As a direct response to increased European presence in the interior a new Shona state emerged, known as the Rozwi Empire (1684–1834). Relying on centuries of military, political and religious development, the Rozwi (meaning “destroyers”) expelled the Portuguese from the Zimbabwean plateau by force of arms. They continued the stone-building traditions of the Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe kingdoms while adding muskets to their arsenal and recruiting a professional army to defend recent conquests.
Around 1821 the Zulu general Mzilikazi of the Khumalo clan successfully rebelled against King Shaka and established his own clan, the Ndebele. The Ndebele fought their way northwards into the Transvaal, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and beginning an era of widespread devastation known as the Mfecane. When Dutch trekboers converged on the Transvaal in 1836, they drove the tribe even further northward, with the assistance of Tswana Barolong warriors and Griqua commandos. By 1838 the Ndebele had conquered the Rozwi Empire, along with the other smaller Shona states, and reduced them to vassaldom.
Colonial era and Rhodesia (1888–1964):
In the 1880s European colonists arrived with Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company (BSAC, incorporated in 1888, chartered in 1889). In 1888 Rhodes obtained a concession for mining rights from King Lobengula of the Ndebele peoples. He presented this concession to persuade the government of the United Kingdom to grant a royal charter to the company over Matabeleland, and its subject states such as Mashonaland as well.
Rhodes used this document in 1890 to justify sending the Pioneer Column, a group of Europeans protected by well-armed British South Africa Police (BSAP) through Matabeleland and into Shona territory to establish Fort Salisbury (present-day Harare), and thereby establish company rule over the area. In 1893 and 1894, with the help of their new Maxim guns, the BSAP would go on to defeat the Ndebele in the First Matabele War. Rhodes additionally sought permission to negotiate similar concessions covering all territory between the Limpopo River and Lake Tanganyika, then known as “Zambesia”.