Zimbabwe: Wikis


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Republic of Zimbabwe
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Unity, Freedom, Work"
AnthemSimudzai Mureza wedu WeZimbabwe  (Shona)
Kalibusiswe Ilizwe leZimbabwe  (Sindebele)
"Blessed be the land of Zimbabwe"

(and largest city)
17°50′S 31°3′E / 17.833°S 31.05°E / -17.833; 31.05
Official language(s) English
Recognised regional languages Shona, Ndebele
Demonym Zimbabwean
Government Semi presidential, parliamentary, consociationalist republic
 -  President Robert Mugabe
 -  Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
 -  Vice President Joice Mujuru
John Nkomo
 -  Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khuphe
Arthur Mutambara
Independence from the United Kingdom 
 -  Established 1901 
 -  Proclaimed 11 November 1965 
 -  Recognized 18 April 1980 
 -  Total 390,757 km2 (60th)
150,871 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1
 -  2009 estimate 12,521,000[1] (68th)
 -  Density 26/km2 (170th)
57/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.925 billion (167th)
 -  Per capita $100 (194th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $3.145 billion[2] (144th)
 -  Per capita $268[2] (176th)
Gini (2003) 56.8 (high
HDI (2007) 0.513 (medium) (151st)
Currency US dollar a (USD)
Time zone Central Africa Time
 -  Summer (DST) Not observed (UTC{{{utc_offset_DST}}})
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .zw
Calling code +263
^a The Zimbabwean dollar is no longer in active use after it was officially suspended by the government due to hyperinflation. The United States dollar, South African rand, Botswanan pula, Pound sterling, and Euro are now used instead. The US dollar has been adopted as the official currency for all government transactions with the new power-sharing regime.

Zimbabwe (pronounced /zɪ'mbɑːbwe/ zi-MBAH-bwe; officially the Republic of Zimbabwe and formerly Southern Rhodesia, the Republic of Rhodesia, and Zimbabwe Rhodesia) is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the continent of Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three official languages: English, Shona (a Bantu language), and Ndebele.

Zimbabwe began as a part of the British crown colony of Rhodesia. President Robert Mugabe is the head of State and Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Morgan Tsvangirai is the Prime Minister. Mugabe has been in power since the country's long war for independence. Although initially during the 1980s his administration was credited with improving the standard of living and the economy, his rule has been characterized by gross economic mismanagement, hyperinflation, and widespread reports of human rights abuses.[3] The collapse of the nation's economy and widespread poverty and unemployment has increased support for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, which in late 2008 agreed to share power with Mugabe.



The name Zimbabwe derives from "Dzimba dza mabwe," meaning "great houses of stone" in the Shona language.[4] Its use as the country's name is a tribute to Great Zimbabwe.


By the Middle Ages, there was a civilization in the region, evidently shown by ruins at Great Zimbabwe and other smaller sites. The main archaeological site is a unique dry stone architecture. Around the early 10th century, trade developed with Muslim merchants on the Indian Ocean coast, helping to develop the Kingdom of Mapungubwe in the 11th century. This was the precursor to the more impressive Shona civilizations that would dominate the region.

Towers of Great Zimbabwe.

Pre-Colonial era (1000–1887)

Proto-Shona speaking societies first emerged in the middle Limpopo valley in the 9th century before moving on to the Zimbabwean highlands. The Zimbabwean plateau eventually became the center of subsequent Shona states. The Kingdom of Mapungubwe was the first in a series of sophisticated trade states developed in Zimbabwe by the time of the first European explorers from Portugal. They traded in gold, ivory and copper for cloth and glass. From about 1250 until 1450, Mapungubwe was eclipsed by the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. This Shona state further refined and expanded upon Mapungubwe's stone architecture, which survives to this day at the ruins of the kingdom's capital of Great Zimbabwe. From circa 1450–1760, Zimbabwe gave way to the Kingdom of Mutapa. This Shona state ruled much of the area that is known as Zimbabwe today, and parts of central Mozambique. It is known by many names including the Mutapa Empire, also known as Mwene Mutapa or Monomotapa and was renowned for its gold trade routes with Arabs and the Portuguese. However, Portuguese settlers destroyed the trade and began a series of wars which left the empire in near collapse in the early 17th century.[5] As a direct response to Portuguese aggression in the interior, a new Shona state emerged called the Rozwi Empire. Relying on centuries of military, political and religious development, the Rozwi (which means "destroyers") removed the Portuguese from the Zimbabwe plateau by force of arms. The Rozwi continued the stone building traditions of the Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe kingdoms while adding guns to its arsenal and developing a professional army to protect its trade routes and conquests.

In 1834, the Ndebele people arrived while fleeing from the Zulu leader Shaka, making the area their new empire, Matabeleland. In 1837–38, the Rozwi Empire along with other Shona states were conquered by the Ndebele, who arrived from south of the Limpopo and forced them to pay tribute and concentrate in northern Zimbabwe.

Colonial era (1888–1965)

Matabeleland in the 1800s.

In the 1880s, the British arrived with Cecil Rhodes's British South Africa Company. In 1898, the name Southern Rhodesia was adopted.[6] In 1888, British colonialist Cecil Rhodes obtained a concession for mining rights from King Lobengula of the Ndebele peoples.[7] Cecil Rhodes presented this concession to persuade the government of the United Kingdom to grant a royal charter to his British South Africa Company (BSAC) over Matabeleland, and its subject states such as Mashonaland. Rhodes sought permission to negotiate similar concessions covering all territory between the Limpopo River and Lake Tanganyika, then known as 'Zambesia'. In accordance with the terms of aforementioned concessions and treaties,[8] Cecil Rhodes promoted the colonisation of the region's land, with British control over labour as well as precious metals and other mineral resources.[9] In 1895 the BSAC adopted the name 'Rhodesia' for the territory of Zambesia, in honour of Cecil Rhodes. In 1898 'Southern Rhodesia' became the official denotation for the region south of the Zambezi,[10] which later became Zimbabwe. The region to the north was administered separately by the BSAC and later named Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

The Shona staged unsuccessful revolts (known as Chimurenga) against encroachment upon their lands, by clients of BSAC and Cecil Rhodes in 1896 and 1897.[11] Following the failed insurrections of 1896–97 the Ndebele and Shona groups became subject to Rhodes's administration thus precipitating European settlement en masse which led to land distribution disproportionately favouring Europeans, displacing the Shona, Ndebele, and other indigenous peoples.

Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony in October 1923, subsequent to a 1922 referendum. Rhodesians served on behalf of the United Kingdom during World War II, mainly in the East African Campaign against Axis forces in Italian East Africa.

In 1953, in the face of African opposition,[12] Britain consolidated the two colonies of Rhodesia with Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the ill-fated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which was dominated by Southern Rhodesia. Growing African nationalism and general dissent, particularly in Nyasaland, persuaded Britain to dissolve the Union in 1963, forming three colonies. As colonial rule was ending throughout the continent and as African-majority governments assumed control in neighbouring Northern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland, the white-minority Rhodesia government led by Ian Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965, effectively repudiating the British plan that the country should become a multi-racial democracy. The United Kingdom deemed this an act of rebellion, but did not re-establish control by force. The white-minority government declared itself a "republic" in 1970. A civil war ensued, with Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU and Robert Mugabe's ZANU using assistance from the governments of Zambia and Mozambique. Although Smith's declaration was not recognised by the United Kingdom nor any other significant power, Southern Rhodesia dropped the designation 'Southern', and claimed nation status as the Republic of Rhodesia in 1970.[13][14]

UDI and civil war (1965–1979)

Ian Smith signing the Unilateral Declaration of Independence on 11 November 1965 with his cabinet watching.

After the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), the British government requested United Nations economic sanctions against Rhodesia as negotiations with the Smith administration in 1966 and 1968 ended in stalemate. The Smith administration declared itself a republic in 1970 which was recognised only by South Africa,[15][16] then governed by its apartheid administration. Over the years, the guerrilla fighting against Ian Smith's UDI government intensified. As a result, the Smith government opened negotiations with the leaders of the Patriotic Fronts—Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), led by Robert Mugabe, and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo.

Bishop Abel Muzorewa signs the Lancaster House Agreement seated next to British Foreign Minister Lord Peter Carrington.

