Since the 11th century, present-day Zimbabwe has been the site of several organised states and kingdoms as well as a major route for migration and trade. The British South Africa Company of Cecil Rhodes first demarcated the present territory during the 1890s; it became the self-governing British colony of Southern Rhodesia in 1923. In 1965, the conservative white minority government unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia. The state endured international isolation and a 15-year guerrilla war with black nationalist forces; this culminated in a peace agreement that established universal enfranchisement and de jure sovereignty in April 1980. Zimbabwe then joined the Commonwealth of Nations, which it withdrew from in December 2003. It is a member of the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. It was once known as the "Jewel of Africa" for its prosperity.
Robert Mugabe became Prime Minister of Zimbabwe in 1980, when his ZANU-PF party won the elections following the end of white minority rule; he has been the president of Zimbabwe since 1987 in a one-party rule. Under Mugabe's authoritarian regime, the state security apparatus has dominated the country and been responsible for widespread human rights violations. Mugabe has maintained the revolutionary socialist rhetoric from the Cold War era, blaming Zimbabwe's economic woes on conspiring North American capitalist countries. Burnished by his anti-imperialist credentials, contemporary African political leaders have been reluctant to criticise Mugabe, though Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called him "a cartoon figure of an archetypal African dictator". The country has been in economic decline since the 1990s, experiencing several crashes and hyperinflation along the way.
On 15 November 2017, in the wake of over a year of protests against his government, as well as Zimbabwe's rapidly declining economy, Mugabe was placed under house arrest by the country's national army in a coup d'état.On 19 November 2017 ZANU-PF sacked Robert Mugabe as party leader and appointed former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his place.
The name "Zimbabwe" stems from a Shona term for Great Zimbabwe, an ancient ruined city in the country's south-east whose remains are now a protected site. Two different theories address the origin of the word. Many sources hold that "Zimbabwe" derives from dzimba-dza-mabwe, translated from the Karanga dialect of Shona as "large houses of stone" (dzimba = plural of imba, "house"; mabwe = plural of bwe, "stone"). The Karanga-speaking Shona people live around Great Zimbabwe in the modern-day province of Masvingo. Archaeologist Peter Garlake claims that "Zimbabwe" represents a contracted form of dzimba-hwe, which means "venerated houses" in the Zezuru dialect of Shona and usually references chiefs' houses or graves.
Zimbabwe was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia (1898), Rhodesia (1965), and Zimbabwe Rhodesia (1979). The first recorded use of "Zimbabwe" as a term of national reference dates from 1960 as a coinage by the black nationalist Michael Mawema, whose Zimbabwe National Party became the first to officially use the name in 1961. The term "Rhodesia"—derived from the surname of Cecil Rhodes, the primary instigator of British colonisation of the territory during the late 19th century—was perceived by African nationalists as inappropriate because of its colonial origin and connotations.
According to Mawema, black nationalists held a meeting in 1960 to choose an alternative name for the country, proposing names such as "Matshobana" and "Monomotapa" before his suggestion, "Zimbabwe", prevailed. A further alternative, put forward by nationalists in Matabeleland, had been "Matopos", referring to the Matopos Hills to the south of Bulawayo.
It was initially unclear how the chosen term was to be used — a letter written by Mawema in 1961 refers to "Zimbabweland" — but "Zimbabwe" was sufficiently established by 1962 to become the generally preferred term of the black nationalist movement. In a 2001 interview, black nationalist Edson Zvobgo recalled that Mawema mentioned the name during a political rally, "and it caught hold, and that was that". The black nationalist factions subsequently used the name during the Second Chimurenga campaigns against the Rhodesian government during the Rhodesian Bush War of 1964–1979. Major factions in this camp included the Zimbabwe African National Union (led by Robert Mugabe from 1975), and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (led by Joshua Nkomo from its founding in the early 1960s).
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 centre of subsequent Shona states, beginning around the 10th century. Around the early 10th century, trade developed with Arab 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 civilisations that would dominate the region during the 13th to 15th centuries, evidenced by ruins at Great Zimbabwe, near Masvingo, and other smaller sites. The main archaeological site uses a unique dry stone architecture.
