions are enforced. Inflation rates render Zimbabwe’s currency nearly worthless.
Many claim early on that the same tactics are being used on the next round of elections, which saw Mugabe begin his seventh term in office. Zanu-PF gained three-quarters of the seats in parliament. Allegations of fraud are made.
In 2014, as Mugabe turned 90, his wife Grace, a political novice, is nominated as the next leader of the governing Zanu-PF’s Women’s League. Speculation that she is plotting to succeed her husband grows.
Mugabe resigns in November 2017 after the military seizes control of the country.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe confidante, becomes president.
Historic elections in July 2018 will see Mnangagwa fight Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor, for the leadership.
It will be the first time in almost four decades that an election is held where Mugabe is not standing.