In March 1978, with his regime near the brink of collapse, Smith signed an accord with three African leaders, led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who offered safeguards for white civilians. As a result of the Internal Settlement, elections were held in April 1979. The United African National Council (UANC) party won a majority in this election. On 1 June 1979, the leader of UANC, Abel Muzorewa, became the country's prime minister and the country's name was changed to Zimbabwe Rhodesia. The internal settlement left control of the country's police, security forces, civil service and judiciary in white hands. It assured whites of about one-third of the seats in parliament.[17] However, on June 12, the United States Senate voted to end economic sanctions against Zimbabwe Rhodesia.

Following the fifth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held in Lusaka, Zambia from 1 August to the 7th August 1979, the British government invited Muzorewa and the leaders of the Patriotic Front to participate in constitutional conference at Lancaster House. The purpose of the conference was to discuss and reach agreement on the terms of an independence constitution and that elections should be supervised under British authority to enable Rhodesia to proceed to legal independence and the parties to settle their differences by political means. Lord Carrington, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, chaired the conference.[18] The conference took place from 10 September–15 December 1979 with 47 plenary sessions. On 1 December 1979, delegations from the British and Rhodesian governments and the Patriotic Front signed the Lancaster House Agreement, ending the civil war.[19]

Abel Muzorewa served briefly as prime minister in 1979.

Independence (1980–1999)

Britain's Lord Soames was appointed governor to oversee the disarming of revolutionary guerrillas, the holding of elections and the granting of independence to an uneasy coalition government with Joshua Nkomo, head of ZAPU. In the elections of February 1980, Mugabe and his ZANU won a landslide victory.[20]

There was however opposition to a Shona win in Matabeleland. In November 1980 Enos Nkala made remarks at a rally in Bulawayo, in which he warned ZAPU that ZANU would deliver a few blows against them. This started the first Entumbane uprising, in which ZIPRA and ZANLA fought for two days.[21]

In February 1981 there was a second uprising, which spread to Glenville and also to Connemara in the Midlands. ZIPRA troops in other parts of Matabeleland headed for Bulawayo to join the battle, and ex-Rhodesian units had to come in to stop the fighting. Over 300 people were killed.

These uprisings led to what has become known as Gukurahundi (Shona: "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains"[22]) or the Matabeleland Massacres, which ran from 1982 until 1985. Mugabe used his North Korean trained Fifth Brigade to crush any resistance in Matabeleland. It has been estimated that 20,000 Matabele were murdered and buried in mass graves which they were forced to dig themselves and hundreds of others were allegedly tortured.[23] The violence ended after ZANU and ZAPU reached a unity agreement in 1988 that merged the two parties, creating ZANU-PF.[24][25]

Elections in March 1990 resulted in another victory for Mugabe and his party, which won 117 of the 120 election seats. Election observers estimated voter turnout at only 54% and found the campaign neither free nor fair.[26][27]

During the 1990s students, trade unionists and workers often demonstrated to express their discontent with the government. Students protested in 1990 against proposals for an increase in government control of universities and again in 1991 and 1992 when they clashed with police. Trade unionists and workers also criticised the government during this time. In 1992 police prevented trade unionists from holding anti-government demonstrations. In 1994 widespread industrial unrest weakened the economy. In 1996 civil servants, nurses, and junior doctors went on strike over salary issues.[28][29] The general health of the civilian population also began to significantly flounder and by 1997, as 25% of the population of Zimbabwe had been infected by HIV, the AIDS virus.[30]

Decline (1999–present)

Land issues, which the liberation movement had promised to solve, re-emerged as the main issue for the ruling party beginning in 1999. Despite majority rule and the existence of a "willing-buyer-willing-seller" land reform programme since the 1980s, ZANU (PF) claimed that whites made up less than 1% of the population but held 70% of the country's commercially viable arable land (though these figures are disputed by many outside the Government of Zimbabwe).[31] Mugabe began to redistribute land to blacks in 2000 with a compulsory land redistribution.

The legality and constitutionality of the process has regularly been challenged in the Zimbabwean High and Supreme Courts; however, the policing agencies have rarely acted in accordance with court rulings on these matters. The confiscation of the farmland was affected by continuous droughts and lack of inputs and finance led to a sharp decline in agricultural exports, traditionally the country's leading export producing sector.[32] Mining and tourism have surpassed agriculture. As a result, Zimbabwe is experiencing a severe hard-currency shortage, which has led to hyperinflation and chronic shortages in imported fuel and consumer goods. In 2002, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations on charges of human rights abuses during the land redistribution and of election tampering.[33]

Following elections in 2005, the government initiated "Operation Murambatsvina", a purported effort to crack down on illegal markets and homes that had seen slums emerge in towns and cities. This action has been widely condemned by opposition and international figures, who charge that it has left a substantial section of urban poor homeless.[34] The Zimbabwe government has described the operation as an attempt to provide decent housing to the population although they have yet to deliver any new housing for the forcibly removed people.[35]

A map showing the food insecurity in Zimbabwe in June 2008.

Zimbabwe's current economic and food crisis, described by some observers as the country's worst humanitarian crisis since independence, has been attributed in varying degrees, to the government's price controls and land confiscations, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and a drought affecting the entire region.[36]

Life expectancy at birth for males in Zimbabwe has dramatically declined since 1990 from 60 to 37, among the lowest in the world. Life expectancy for females is even lower at 34 years.[37] Concurrently, the infant mortality rate has climbed from 53 to 81 deaths per 1,000 live births in the same period. Currently, 1.8 million Zimbabweans live with HIV.

On 29 March 2008, Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a parliamentary election. The three major candidates were Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and Simba Makoni, an independent. The results of this election were withheld for four weeks, following which it was generally acknowledged that the MDC had achieved a significant majority of seats. However, Mugabe retained control because Tsvangirai did not win by the margin required by Zimbabwean law. Hence, the election results that would otherwise put Mugabe out of power, failed the opposition.

In late 2008, problems in Zimbabwe reached crisis proportions in the areas of living standards, public health (with a major cholera outbreak in December) and various public considerations.[38] Production of diamonds at Marange became the subject of international attention as more than 80 people were killed by the military[39] and the World Diamond Council called for a clampdown on smuggling.[40]

In September 2008, a power-sharing agreement was reached between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, in which Mugabe remained president and Tsvangirai became prime minister. However, due to ministerial differences between their respective political parties, the agreement was not fully implemented until February 13, 2009, two days after the swearing in of Tsvangirai as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

Administrative divisions

Zimbabwe has a centralised government and is divided into eight provinces and two cities with provincial status, for administrative purposes. Each province has a provincial capital from where official business is usually carried out.[41]

Province Capital
Bulawayo Bulawayo
Harare Harare
Manicaland Mutare
Mashonaland Central Bindura
Mashonaland East Marondera
Mashonaland West Chinhoyi
Masvingo Masvingo city
Matabeleland North Lupane
Matabeleland South Gwanda
Midlands Gweru

The names of most of the provinces were generated from the Mashonaland and Matabeleland divide at the time of colonisation: Mashonaland was the territory occupied first by the British South Africa Company Pioneer Column and Matabeleland the territory conquered during the First Matabele War. This corresponds roughly to the precolonial territory of the Shona people and the Matabele people, although there are significant ethnic minorities in most provinces. Each province is headed by a Provincial Governor, appointed by the President.[42] The provincial government is run by a Provincial Administrator, appointed by the Public Service Commission. Other government functions at provincial level are carried out by provincial offices of national government departments.[43]

The provinces are subdivided into 59 districts and 1,200 wards (sometimes referred to as municipalities). Each district is headed by a District Administrator, appointed by the Public Service Commission. There is also a Rural District Council, which appoints a Chief Executive Officer. The Rural District Council comprises elected ward councillors, the District Administrator and one representative of the chiefs (traditional leaders appointed under customary law) in the district. Other government functions at district level are carried out by district offices of national government departments.[44]

At ward level there is a Ward Development Committee, comprising the elected ward councillor, the kraalheads (traditional leaders subordinate to chiefs) and representatives of Village Development Committees. Wards are subdivided into villages, each of which has an elected Village Development Committee and a Headman (traditional leader subordinate to the kraalhead).[45]

Government and politics

Robert Mugabe heading to the opening of Parliament

Zimbabwe is a semi-presidential system republic, which has a parliamentary government. Under constitutional changes in 2005, an upper chamber, the Senate, was reinstated.[46] The House of Assembly is the lower chamber of Parliament.