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 1300 until 1600, 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 c. 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 as well as "Munhumutapa," and was renowned for its strategic trade routes with the Arabs and Portugal. The Portuguese sought to monopolise this influence and began a series of wars which left the empire in near collapse in the early 17th century.
As a direct response to increased European presence in the interior, a new Shona state emerged, known as the Rozwi Empire. 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 created 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. By 1838, the Rozwi Empire, along with the other smaller Shona states were conquered by the Ndebele and reduced to vassaldom.
After losing their remaining South African lands in 1840, Mzilikazi and his tribe permanently settled in the southwest of present-day Zimbabwe in what became known as Matabeleland, establishing Bulawayo as their capital. Mzilikazi then organised his society into a military system with regimental kraals, similar to those of Shaka, which was stable enough to repel further Boer incursions. Mzilikazi died in 1868 and, following a violent power struggle, was succeeded by his son, Lobengula.
In the 1880s, white colonists arrived with Cecil Rhodes's British South Africa Company (BSAC). 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 (now 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".
In accordance with the terms of aforementioned concessions and treaties, mass settlement was encouraged, with the British maintaining control over labour as well as precious metals and other mineral resources.
In 1895, the BSAC adopted the name "Rhodesia" for the territory, in honour of Rhodes. In 1898 "Southern Rhodesia" became the official name for the region south of the Zambezi, which later became Zimbabwe. The region to the north was administered separately and later termed Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Shortly after Rhodes' disastrous Jameson Raid on the South African Republic, the Ndebele rebelled against white rule, led by their charismatic religious leader, Mlimo. The Second Matabele War lasted in Matabeleland until 1896, when Mlimo was assassinated. Shona agitators staged unsuccessful revolts (known as Chimurenga) against company rule during 1896 and 1897.
Following these failed insurrections, the Ndebele and Shona groups were finally subdued by the Rhodes administration, which organised the land with a disproportionate bias favouring Europeans, thus displacing many indigenous peoples.
Southern Rhodesia was annexed by the United Kingdom on 12 September 1923. Shortly after annexation, on 1 October 1923, the first constitution for the new Colony of Southern Rhodesia came into force.
Under the new constitution, Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony, subsequent to a 1922 referendum. Rhodesians of all races served on behalf of the United Kingdom during the two World Wars. Proportional to the white population, Southern Rhodesia contributed more per capita to both the First and Second World Wars than any other part of the Empire, including Britain itself.
In 1953, in the face of African opposition, Britain consolidated the two Rhodesias with Nyasaland (Malawi) in the ill-fated Central African Federation, which was essentially dominated by Southern Rhodesia. Growing African nationalism and general dissent, particularly in Nyasaland, persuaded Britain to dissolve the Union in 1963, forming three separate divisions. While multiracial democracy was finally introduced to Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, however, Southern Rhodesians of European ancestry continued to enjoy minority rule.
With Zambian independence, Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front (RF) dropped the designation "Southern" in 1964 and issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (commonly abbreviated to "UDI") from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965, intent on effectively repudiating the recently adopted British policy of "no independence before majority rule". It was the first such course taken by a British colony since the American declaration of 1776, which Smith and others indeed claimed provided a suitable precedent to their own actions.
After the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), the British government petitioned the United Nations for sanctions against Rhodesia pending unsuccessful talks with Smith's administration in 1966 and 1968. In December 1966, the organisation complied, imposing the first mandatory trade embargo on an autonomous state. These sanctions were expanded again in 1968.
The United Kingdom deemed the Rhodesian declaration an act of rebellion, but did not re-establish control by force. A guerrilla war subsequently ensued when Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), supported actively by communist powers and neighbouring African nations, initiated guerilla operations against Rhodesia's predominantly white government. ZAPU was supported by the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact and associated nations such as Cuba, and adopted a Marxist–Leninist ideology; ZANU meanwhile aligned itself with Maoism and the bloc headed by the People's Republic of China. Smith declared Rhodesia a republic in 1970, following the results of a referendum the previous year, but this went unrecognised internationally. Meanwhile, Rhodesia's internal conflict intensified, eventually forcing him to open negotiations with the militant nationalists.