President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (commonly abbreviated ZANU-PF) has been the dominant political party in Zimbabwe since independence.[47] In 1987 then-prime minister Mugabe revised the constitution and made himself president. His ZANU party has won every election since independence. In particular, the elections of 1990 were nationally and internationally condemned as being rigged, with the second-placed party, Edgar Tekere's Zimbabwe Unity Movement, winning only 16% of the vote.[48] Presidential elections were again held in 2002 amid allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation and fraud.[49] The 2005 Zimbabwe parliamentary elections were held on March 31 and multiple claims of vote rigging, election fraud and intimidation were made by the MDC and Jonathan Moyo, calling for investigations into 32 of the 120 constituencies.[50] Jonathan Moyo participated in the elections despite the allegations and won a seat as an independent member of Parliament.

General elections were again held in Zimbabwe on 30 March 2008.[51] The official results required a runoff between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, however the MDC challenged these results, claiming widespread election fraud by the Mugabe government. The runoff was scheduled for June 27, 2008. On 22 June, however, citing the continuing unfairness of the process and refusing to participate in a "violent, illegitimate sham of an election process", Tsvangirai pulled out of the presidential run-off, effectively handing victory to Mugabe.[52]

The MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai is now the largest parliamentary party. The MDC was split into two factions. One faction (MDC-M), now led by Arthur Mutambara contested the elections to the Senate, while the other, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, opposed to contesting the elections, stating that participation in a rigged election is tantamount to endorsing Mugabe's claim that past elections were free and fair. However, the opposition parties have resumed participation in national and local elections as recently as 2006. The two MDC camps had their congresses in 2006 with Morgan Tsvangirai being elected to lead MDC-T, which has become more popular than the other group. Mutambara, a robotics professor and former NASA robotics specialist has replaced Welshman Ncube who was the interim leader of MDC-M after the split. Morgan Tsvangirai did not participate in the Senate elections, while the Mutambara faction participated and won five seats in the senate. The Mutambara formation has however been weakened by defections from MPs and individuals who are disillusioned by their manifesto. As of 2008, the Movement for Democratic Change has become the most popular, with crowds as large as 20,000 attending their rallies as compared to between 500–5,000 for the other formation.[53]

On 28 April 2008, Tsvangirai and Mutambara announced at a joint news conference in Johannesburg that the two MDC formations were cooperating, enabling the MDC to have a clear parliamentary majority.[54][55] Tsvangirai said that Mugabe could not remain President without a parliamentary majority.[55] On the same day, Silaigwana announced that the recounts for the final five constituencies had been completed, that the results were being collated and that they would be published on 29 April.[56]

In mid-September, 2008, after protracted negotiations overseen by the leaders of South Africa and Mozambique, Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal which would see Mugabe retain control over the army. Donor nations have adopted a 'wait-and-see' attitude, wanting to see real change being brought about by this merger before committing themselves to funding rebuilding efforts, which are estimated to take at least five years. On 11 February 2009 Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister by President Mugabe.

In November, 2008, the government of Zimbabwe spent $7.3 million donated by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. A representative of the organization declined to speculate on how the money was spent, except that it was not for the intended purpose, and the government has failed to honor requests to return the money.[57]

Human rights

Protesters against the Mugabe regime abroad; protests are discouraged by Zimbabwean police in Zimbabwe.[58]

There are widespread reports of systematic and escalating violations of human rights in Zimbabwe under the Mugabe administration and his party, ZANU-PF.

According to human rights organisations such as Amnesty International[59] and Human Rights Watch[60] the government of Zimbabwe violates the rights to shelter, food, freedom of movement and residence, freedom of assembly and the protection of the law. There have been alleged assaults on the media, the political opposition, civil society activists, and human rights defenders.

Opposition gatherings are frequently the subject of brutal attacks by the police force, such as the crackdown on a 11 March 2007 Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rally and several others in the 2008 election campaign.[61] In the attacks of 2007, party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and 49 other opposition activists were arrested and severely beaten by the police. After his release, Morgan Tsvangirai told the BBC that he suffered head injuries and blows to the arms, knees and back, and that he lost a significant amount of blood.[62] The police action was strongly condemned by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the European Union and the United States.[62] While noting that the activists had suffered injuries, but not mentioning the cause of them,[63] the Zimbabwean government-controlled daily newspaper The Herald claimed the police had intervened after demonstrators "ran amok looting shops, destroying property, mugging civilians, and assaulting police officers and innocent members of the public". The newspaper also argued that the opposition had been "willfully violating the ban on political rallies".[63]

The ZBC is the public broadcaster

There is also an abuse of human rights in the media. The Zimbabwean government suppresses freedom of the press and freedom of speech.[59] It has also been repeatedly accused of using the public broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, as a propaganda tool.[64] Newspapers critical of the government, such as the Daily News, closed after bombs exploded at their offices and the government refused to renew their license.[65][66] BBC News, Sky News, and CNN have also been banned from filming or reporting from Zimbabwe. They continue to report on happenings within Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries like South Africa.[67][68]

Armed forces

The existence of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Chapter X, 96 (1), which states that,

For the purpose of defending Zimbabwe, there shall be defence forces consisting of an army, an air force and such other branches, if any, of the defence forces as may be provided for by or under an act of parliament.[69]

The ZDF was set up by the integration of three belligerent forces, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, (ZANLA) and the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army, (ZIPRA) on one side and the Rhodesian Security Forces (RSF) on the other at the end of the Rhodesian Bush War in 1980. The integration period saw the formation of The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) as separate entities under the command of Rtd General Solomon Mujuru and Air Marshal Norman Walsh who retired in 1982, and was replaced by Air Marshal Azim Daudpota who handed over command to the late Rtd Air Chief Marshal Josiah Tungamirai in 1985. Although integration took place in the ZNA, there was no integration in the Air Force of Zimbabwe. Ex ZIPRA and ex ZANLA members who joined the Air Force particularly between 1980 and early 1982 did so as individuals. Consequently, many did not make the so-called "grade" and were dismissed from the Force unlike their colleagues in the ZNA who were protected by the integration directive. Before Norman Walsh left the Air Force, military aircraft were destroyed through sabotage at Thornhill Air Base in Gweru. Arrests were made and this led to an exodus of white commissioned officers from the AFZ. The Government responded by transferring Major General Josiah Tungamirai from the ZNA to the AFZ, becoming an Air Vice Marshal, who later deputized Air Marshal Daudpota, seconded from the Pakistan Air Force. The integration commanders handed over the Zimbabwean flags to then Lieutenant General Vitalis Zvinavashe, who later became the first Commander Defence Forces (1993), and Air Marshal Perrance Shiri in 1992, and subsequently in the ZNA to then Lieutenant General Constantine Chiwenga in 1993.

The approval of the Defence Amendment Bill saw the setting up of a single command for the Defence Forces in 1995. The late General Vitalis Zvinavashe became the first commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, with the commanders of both the Army and the Air Force falling under his command. Following his retirement in December 2003, General Constantine Chiwenga, was promoted and appointed Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. Lieutenant General P. V. Sibanda replaced him as Commander of the Army.[69]

The ZNA currently has an active duty strength of 30,000. The Air Force has about 5,139 men assigned.[70] The Zimbabwe Republic Police (includes Police Support Unit, Paramilitary Police) is also part of the defence force of Zimbabwe and numbers 25,000.[71]

In 1999, the Government of Zimbabwe sent a sizable military force into the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the government of President Laurent Kabila during the Second Congo War. Those forces were largely withdrawn in 2002.

Zimbabwe National Army

Flag of the Army of Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe National Army or ZNA was created in 1980 from elements of the Rhodesian Army, integrated to a greater or lesser extent with combatants from the ZANLA and ZIPRA guerrilla movements (the armed wings of, respectively, ZANU and ZAPU).

Following majority rule in early 1980, British Army trainers oversaw the integration of guerrilla fighters into a battalion structure overlaid on the existing Rhodesian armed forces. For the first year a system was followed where the top-performing candidate became battalion commander. If he or she was from ZANLA, then his or her second-in-command was the top-performing ZIPRA candidate, and vice versa.[72] This ensured a balance between the two movements in the command structure. From early 1981 this system was abandoned in favour of political appointments, and ZANLA/ZANU fighters consequently quickly formed the majority of battalion commanders in the ZNA.