In March 1978, Smith reached an accord with three African leaders, led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who offered to leave the white population comfortably entrenched in exchange for the establishment of a biracial democracy. As a result of the Internal Settlement, elections were held in April 1979, concluding with the United African National Council (UANC) carrying a majority of parliamentary seats. On 1 June 1979, Muzorewa, the UANC head, became prime minister and the country's name was changed to Zimbabwe Rhodesia. The Internal Settlement left control of the Rhodesian Security Forces, civil service, judiciary, and a third of parliament seats to whites. On 12 June, the United States Senate voted to lift economic pressure on the former Rhodesia.
Following the fifth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held in Lusaka, Zambia from 1 to 7 August in 1979, the British government invited Muzorewa, Mugabe, and Nkomo to participate in a constitutional conference at Lancaster House. The purpose of the conference was to discuss and reach an agreement on the terms of an independence constitution, and provide for elections supervised under British authority allowing Zimbabwe Rhodesia to proceed to legal independence.
With Lord Carrington, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, in the chair, these discussions were mounted from 10 September to 15 December in 1979, producing a total of 47 plenary sessions. On 21 December 1979, delegations from every major interest represented reached the Lancaster House Agreement, effectively ending the guerrilla war.
On 11 December 1979, the Rhodesian House of Assembly voted 90 to nil to revert to British colonial status (the 'aye' votes included Ian Smith himself). The bill then passed the Senate and was assented to by the President. With the arrival of Lord Soames, the new Governor, just after 2 p.m. on 12 December 1979, Britain formally took control of Zimbabwe Rhodesia as the Colony of Southern Rhodesia, although on 13 December Soames declared that during his mandate the name Rhodesia and Zimbabwe Rhodesia would continue to be used. Britain lifted sanctions on 12 December, and the United Nations on 16 December, before calling on its member states to do likewise on 21 December. Thus Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola and Botswana lifted sanctions on 22–23 December; Australia partly pre-empted this, lifting all but trade sanctions on 18 December, and trade sanctions on 21 December.
Zimbabwe's first president after its independence was Canaan Banana in what was originally a mainly ceremonial role as Head of State. Robert Mugabe, leader of the ZANU party, was the country's first Prime Minister and Head of Government. During the elections of February 1980, Robert Mugabe and the ZANU party secured a landslide victory.
Opposition to what was perceived as a Shona takeover immediately erupted around Matabeleland. The Matabele unrest led to what has become known as Gukurahundi (Shona: "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains").
The Fifth Brigade, a North Korean-trained elite unit that reported directly to the Zimbabwean Prime Minister, entered Matabeleland and massacred thousands of civilians accused of supporting "dissidents".
Estimates for the number of deaths during the five-year Gukurahundi campaign ranged from 3,750 to 80,000. Thousands of others were tortured in military internment camps.
The campaign officially ended in 1987 after Nkomo and Mugabe reached a unity agreement that merged their respective parties, creating the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF).
Elections in March 1990 resulted in another victory for Mugabe and the Zanu-PF party, which claimed 117 of the 120 contested seats.
During the 1990s, students, trade unionists, and other workers often demonstrated to express their growing discontent with Mugabe and Zanu-PF party policies. In 1996, civil servants, nurses, and junior doctors went on strike over salary issues. The general health of the population also began to significantly decline; by 1997 an estimated 25% of the population had been infected by HIV in a pandemic that was affecting most of southern Africa.
Land redistribution re-emerged as the main issue for the Zanu-PF government around 1997. Despite the existence of a "willing-buyer-willing-seller" land reform programme since the 1980s, the minority white Zimbabwean population of around 0.6% continued to hold 70% of the country's most fertile agricultural land.
In 2000, the government pressed ahead with its Fast Track Land Reform programme, a policy involving compulsory land acquisition aimed at redistributing land from the minority white population to the majority black population. Confiscations of white farmland, continuous droughts, and a serious drop in external finance and other supports led to a sharp decline in agricultural exports, which were traditionally the country's leading export-producing sector. Some 58,000 independent black farmers have since experienced limited success in reviving the gutted cash crop sectors through efforts on a smaller scale.
President Mugabe and the Zanu-PF party leadership found themselves beset by a wide range of international sanctions. In 2002, the nation was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations due to the reckless farm seizures and blatant election tampering. The following year, Zimbabwean officials voluntarily terminated its Commonwealth membership.
The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZDERA) went into effect in 2002, creating a credit freeze of the Zimbabwean government through Section 4 C, Multilateral Financing Restriction. The bill was sponsored by Bill Frist, and co-sponsored by senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Russ Feingold and Jesse Helms. Through ZDERA Section 4C, the Secretary of the Treasury is ordered to direct US Directors at the International Financial Institutions listed in Section 3, "to oppose and vote against-- (1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or (2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution."
Following elections in 2005, the government initiated "Operation Murambatsvina", an effort to crack down on illegal markets and slums emerging in towns and cities, leaving a substantial section of urban poor homeless. The Zimbabwean government has described the operation as an attempt to provide decent housing to the population, although according to critics such as Amnesty International, authorities have yet to properly substantiate their claims.
On 29 March 2008, Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a parliamentary election. The results of this election were withheld for two weeks, after which it was generally acknowledged that the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T) had achieved a majority of one seat in the lower house of parliament.
In a surprising moment of candour at the ZANU-PF congress in December 2014, President Robert Mugabe accidentally let slip that the opposition had in fact won the contentious 2008 polls by an astounding 73%.
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 basic affairs.
In September 2008, a power-sharing agreement was reached between Tsvangirai and President Mugabe, permitting the former to hold the office of prime minister. Due to ministerial differences between their respective political parties, the agreement was not fully implemented until 13 February 2009. By December 2010, Mugabe was threatening to completely expropriate remaining privately owned companies in Zimbabwe unless "western sanctions" were lifted.
A 2011 survey by Freedom House suggested that living conditions had improved since the power-sharing agreement. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated in its 2012–2013 planning document that the "humanitarian situation has improved in Zimbabwe since 2009, but conditions remain precarious for many people".
On 17 January 2013, Vice President John Nkomo died of cancer at St Anne's Hospital, Harare at the age of 78. A new constitution approved in the Zimbabwean constitutional referendum, 2013 curtails presidential powers.
Mugabe was re-elected president in the July 2013 Zimbabwean general election which The Economist described as "rigged." and the Daily Telegraph as "stolen." The Movement for Democratic Change alleged massive fraud and tried to seek relief through the courts. After winning the election, the Mugabe Zanu-PF government re-instituted one party rule doubled the civil service and, according to The Economist, embarked on "...misrule and dazzling corruption." A 2017 study conducted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) concluded that due to the deterioration of government and the economy "the government encourages corruption to make up for its inability to fund its own institutions" with widespread and informal police roadblocks to issue fines to travellers being one manifestation of this.
In July 2016 nationwide protests took place regarding the economic collapse in the country and the finance minister admitted "Right now we literally have nothing."
In November 2017, the army led a coup d'état (though they denied it was a coup) following the dismissal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The army placed Mugabe under house arrest.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa, lying between latitudes 15° and 23°S, and longitudes 25° and 34°E. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the west and southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and northeast. Its northwest corner is roughly 150 meters from Namibia, nearly forming a four-nation quadripoint. Most of the country is elevated, consisting of a central plateau (high veld) stretching from the southwest northwards with altitudes between 1,000 and 1,600 m. The country's extreme east is mountainous, this area being known as the Eastern Highlands, with Mount Nyangani as the highest point at 2,592 m.
These highlands are renowned for their great natural beauty, with famous tourist destinations such as Nyanga, Troutbeck, Chimanimani, Vumba and Chirinda Forest at Mount Selinda. About 20% of the country consists of low-lying areas, (the low veld) under 900m. Victoria Falls, one of the world's biggest and most spectacular waterfalls, is located in the country's extreme northwest and is part of the Zambezi river.
Zimbabwe has a tropical climate with many local variations. The southern areas are known for their heat and aridity, parts of the central plateau receive frost in winter, the Zambezi valley is also known for its extreme heat and the Eastern Highlands usually experience cool temperatures and the highest rainfall in the country. The country's rainy season generally runs from late October to March and the hot climate is moderated by increasing altitude. Zimbabwe is faced with recurring droughts, the latest one commencing early in 2015 and ongoing into 2016. Severe storms are rare.