The ZNA was originally formed into four brigades, composed of a total of 28 battalions. The brigade support units were composed almost entirely of specialists of the former Rhodesian Army, while unintegrated battalions of the Rhodesian African Rifles were assigned to the 1st, 3rd and 4th Brigades. The notorious Fifth Brigade was formed in 1981 and disbanded in 1988 after allegations of brutality and murder during the Brigade's occupation of Matabeleland in what has become known as Gukurahundi (Shona: "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains").[22][73] However the Brigade had been reformed by 2006, with its commander, Brigadier-General John Mupande praising its "rich history".[74]


Zimbabwean exports in 2006
Crop production in Zimbabwe has considerably fallen in recent years

Mineral exports, agriculture, and tourism are the main foreign currency earners of Zimbabwe.[75] The mining sector remains very lucrative, with some of the world's largest platinum reserves being mined by Anglo-American and Impala Platinum.[76] Zimbabwe is the biggest trading partner of South Africa on the continent.[77]

Zimbabwe maintained positive economic growth throughout the 1980s (5.0% GDP growth per year) and 1990s (4.3% GDP growth per year). However, the economy declined from 2000: 5% decline in 2000, 8% in 2001, 12% in 2002 and 18% in 2003.[78] The government of Zimbabwe faces a variety of economic problems after having abandoned earlier efforts to develop a market-oriented economy. Problems include a shortage of foreign exchange, soaring inflation, and supply shortages. Zimbabwe's involvement from 1998 to 2002 in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy.[79]

The downward spiral of the economy has been attributed mainly to mismanagement and corruption of the Mugabe regime and the eviction of more than 4,000 white farmers in the controversial land redistribution of 2000.[80][81][82][83] This has also resulted in Zimbabwe, previously an exporter of maize, becoming a net importer.[76] Tobacco exports have also declined sharply. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force released a report in June 2007, estimating 60% of Zimbabwe's wildlife has died since 2000. The report warns that the loss of life combined with widespread deforestation is potentially disastrous for the tourist industry.[84]

Inflation rose from an annual rate of 32% in 1998[85] to an IMF estimate of 150,000% in December 2007,[citation needed] and to an official estimated high of 231,000,000% in July 2008 according to the country's Central Statistical Office,[85]. This represented a state of hyperinflation, and the central bank introduced a new 100 billion dollar note.[86] As of November 2008, unofficial figures put Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate at 516 quintillion per cent, with prices doubling every 1.3 days. Zimbabwe's inflation crisis is now (2009) the second worst inflation spike in history, behind the hyperinflationary crisis of Hungary in 1946, in which prices doubled every 15.6 hours.[87] By 2005, the purchasing power of the average Zimbabwean had dropped to the same levels in real terms as 1953.[88] Local residents have largely resorted to buying essentials from neighbouring Botswana, South Africa and Zambia.

In 2005, the government, led by central bank governor Gideon Gono, started making overtures that white farmers could come back. There were 400 to 500 still left in the country, but much of the land that had been confiscated was no longer productive.[89] In January 2007, the government even let some white farmers sign long term leases.[90] But, the government reversed course again and started demanding that all remaining white farmers leave the country or face jail.[91][92]

In August 2006, a new revalued Zimbabwean dollar was introduced, equal to 1000 of the prior Zimbabwean. The exchange rate fell from 24 old Zimbabwean dollars per U.S. dollar (USD) in 1998 to 250,000 prior or 250 new Zimbabwean dollars per USD at the official rate,[93] and an estimated 120,000,000 old or 120,000 revalued Zimbabwean dollars per US dollar on the parallel market,[94] in June 2007.

In January, 2009, Zimbabwe introduced a new Z$100 trillion banknote.[95] On January 29, in an effort to counteract his country's runaway inflation, acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that Zimbabweans will be permitted to use other, more stable currencies (e.g. Sterling,Euro, South African Rand and the United States Dollar) to do business, alongside the Zimbabwe dollar.[96]

On February 2, 2009, the RBZ announced that a further 12 zeros were to be taken off the currency, with 1,000,000,000,000 (third) Zimbabwe dollars being exchanged for 1 new (fourth) dollar. New banknotes are to be introduced with a face value of Z$1, Z$5, Z$10, Z$20, Z$50, Z$100 and Z$500.The banknotes of the fourth dollar were to circulate alongside the third dollar, which remained legal tender until 30 June 2009.[97]

Mugabe points to foreign governments and alleged "sabotage" as the cause of the fall of the Zimbabwean economy, as well as the country's 80% formal unemployment rate.[98] Critics of Mugabe's administration, including the majority of the international community, blame Mugabe's controversial programme which sought to seize land from white commercial farmers.[citation needed] Mugabe has repeatedly blamed sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the European Union and the United States for the state of the Zimbabwean economy. According to the United States, however, these sanctions target only seven specific businesses owned or controlled by government officials and not ordinary citizens.[99] During a meeting of the Southern African Development Community in 2007, a call was issued for the sanctions to be removed.[100]

Private enterprise in Zimbabwe has weakened lately. Taxes and tariffs are high, while state enterprises are strongly subsidized. State regulation is costly to companies; starting or closing a business is slow and costly.[101] Government spending is 56.4 % of GDP.[citation needed] It used to be partly financed by printing money, which led to hyperinflation.

The labor market is highly regulated; hiring a worker is cumbersome, firing a worker is difficult, and unemployment has risen to 80 % (2005).[101] Since 2000 president Mugabe has confiscated lands of white farmers, and this former net exporter of grain has now been plagued by hunger. The country has a high level of corruption.

In an effort to combat inflation and foster economic growth the Zimbabwean Dollar was suspended indefinitely on 12 April 2009.[102] Zimbabwe now allows trade in the United States Dollar and various other currencies such as the South African Rand, Euro, and Botswana Pula. The use of the US Dollar yielded enormous results within weeks as inflation actually fell below zero to -3 percent.[citation needed]


Shona, Ndebele and English are the principal languages of Zimbabwe. Despite English being the official language, less than 2.5%, mainly the white and Coloured (mixed race) minorities, consider it their native language. The rest of the population speak Bantu languages such as Shona (76%), Ndebele (18%) and the other minority languages of Venda, Tonga, Shangaan, Kalanga, Sotho, Ndau and Nambya.[103] Shona has a rich oral tradition, which was incorporated into the first Shona novel, Feso by Solomon Mutswairo, published in 1956.[104] English is spoken primarily in the cities, but less so in rural areas. Radio and television news is now broadcast in Shona, Ndebele and English.


Zimbabwe's total population is 12 million.[105] According to the United Nations World Health Organisation, the life expectancy for men is 37 years and the life expectancy for women is 34 years of age, the lowest in the world in 2006.[106] An association of doctors in Zimbabwe has made calls for President Mugabe to make moves to assist the ailing health service.[107] The HIV infection rate in Zimbabwe was estimated to be 20.1% for people aged 15–49 in 2006.[108] UNESCO reported a decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant women from 26% in 2002 to 21% in 2004.[109]

85% of Zimbabweans are Christian, 62% percent attending religious services regularly..[110] The largest Christian churches are Anglican, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist[111] and Methodist. However like most former European colonies, Christianity is often mixed with enduring traditional beliefs. Besides Christianity, ancestral worship is the most practiced non-Christian religion which involves ancestor worship and spiritual intercession; the Mbira Dza Vadzimu, which means "Voice of the Ancestors", an instrument related to many lamellophones ubiquitous throughout Africa, is central to many ceremonial proceedings. Mwari simply means "God the Creator" (musika vanhu in Shona). Around 1% of the population is Muslim.[112]

Black ethnic groups make up 98% of the population. The majority people, the Shona, comprise 80 to 84%. The Ndebele are the second most populous with 10 to 15% of the population.[113][114] The Ndebele are descended from Zulu migrations in the 19th century and the other tribes with which they intermarried. Up to one million Ndebele may have left the country over the last five years, mainly for South Africa. Other Bantu ethnic groups make up the third largest with 2 to 5%. These are Venda, Tonga, Shangaan, Kalanga, Sotho, Ndau and Nambya.[114]

Other less populous Zimbabwean ethnic groups include white Zimbabweans, mostly of British origin, but some are of Afrikaner, Greek, Portuguese and Dutch origin as well, who make up less than 1.0%. The white population dropped from a peak of around 296,000 in 1975 to possibly 120,000 in 1999 and was estimated at no more than 50,000 in 2002, possibly much less.[115] Most emigration has been to the UK, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Mixed race citizens are 0.5% and various Asian ethnic groups, mostly of Indian and Chinese origin, are also 0.5%.[116] Asian immigrants are influential in the economic sector.