The country is mostly savannah, although the moist and mountainous eastern highlands support areas of tropical evergreen and hardwood forests. Trees found in these Eastern Highlands include teak, mahogany, enormous specimens of strangling fig, forest newtonia, big leaf, white stinkwood, chirinda stinkwood, knobthorn and many others.
In the low-lying parts of the country fever trees, mopane, combretum and baobabs abound. Much of the country is covered by miombo woodland, dominated by brachystegia species and others. Among the numerous flowers and shrubs are hibiscus, flame lily, snake lily, spider lily, leonotus, cassia, tree wisteria and dombeya. There are around 350 species of mammals that can be found in Zimbabwe. There are also many snakes and lizards, over 500 bird species, and 131 fish species.
Large parts of Zimbabwe were once covered by forests with abundant wildlife. Deforestation and poaching has reduced the amount of wildlife. Woodland degradation and deforestation, due to population growth, urban expansion and lack of fuel, are major concerns and have led to erosion and land degradation which diminish the amount of fertile soil. Local farmers have also been criticised by environmentalists for burning off vegetation to heat their tobacco barns.
Zimbabwe is a republic with a presidential system of government. The semi-presidential system was abolished with the adoption of a new constitution after a referendum in March 2013. Under the constitutional changes in 2005, an upper chamber, the Senate, was reinstated. 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.
In 1987 then-prime minister Mugabe revised the constitution, abolishing the ceremonial presidency and the prime ministerial posts to form an executive president, a Presidential system. His ZANU party has won every election since independence, in the 1990 election the second-placed party, Edgar Tekere's Zimbabwe Unity Movement, won only 20% of the vote.
During the 1995 parliamentary elections most opposition parties, including the ZUM, boycotted the voting, resulting in a near-sweep by the ruling party. When the opposition returned to the polls in 2000, they won 57 seats, only five fewer than ZANU.
Presidential elections were again held in 2002 amid allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation and fraud. The 2005 Zimbabwe parliamentary elections were held on 31 March 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. 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. The official results required a runoff between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader; the MDC challenged these results, claiming widespread election fraud by the Mugabe government.
The run-off was scheduled for 27 June 2008. On 22 June, 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, the ZEC held the run-off and President Mugabe received a landslide majority.
The MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai is now the majority in the Lower chamber of Parliament. The MDC split into two factions. One faction (MDC-M), now led by Arthur Mutambara contested the elections to the Senate, while the other, led by 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. 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 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 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.
On 28 April 2008, Tsvangirai and Mutambara announced at a joint news conference in Johannesburg that the two MDC formations were co-operating, enabling the MDC to have a clear parliamentary majority. Tsvangirai said that Mugabe could not remain President without a parliamentary majority. 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.
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 US$7.3 million donated by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. A representative of the organisation declined to speculate on how the money was spent, except that it was not for the intended purpose, and the government has failed to honour requests to return the money.
In February 2013, Zimbabwe's election chief, Simpson Mtambanengwe, resigned due to ill health. His resignation came months before the country's constitutional referendum and elections.
There are widespread reports of systematic and escalating violations of human rights in Zimbabwe under the Mugabe administration and the dominant party, the ZANU-PF.
In 2011, there were reports of 640 corpses having been recovered from the Monkey William Mine in Chibondo. They were allegedly authenticated by the Fallen Heroes Trust of Zimbabwe and the Department of National Museums and Monuments who are leading the exhumation process as victims of the Ian Smith regime during the Rhodesian Bush War. One body was identified as a ZANLA cadre, Cde Rauya, by the Fallen Heroes Trust Chief exhumer.
Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere admitted the remains were discovered in 2008, but claimed the remains were decades old despite clear evidence the exhumed skeletons still had hair and clothes. Solidarity Peace Trust said that the presence of soft tissues "is not necessarily an indicator that these bones entered the grave more recently, although it could be."
Journalists found a body in the mine with 'what appeared to be blood and fluids dripping onto the skulls below'. The opposition MDC called for research on all violence that included killings of its supporters during disputed elections in 2008. Amnesty International (AI) expressed concern that "international best practice on exhumations is not being adhered to... [M]ishandling of these mass graves has serious implications on potential exhumations of other sites in Zimbabwe. Thousands of civilians were also killed in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the mid 1980s and are allegedly buried in mine shafts and mass graves in these regions", AI added.
According to human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch 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 an 11 March 2007 Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rally and several others during the 2008 election campaign.
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.
Police action was strongly condemned by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the European Union and the United States. While noting that the activists had suffered injuries, but not mentioning the cause of them, the Zimbabwean state-owned 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 argued that the opposition had been "willfully violating the ban on political rallies".
There are also abuses of media rights and access. The Zimbabwean government is accused of suppressing freedom of the press and freedom of speech. It has been repeatedly accused of using the public broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, as a propaganda tool. 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. BBC News, Sky News, and CNN were banned from filming or reporting from Zimbabwe. In 2009 reporting restrictions on the BBC and CNN were lifted. Sky News continue to report on happenings within Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries like South Africa.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces were set up by unifying three insurrectionist forces – the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), and the Rhodesian Security Forces (RSF) – after the Second Chimurenga and Zimbabwean independence 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.
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.
The ZNA currently has an active duty strength of 30,000. The Air Force has about 5,139 standing personnel. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (includes Police Support Unit, Paramilitary Police) is part of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and numbers 25,000.
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. 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 and 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 Fifth Brigade was formed in 1981 and disbanded in 1988 after the demonstration of mass 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"), the campaign which finished off Mugabe's liberation struggle. The Brigade had been re-formed by 2006, with its commander, Brigadier-General John Mupande praising its "rich history".
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 government administration is usually carried out.
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.
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.
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 is composed of 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.
At the 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).
Minerals, gold, and agriculture are the main foreign exports of Zimbabwe. Tourism also plays a key role in its economy.
The mining sector remains very lucrative, with some of the world's largest platinum reserves being mined by Anglo American plc and Impala Platinum. The Marange diamond fields, discovered in 2006, are considered the biggest diamond find in over a century. They have the potential to improve the fiscal situation of the country considerably, but almost all revenues from the field have disappeared into the pockets of army officers and ZANU-PF politicians.
In terms of carats produced, the Marange field is one of the largest diamond producing projects in the world, estimated to produce 12 million carats in 2014 worth over $350 million. Zimbabwe is the biggest trading partner of South Africa on the continent.
Taxes and tariffs are high for private enterprises, while state enterprises are strongly subsidised. State regulation is costly to companies; starting or closing a business is slow and costly. Government spending was predicted to reach 67% of GDP in 2007.
Tourism was an important industry for the country, but has been failing in recent years. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force released a report in June 2007, estimating 60% of Zimbabwe's wildlife has died since 2000 due to poaching and deforestation. The report warns that the loss of life combined with widespread deforestation is potentially disastrous for the tourist industry.
The ICT sector of Zimbabwe has been growing at a fast pace. A report by the mobile internet browser company, Opera, in June/July 2011 has ranked Zimbabwe as Africa's fastest growing market.
Since 1 January 2002, the government of Zimbabwe has had its lines of credit at international financial institutions frozen, through US legislation called the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZDERA). Section 4C instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to direct directors at international financial institutions to veto the extension of loans and credit to the Zimbabwean government. According to the United States, these sanctions target only seven specific businesses owned or controlled by government officials and not ordinary citizens.
Zimbabwe maintained positive economic growth throughout the 1980s (5% GDP growth per year) and 1990s (4.3% GDP growth per year). The economy declined from 2000: 5% decline in 2000, 8% in 2001, 12% in 2002 and 18% in 2003. 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. From 1999–2009, Zimbabwe saw the lowest ever economic growth with an annual GDP decrease of 6.1%.
The downward spiral of the economy has been attributed mainly to mismanagement and corruption by the government and the eviction of more than 4,000 white farmers in the controversial land confiscations of 2000. The Zimbabwean government and its supporters attest that it was Western policies to avenge the expulsion of their kin that sabotaged the economy.
By 2005, the purchasing power of the average Zimbabwean had dropped to the same levels in real terms as 1953. 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. By 2016 there were about 300 farms owned by white farmers left out of the original 4,500. The farms left were either too remote or their owners had paid for protection or collaborated with the regime.