Refugee crisis

The economic meltdown and repressive political measures in Zimbabwe have led to a flood of refugees into neighbouring countries. An estimated 3.4 million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population, had fled abroad by mid 2007.[117] Some 3 million of these have gone to South Africa.[118]

Apart from the people who fled into the neighbouring countries, there are up to one million internally displaced persons (IDPs). There is no current comprehensive survey,[119] although the following figures are available:

Survey Number Date Source
national survey 880–960,000 2007 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee [120]
former farm workers 1,000,000 2008 UNDP [119]
victims of Operation Murambatsvina 570,000 2005 UN [121]
people displaced by political violence 36,000 2008 UN [119]

The above surveys do not include people displaced by Operation Chikorokoza Chapera or beneficiaries of the fast-track land reform programme but who have since been evicted.[119]


A map showing the spread of cholera in and around Zimbabwe put together from several sources.

At independence, the policies of racial inequality were reflected in the disease patterns of the black majority. The first five years after independence saw rapid gains in areas such as immunization coverage, access to health care and contraceptive prevalence rate.[122] Zimbabwe was thus considered internationally to have a achieved a good record of health development.[123] However, these gains were eroded by structural adjustment in the 1990s,[124] the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic[76] and the economic crisis since the year 2000. Zimbabwe now has one of the lowest life expectancies on Earth – 44 for men and 43 for women,[125] down from 60 in 1990. The rapid drop has been ascribed mainly to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Infant mortality has risen from 5.9% in the late 1990s to 12.3% by 2004.[76]

The health system has more or less collapsed: By the end of November 2008, three of Zimbabwe's four major hospitals had shut down, along with the Zimbabwe Medical School and the fourth major hospital had two wards and no operating theatres working.[126] Due to hyperinflation, those hospitals still open are not able to obtain basic drugs and medicines.[127] The ongoing political and economic crisis also contributed to the emigration of the doctors and people with medical knowledge.[128]

In August 2008, large areas of Zimbabwe were struck by the ongoing cholera epidemic. By December 2008 more than 10,000 people had been infected in all but one of Zimbabwe's provinces and the outbreak had spread to Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia.[129][130] On December 4, 2008 the Zimbabwe government declared the outbreak to be a national emergency, and has asked for international aid.[131][132] By March 9, 2009 The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 4,011 people had succumbed to the waterborne disease since the outbreak began in August 2008, and the total number of cases recorded had reached 89,018.[133] In Harare, the city council offered free graves to cholera victims.[134] There have been signs that the disease is abating, with cholera infections down by about 50 percent to around 4,000 cases a week.[133]


Zimbabwe's adult literacy rate is amongst the highest in Africa

Zimbabwe has an adult literacy rate of approximately 90% which is amongst the highest in Africa.[135][136][137] Since 1995 the adult literacy rate of Zimbabwe has steadily decreased, a trend shared by other African countries.[138] The education department has stated that 20,000 teachers have left Zimbabwe in the past two years and that half of Zimbabwe's children have not progressed beyond primary school.[139]

The wealthier portion of the population usually send their children to independent schools as opposed to the government-run schools which are attended by the majority as these are subsidised by the government. School education was made free in 1980, but since 1988, the government has steadily increased the charges attached to school enrollment until they now greatly exceed the real value of fees in 1980. The Ministry of Education of Zimbabwe maintains and operates the government schools but the fees charged by independent schools are regulated by the cabinet of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's education system consists of 7 years of primary and 6 years of secondary schooling before students can enter university in the country or abroad. The academic year in Zimbabwe runs from January to December, with three month terms, broken up by one month holidays, with a total of 40 weeks of school per year. National examinations are written during the third term in November, with "O" level and "A" level subjects also offered in June.[140]

There are seven public universities as well as four church-related universities in Zimbabwe that are fully internationally accredited.[140] The University of Zimbabwe, the first and largest, was built in 1952 and is located in the Harare suburb of Mount Pleasant. Notable alumni from Zimbabwean universities include Welshman Ncube; Peter Moyo (of Amabhubesi); Tendai Biti, Secretary-General for the MDC; Chenjerai Hove, Zimbabwean poet, novelist and essayist; and Arthur Mutambara, President of one faction of the MDC. Many of the current politicians in the government of Zimbabwe have obtained degrees from universities in USA or other universities abroad.

The highest professional board for accountants is the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe (ICAZ) with direct relationships with similar bodies in South Africa, Canada, the UK and Australia. A qualified Chartered Accountant from Zimbabwe is also a member of similar bodies in these countries after writing a conversion paper. In addition, Zimbabwean-trained doctors only require one year of residence to be fully licensed doctors in the United States. The Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers (ZIE) is the highest professional board for engineers.

However, education in Zimbabwe became under threat since the economic changes in 2000 with teachers going on strike because of low pay, students unable to concentrate because of hunger and the price of uniforms soaring making this standard a luxury. Teachers were also one of the main targets of Mugabe's attacks because he thought they were not strong supporters.[141]


The media of Zimbabwe, once initially diverse, have come under tight restriction in recent years by the government, particularly during the growing economic and political crisis in the country. The Zimbabwean constitution promises freedom of the media and expression. In fact, the media is hampered by political interference and the implementation of strict media laws. In its 2008 report, Reporters Without Borders ranked the Zimbabwean media as 151st out of 173.[142] The government also bans many foreign broadcasting stations from Zimbabwe, including the BBC (since 2001), CNN, CBC, Sky News, Channel 4, American Broadcasting Company, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Fox News. News agencies and newspapers from other Western countries and South Africa have also been banned from the country.

All news media in the country self-censor to toe the government line.[143] Private press used to be common, however since the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was passed, a number have been shut down by the government, including the The Daily News whose managing director Wilf Mbanga went on to form the influential The Zimbabwean[144].[142] As a result, many press organisations have been set up in both neighbouring and Western countries by exiled Zimbabweans. However, because the internet is currently unrestricted, many Zimbabweans are allowed to access online news sites set up by exiled journalists.[145] Reporters Without Borders claims the media environment in Zimbabwe involves "surveillance, threats, imprisonment, censorship, blackmail, abuse of power and denial of justice are all brought to bear to keep firm control over the news."[142]

Culture and recreation

A Zimbabwe market scene

Zimbabwe has many different cultures which may include beliefs and ceremonies, one of them being Shona. Zimbabwe's largest ethnic group is Shona. The Shona people have many sculptures and carvings of gods (idols) which are made with the finest materials available.

A Zimbabwe market place and bus terminus

Zimbabwe first celebrated its independence on 18 April 1980.[146] Celebrations are held at either the National Sports Stadium or Rufaro Sports Stadium in Harare. The first independence celebrations were held in 1980 at the Zimbabwe Grounds. At these celebrations doves are released to symbolise peace and fighter jets fly over and the national anthem is sung. The flame of independence is lit by the president after parades by the presidential family and members of the armed forces of Zimbabwe. The president also gives a speech to the people of Zimbabwe which is televised for those unable to attend the stadium.[147]


Traditional arts in Zimbabwe include pottery, basketry, textiles, jewelry and carving. Among the distinctive qualities are symmetrically patterned woven baskets and stools carved out of a single piece of wood. Shona sculpture has become world famous in recent years having first emerged in the 1940s. Most subjects of carved figures of stylised birds and human figures among others are made with sedimentary rocks such as soapstone, as well as harder igneous rocks such as serpentine and the rare stone verdite. Shona sculpture in essence has been a fusion of African folklore with European influences. World renowned Zimbabwean sculptors include Nicholas, Nesbert and Anderson Mukomberanwa, Tapfuma Gutsa, Henry Munyaradzi and Locardia Ndandarika. Internationally, Zimbabwean sculptors have managed to influence a new generation of artists, particularly Black Americans, through lengthy apprenticeships with master sculptors in Zimbabwe. Contemporary artists like New York sculptor M. Scott Johnson and California sculptor Russel Albans have learned to fuse both African and Afro-diasporic aesthetics in a way that travels beyond the simplistic mimicry of African Art by some Black artists of past generations in the U.S.

Several authors are well known within Zimbabwe and abroad. Charles Mungoshi is renowned in Zimbabwe for writing traditional stories in English and in Shona and his poems and books have sold well with both the black and white communities.[148] Catherine Buckle has achieved international recognition with her two books African Tears and Beyond Tears which tell of the ordeal she went through under the 2000 Land Reform.[149] Prime Minister of Rhodesia, the late Ian Smith, has also written two books — The Great Betrayal and Bitter Harvest. The book The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera won an award in the UK in 1979 and the Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing's first novel The Grass Is Singing is set in Rhodesia.

Internationally famous artists include Henry Mudzengerere and Nicolas Mukomberanwa. A recurring theme in Zimbabwean art is the metamorphosis of man into beast.[150] Zimbabwean musicians like Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi, the Bhundu Boys and Audius Mtawarira have achieved international recognition. Among members of the white minority community, Theatre has a large following, with numerous theatrical companies performing in Zimbabwe's urban areas.


Raw Boerewors.

Like in many African countries, the majority of Zimbabweans depend on a few staple foods. Meat, beef and to a lesser extent chicken are especially popular, though consumption has declined under the Mugabe regime due to falling incomes. "Mealie meal", also known as cornmeal, is used to prepare sadza or isitshwala and bota or ilambazi. Sadza is a porridge made by mixing the cornmeal with water to produce a thick paste. After the paste has been cooking for several minutes, more cornmeal is added to thicken the paste. This is usually eaten as lunch and dinner, usually with greens (such as spinach, chomolia, collard greens), beans and meat that has been stewed, grilled, or roasted. Sadza is also commonly eaten with curdled milk, commonly known as lacto (mukaka wakakora), or dried Tanganyika sardine, known locally as kapenta or matemba. Bota is a thinner porridge, cooked without the additional cornmeal and usually flavoured with peanut butter, milk, butter, or, sometimes, jam.[151] Bota is usually eaten for breakfast.

Graduations, weddings, and any other family gatherings will usually be celebrated with the killing of a goat or cow, which will be barbecued or roasted by the family.

Afrikaner recipes are popular though they are a small group (0.2%) within the white minority group. Biltong, a type of jerky, is a popular snack, prepared by hanging bits of spiced raw meat to dry in the shade.[152] Boerewors (Afrikaans pronunciation: [børəvɞɾs]) is served with sadza. It is a long sausage, often well-spiced, composed of beef rather than pork, and barbecued.

Since Zimbabwe was a British colony, they have adopted some English habits. For example, most people will have porridge in the morning, however they will still have 10 o'clock tea (midday tea). They will have lunch, which can be left-overs from the night before, freshly cooked sadza, or sandwiches (which is more common in the cities). After lunch there is usually 4 o'clock tea that is served before dinner. It is not uncommon for tea to be had after a dinner.


Football is the most popular of sports in Zimbabwe, although rugby union and cricket also have a following, traditionally among the white minority. Zimbabwe has won eight Olympic medals, one in field hockey at the (boycotted) 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and seven in swimming, three at the 2004 Summer Olympics and four at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Zimbabwe has also done well in the Commonwealth Games and All-Africa Games in swimming with Kirsty Coventry obtaining 11 gold medals in the different competitions.[153][154][155][156] Zimbabwe has also competed at Wimbledon and the Davis Cup in tennis, most notably with the Black family, which comprises Wayne Black, Byron Black and Cara Black. Zimbabwe have also done well in golf



It was in the Matabeleland region in Zimbabwe that, during the Second Matabele War Baden-Powell (considered founder of scouting) and Frederick Russell Burnham (the father of scouting) first met and began their life-long friendship. In mid-June 1896, during a scouting patrol in the Matobo Hills, Burnham taught Baden-Powell woodcraft. Practiced by frontiersmen of the American Old West and Indigenous peoples of the Americas, woodcraft was generally unknown to the British. However, Baden-Powell recognised that wars in Africa were changing markedly and the British Army needed to adapt; so during their joint scouting missions, Baden-Powell and Burnham discussed the concept of a broad training programme in woodcraft for young men, rich in exploration, tracking, fieldcraft, and self-reliance. These skills eventually formed the basis of what is now called scoutcraft, the fundamentals of Scouting. Later, Baden-Powell wrote a number of books on the subject, and even started to train and make use of adolescent boys, most famously during the Siege of Mafeking, during the Second Boer War.[157][158]

Scouting in the former Rhodesia and Nyasaland started in 1909 when the first Boy Scout troop was registered. Scouting grew quickly and in 1924 Rhodesia and Nyasaland sent a large contingent to the second World Scout Jamboree in Ermelunden, Denmark. In 1959, Rhodesia hosted the Central African Jamboree at Ruwa. In 2009, Scouts celebrated 100 years of Scouting in Zimbabwe and hundreds of Scouts camped at Gordon Park, a Scout campground and training area, as part of these celebrations.[159]


The logo of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority showing the Victoria Falls and the Zimbabwe Bird found at Great Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls, the end of the upper Zambezi and beginning of the middle Zambezi

Since the Land Reform programme in 2000, tourism in Zimbabwe has steadily declined. After rising during the 1990s, (1.4 million tourists in 1999) industry figures described a 75% fall in visitors to Zimbabwe in 2000. By December, less than 20% of hotel rooms had been occupied.[160] This has had a huge impact on the Zimbabwean economy. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the industry due to companies closing down or simply being unable to pay staff wages due to the decreasing number of tourists.

Several airlines have also pulled out of Zimbabwe. Australia's Qantas, Germany's Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines were among the first to pull out and most recently British Airways suspended all direct flights to Harare.[160][161] The country's flagship airline Air Zimbabwe still flies to the United Kingdom.

Zimbabwe boasts several major tourist attractions. Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, which are shared with Zambia, are located in the north west of Zimbabwe. Before the economic changes, much of the tourism for these locations came to the Zimbabwe side but now Zambia is the main beneficiary. The Victoria Falls National Park is also in this area and is one of the eight main national parks in Zimbabwe,[162] largest of which is Hwange National Park.

The Eastern Highlands are a series of mountainous areas near the border with Mozambique. The highest peak in Zimbabwe, Mount Nyangani at 2,593 m (8,507 ft) is located here as well as the Bvumba Mountains and the Nyanga National Park. World's View is in these mountains and it is from here that places as far away as 60–70 km (37–43 mi) are visible and, on clear days, the town of Rusape can be seen.

Great Zimbabwe as featured on the defunct $50 note

Zimbabwe is unusual in Africa in that there are a number of ancient ruined cities built in a unique dry stone style. The most famous of these are the Great Zimbabwe ruins in Masvingo. Other ruins include Khami Ruins, Zimbabwe, Dhlo-Dhlo and Naletale, although none of these is as famous as Great Zimbabwe.

The Matobo Hills are an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys commencing some 22 miles (35 km) south of Bulawayo in southern Zimbabwe. The Hills were formed over 2,000 million years ago with granite being forced to the surface, then being eroded to produce smooth "whaleback dwalas" and broken kopjes, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, gave the area its name, meaning 'Bald Heads'. They have become famous and a tourist attraction due to their ancient shapes and local wildlife. Cecil John Rhodes and other early white pioneers like Leander Starr Jameson are buried in these hills at a site named World's View.[163]

National symbols, insignia, and anthems

The two main traditional symbols of Zimbabwe are the Zimbabwe Bird and the Balancing Rocks.

Other national symbols exist, but have varying degrees of official usage, such as the flame lily and the Sable Antelope.

Zimbabwe Bird

The stone-carved Zimbabwe Bird appears on the national flags and the coats of arms of both Zimbabwe and Rhodesia, as well as on banknotes and coins (first on Rhodesian pound and then Rhodesian dollar). It probably represents the bateleur eagle.

The famous soapstone bird carvings stood on walls and monoliths of the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe, built, it is believed, sometime between the 13th and 16th centuries by ancestors of the Shona. The ruins, which gave their name to modern Zimbabwe, cover some 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) and are the largest ancient stone construction in Zimbabwe.[164]

When the ruins of Great Zimbabwe were excavated by treasure-hunters in the late 19th century, five of the carved birds they discovered were taken to South Africa by Cecil Rhodes. Four of the statues were returned to Zimbabwe by the South African government at independence, while the fifth remains at Groote Schuur, Rhodes' former home in Cape Town.

Balancing Rocks

Balancing Rocks are geological formations all over Zimbabwe. The rocks are perfectly balanced without other supports. They are created when ancient granite intrusions are exposed to weathering, as softer rocks surrounding them erode away. They are often remarked on and have been depicted on both the paper money of the Zimbabwean dollar and the paper money of the Rhodesian dollar. The ones found on the current notes of Zimbabwe, named the Banknote Rocks, are located in Epworth, approximately 9 miles (15 km) south east of Harare.[165] There are, however, many different formations of the rocks, incorporating single and paired columns of 3 or more rocks. These formations are a feature of south and east tropical Africa from northern South Africa northwards to Sudan. The most notable formations in Zimbabwe are located in the Matobo National Park in Matabeleland.

National anthem

"Blessed be the Land of Zimbabwe" (Shona: "Simudzai Mureza wedu WeZimbabwe"; Northern Ndebele: "Kalibusiswe Ilizwe leZimbabwe") is the national anthem of Zimbabwe. It was introduced in March 1994 after a nation-wide competition to replace "Ishe Komborera Africa" as a distinctly Zimbabwean song. The winning entry was a song written by Professor Solomon Mutswairo and composed by Fred Changundega. It has been translated into all three of the main languages of Zimbabwe.

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Institute for Economics and Peace [6] Global Peace Index[166] 134 out of 144
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 146 out of 180
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 132 out of 133

See also


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External links

Tourism, environment, and culture
Non-governmental organisations

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Africa : Southern Africa : Zimbabwe
Quick Facts
Capital Harare
Government Parliamentary dictatorship
Currency Zimbabwean dollar (ZWD)
Area 390,580 km2
Population 11,376,676 (July 2002 est.)
Language English (official), Shona, Sindebele (the language of the Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects
Religion syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs) 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs 24%, Muslim and other 1%
Electricity 220/50Hz (UK plug)
Calling Code +263
Internet TLD .zw
Time Zone UTC +2
Travel Warning

WARNING: The outbreak of cholera in late 2008 is still an issue, and scarce running water (even in some cities), and the closing of some major hospitals make it necessary to travel with caution to Zimbabwe. Despite the formation of a unity government in March 2009, there is still a chance of political unrest. The unresolved economic crisis bears the risk of civil disorder and the situation is still shaky, particularly in the urban areas.

Zimbabwe [1] is a country in Southern Africa. It is landlocked and is surrounded by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and north.

The Zambezi river forms the natural boundary with Zambia and when in full flood (February-April) the massive Victoria Falls on the river forms the world's largest curtain of falling water. The Victoria Falls are a major tourist attraction.

Once known as the Breadbasket of Africa, since 2000 Zimbabwe has undergone an economic collapse and the rule of law has gradually but largely broken down under the rule of President Robert Mugabe.

Map of Zimbabwe
Map of Zimbabwe
  • Great Zimbabwe - the archeological remains of a Southern African ancient city built of stone, located in present-day Zimbabwe which was once the centre of a vast empire known as the Munhumutapa Empire (also called Monomotapa Empire) covering the modern states of Zimbabwe (which took its name from this city) and Mozambique. The word 'Zimbabwe' means 'house of stone.'
  • The Eastern Highlands include some of Zimbabwe's most beautiful views. The lush, cloud-hung mountains form the border with Mozambique. The regional capital is Mutare, and Chimanimani is a village popular with tourists and walkers.
  • Kariba - Located on the northern border of Zimbabwe, formidable Lake Kariba is the result of a large damming project along the Zambezi River. Kariba is a popular tourist destination and affords visitors the opportunity to watch African wildlife in its almost natural environment. It is the biggest source of hydro-electric power for Zimbabwe.
  • Matobo (formerly Matopos) - Located south west of Bulawayo in Matabeleland, this area boasts exquisite rock formations, as if nature had been playing marbles. Rocks are found balancing in ways that defy logic, a situation created by the eroding winds blowing out the sand between. The rocks are home to the dassie, a small rodent-type animal known more formally as Rock Hyrax, the skins of which are used to make a blanket treasured amongst the local populace. Also present in great numbers are the brightly coloured lizards common to Zimbabwe. The area has two dams that become the scene of family picnics, and angling competitions on weekends. A game park is home to herds of sable antelope, an animal not seen further south.



Stone cities were built in many locations in present-day Zimbabwe. The most impressive structures and the best known of these, Great Zimbabwe, were built in the 15th century, but people had been living on the site from about 400 AD.

The population was overwhelmingly made up of Shona speakers until the 19th century when the Nguni tribe (in 1839-40) of the Ndebele settled in what is now Matabeleland, and then in 1890 the territory came under the control of the British South Africa Company under charter from the British Government.

The United Kingdom annexed Southern Rhodesia from the British South Africa Company in 1923, when the country got its own government and Prime Minister. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favoured whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority. UN sanctions and a guerrilla struggle finally led to both free elections and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980.

Robert Mugabe was the first leader of Zimbabwe and still clings on to power 29 years later. He initially pursued a policy of reconciliation towards the white population, but severity towards regions which had supported a competing guerilla group (ZAPU). From 2000, Mugabe has instituted a policy of extensive land redistribution and of "national service" camps, which are suspected of political indoctrination. In recent years, the economy has been destroyed, inflation has shot up to millions of percentage points, informal homes and businesses have been destroyed, and there are severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine, together with the disappearance of the professional class and the emergence of mass unemployment. Life has grown miserable for Zimbabweans of all colours, and they have been leaving the country in large numbers. The prospects of change seem remote at present.


Tropical; moderated by altitude; rainy season (November to March). Although there are recurring droughts, floods and severe storms are rare.


Mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high veld); mountains in east. Lowveld in south eastern corner.

Elevation extremes : lowest point: junction of the Runde and Save rivers 162 m highest point: Inyangani 2,592 m

Get in

Citizens of most Western countries need to pay for visa to get into Zimbabwe. Many nationalities, such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the USA can obtain a visa on arrival by paying the appropriate visa fees. Note that at the moment, due to political reasons, most British citizens will need to apply for a tourist visa in advance in their country of residence [2]. Visa-free entry is possible for nationals certain countries, including Malaysia, Zambia, Hong Kong and several others. Check this website[3] for the full scoop.

Vistors still pay fees for a visa, which are, depending on your nationality, between $30 and $180 US. As of early April 2009, the visa fees were $30 and $75 US for US and Canadian citizens respectively.

By plane

Harare International Airport has a number of international flights, mainly to other African countries. When coming from Europe you can fly directly with Air Zimbabwe from London (flights currently suspended due to the economic crisis). Air Zimbabwe also operates to Dubai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Singapore in Asia. However, a good option is to fly with South African Airways [4] via Johannesburg. SAA operates to quite a few European airports and has many flights to South Africa and other African destinations. When coming from South Africa you can also use the no-frills airline Kulula.com [5]. KLM offer flights from Amsterdam via Nairobi which continue on to Lusaka from Harare. [6]

British Airways have now stopped their non-stop flights between Harare and Heathrow.

Victoria Falls airport has daily services by South African Airways and British Airways from and to Johannesburg. Air Namibia has flight to Victoria Falls from Windhoek/Nambia.

By car

Zimbabwe is accessible by road from the countries that surround it. Contrary to past scenarios, the fuel situation has improved with prices now being quoted in US dollars. As fuel has to be imported from either Mozambique or South Africa, you can expect to pay more per litre than you would in most other Southern African countries.

It should also be noted that roads in Zimbabwe are now in a very dilapidated state, and due caution should be taken when driving, especially at night, and in particular, during the November to March rainy season. Potholes are a very common occurrence and a serious threat to any vehicle that hits one.

By bus

Regular deluxe bus services operate from Johannesburg to Harare. A number of buses also travel from Johannesburg to Bulawayo. Greyhound drives to both destinations. Tickets can be obtained directly from Greyhound or through the Computicket website.

By train

The more adventurous tourists could travel by train from Bulawayo to the Victoria Falls (there is no reliable information on the schedule or operation of this train). The train also passes through Hwange National Park, one of the biggest national parks in Africa.

Get around

Between the cities, buses still run - but are bad even by African standards. The only exception is with buses from the RoadPort in Harare which run to Johannesburg, Lusaka, Lilongwe (not Blantyre) amongst other destinations.

Minibus taxis are available for intra-city transport, and are relatively inexpensive by European standards. They provide a cheap, though a not necessarily safe way of seeing the true Zimbabwe.

Hitch-hiking is also a viable option though tourists need to take care with whom they accept lifts from; hijackings and robberies of hitch-hikers, especially within Harare, have been on the increase in the last few years. Be sure to bring some money along, as drivers very often expect some sort of fee to be paid up front.


The languages spoken are English (official), Shona, Sindebele/Ndebele, and numerous but minor tribal dialects. Shona is the most widely spoken language, even in the capital Harare.


Since late January 2009 Zimbabwe has legalised the use of foreign currencies as legal tender, thus negating the need for the inflation ravaged Zimbabwe Dollar, which has now been withdrawn from circulation. The US dollar is now the de facto currency in Zimbabwe, although the South African rand and the Euro are also widely accepted.

The use of credit cards is still very limited, with only a few service providers accepting VISA or MasterCards cards in Zimbabwe. Also, ATM use can be very limited for non-citizens, so please do yourself a favor and come with plenty of cash on hand.

As for costs, non-imported things are very cheap (especially labour intensive things), however for a tourist drinking coke and eating pizza, prices are not that much lower than in South Africa. Petrol (gasoline) supplies are improving, so are food supplies in supermarkets.

Haggling for a better price is common, but keep in mind that most people are very poor so don't try to abuse their desperation.


For a sample of what Zimbabweans eat (in some form, nearly every day), ask for "sadza and stew." The stew part will be familiar, served over a large portion of sadza - a thick ground corn paste (vaguely like polenta and the consistency of thick mashed potatoes) that locals eat at virtually every meal. It's inexpensive, quite tasty and VERY filling.

If you want to really impress your African hosts, eat it how they do: take a golfball-sized portion of the sadza in one hand and kneed it into a ball, then use your thumb to push a small indentation into it and use that to scoop up a bit of stew before popping it into your mouth.Don't 'double dunk'.

For extra credit, clap your hands together twice gently when it (or anything else for that matter) is served to say "thank you." Trust me: they'll be very impressed!


A variety of domestic brews are made in Zimbabwe, mainly European-style lagers with a few milk stouts mixed in for good measure. If you're feeling very adventurous, you may want to try the unusual "beer" that most locals drink, a thick, milky beverage known as Chibuku - guaranteed to be unlike anything you've ever tasted outside of Africa. It is generally sold in a 2 litre plastic bottle called a 'skud' but is often decanted into a plastic bucket after a good shake. Beware, however: it's definitely an acquired taste!

Imported drinks and locally made franchises are available as well as local soft drinks. Mazoe, the local orange squash (or other fruit flavour), is generally available in most eateries. Bottled water is also available. Tap water, as a source of potable water, in general, should be avoided. If no other source of water is available for drinking, then it is best boiled prior to consumption.


There are various hotels and motels in the town. If you are on a safari tour there are chalets and camping sites in most of the safaris areas. Several hotels have international partnerships, such a Meikles Hotel, Crown Monomotapa Hotel, Holiday Inn in Harare and Bulawayo.

You also have access to lodges in the towns.

Stay safe

The US, Japan and Germany have lifted their travel warnings to Zimbabwe in April 2009; an indication that the security risk for visitors is low. However, given the political and economic instability in the country, travellers to Zimbabwe should take care with their personal security and safety. Whilst many locals may be curious about you and your country, remember, most Zimbabweans are still very sensitive to foreigners' opinions of their country and its politicians. Therefore, it is always a wise idea to avoid political discussions or discussions pertaining to opinions of political leaders.

Lastly, don't forget to tip! Times are tough for locals, and they depend enormously on your generosity.

Stay healthy

In the current economic situation many medicines are in short supply or cannot be sourced, so you are strongly advised to take all medications with you. Medical attention will be very hard to get: many hospitals even in cities are completely closed or unable to offer substantial care. Some medical personnel may perform procedures for payment, in somewhat dangerous and underequipped surrounds. Medical supplies are severely restricted. Your travel insurance is very likely to be invalid if you travel to Zimbabwe and medical evacuations impossible to arrange.

HIV/AIDS infection rate in Zimbabwe is the 4th highest in the world at around 20% or 1 in 5 infected. Obviously you should never have unprotected sex. If you form a serious relationship, consider both getting an HIV test before taking things further.

There is at present a cholera outbreak throughout the country, including in Harare.

Malaria is prevalent, so unless you are going to stay entirely within Harare or Bulawayo, anti-malarials are advised. Drugs reduce the severity of the disease but don't prevent infection, so also consider precautions such as:

  • sleeping under a mosquito net (lightweight travel nets are comparatively cool to use)
  • using mosquito repellent on the skin or burning mosquito coils
  • wearing long sleeved clothing and long trousers, particularly in the evening

Bilharzia is present in some lakes. Ask locally before swimming.

Snakes are common in the bush, and most bites are on the foot or lower leg. If walking, particularly in long grass, wear proper boots and either long, loose trousers or thick, concertinaed hiking socks. Shake out boots and shoes in the morning, in case you have a guest. These precautions also reduce the chance of scorpion sting. If you do get bitten or stung, stay calm. Try to identify the exact culprit, but get to medical assistance as rapidly as you can without undue exertion. Many bites and stings are non-fatal even if not treated, but it is safer to seek treatment, which is very effective these days.


Clapping twice is an accepted "thank you", especially when someone is handing you something (food, a purchase). If one hand is full you can clap the free hand on your chest. Unlike in Asia, taking items passed to you with both hands is considered impolite, as it is seen as being greedy.

When shaking hands or handing anything valuable to someone, it is polite to support the right forearm with the left hand (or vice versa), to signify the "weight" of the gift or honour. In practice this often means just touching the forearm, or even gesturing towards it.

When taking something from a local, it is strictly done with the right hand as it is seen as an insult if the left hand is used regardless of dexterousness. The same rule applies when passing something.

Be careful with your opinion, speaking out against the government is a crime.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun


  1. Country in Southern Africa. Official name: Republic of Zimbabwe.


See also


Proper noun

Zimbabwe n.

  1. Zimbabwe


Proper noun

Zimbabwe n.

  1. Zimbabwe


(index z)

Proper noun


  1. Zimbabwe.


Derived terms


Italian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia it

Proper noun

Zimbabwe m.

  1. Zimbabwe

Derived terms


Proper noun


  1. Zimbabwe

Related terms



  • IPA: /z̪imˈbabvɛ/

Proper noun

Zimbabwe n. (undeclinable)

  1. Zimbabwe


Proper noun


  1. Zimbabwe

Simple English

File:Flag of
Flag of the Republic of Zimbabwe

[[File:|right|thumb|180px|Location of Zimbabwe]] The Republic of Zimbabwe is a country in the southern part of the continent of Africa. Its capital city is Harare. President Robert Mugabe is the leader of the country.



Zimbabwe is surrounded by other countries, and so it has no coast on the sea. This type of country is called landlocked. The countries that surround Zimbabwe are Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique.

Zimbabwe is home to the famous waterfall, Victoria Falls, which are a feature of the river Zambezi and also the Great Zimbabwe, the ancient architectural monument from which the country was named after.


Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia when it was a colony of Great Britain, but it took the ancient name of "Zimbabwe" in 1980 when it became an independent country.


The country has its unique-unified Zimbabwean english.


Zimbabwe uses the Zimbabwe dollar as its currency. The economy is currently in a bad situation. Foreign currency reserves are at very low levels, and the Zimbabwean Dollar has become very devalued. Just recently, three zeroes were taken off the Zimbabwean dollar (for example, $1,000,000 (one million dollars) would become $1000 (one thousand dollars)). Many observers link this to Mugabe's controversial Land Reform programme.

  • Agriculture: Most people in Zimbabwe work in the field of agriculture: cattle, poultry, pigs, vegetables, millet, sorghum, maize, rice, cassava, tea, coffee, groundnuts, cotton, wheat, sugar cane, timber.
  • Mining: Copper, silver, tin, coal, nickel, cobalt, gold, iron ore, asbestos, chrome.
  • Manufacturing: Iron, steel, food processing, textiles, brewing, wood, furniture, tobacco.
  • Other: Tourism centring on the Victoria Falls and the game parks
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