In January 2007, the government issued long term leases to some white farmers. At the same time, however, the government also continued to demand that all remaining white farmers, who were given eviction notices earlier, vacate the land or risk being arrested. Mugabe pointed 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.
Inflation rose from an annual rate of 32% in 1998, to an official estimated high of 11,200,000% in August 2008 according to the country's Central Statistical Office. This represented a state of hyperinflation, and the central bank introduced a new 100 billion dollar note.
On 29 January 2009, in an effort to counteract runaway inflation, acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that Zimbabweans will be permitted to use other, more stable currencies to do business, alongside the Zimbabwe dollar. In an effort to combat inflation and foster economic growth the Zimbabwean Dollar was suspended indefinitely on 12 April 2009. In 2016 Zimbabwe allowed trade in the United States dollar and various other currencies such as the rand (South Africa), the pula (Botswana), the euro, and the Pound Sterling (UK).
After the formation of the Unity Government and the adoption of several currencies instead of the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009, the Zimbabwean economy rebounded. GDP grew by 8–9% a year between 2009 and 2012. In November 2010, the IMF described the Zimbabwean economy as "completing its second year of buoyant economic growth". By 2014, Zimbabwe had recovered to levels seen in the 1990s but between 2012 and 2016 growth faltered.
Zimplats, the nation's largest platinum company, has proceeded with US$500 million in expansions, and is also continuing a separate US$2 billion project, despite threats by Mugabe to nationalise the company. The pan-African investment bank IMARA released a favourable report in February 2011 on investment prospects in Zimbabwe, citing an improved revenue base and higher tax receipts.
In late January 2013, the Zimbabwean finance ministry reported that they had only $217 in their treasury and would apply for donations to finance the coming elections that is estimated to cost 107 million USD.
As of October 2014, Metallon Corporation was Zimbabwe's largest gold miner. The group is looking to increase its production to 500,000 ounces per annum by 2019.
Zimbabwe's commercial farming sector was traditionally a source of exports and foreign exchange, and provided 400,000 jobs. However, the government's land reform program badly damaged the sector, turning Zimbabwe into a net importer of food products. For example, between 2000 and 2016 annual wheat production fell from 250,000 tons to 60,000 tons, maize was reduced from two million tons to 500,000 tons and cattle slaughtered for beef fell from 605,000 to 244,000. Coffee production, once a prized export commodity came to a virtual halt after seizure or expropriation of white-owned coffee farms in 2000, and has never recovered.
For the past ten years, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has been assisting Zimbabwe's farmers to adopt conservation agriculture techniques, a sustainable method of farming that can help increase yields. By applying the three principles of minimum soil disturbance, legume-based cropping and the use of organic mulch, farmers can improve infiltration, reduce evaporation and soil erosion, and build up organic soil content.
Between 2005–11, the number of smallholders practising conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe increased from 5000 to more than 150000. Cereal yields rose between 15 and 100 per cent across different regions.
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.
In 2016, the total contribution of tourism to Zimbabwe was $1.1 billion (USD), or about 8.1% of Zimbabwe's GDP. It is expected to rise 1.4% in 2017. Employment in travel and tourism, as well as industries travel and tourism indirectly supports, was 5.2% of national employment and is expected to rise by 1.4% in 2017.
Several airlines pulled out of Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2007. Australia's Qantas, Germany's Lufthansa, and Austrian Airlines were among the first to pull out and in 2007 British Airways suspended all direct flights to Harare. The country's flagship airline Air Zimbabwe, which operated flights throughout Africa and a few destinations in Europe and Asia, ceased operations in February 2012. As of 2017, several major commercial airlines had resumed flights to Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has several major tourist attractions. Victoria Falls on the Zambezi, 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, the 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.
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.
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 Rhodes and other early white pioneers like Leander Starr Jameson are buried in these hills at a site named World's View.
Water supply and sanitation in Zimbabwe is defined by many small scale successful programs but also by a general lack of improved water and sanitation systems for the majority of Zimbabwe. According to the World Health Organization in 2012, 80% of Zimbabweans had access to improved, i.e. clean, drinking-water sources, and only 40% of Zimbabweans had access to improved sanitation facilities. Access to improved water supply and sanitation is distinctly less in rural areas.
There are many factors which continue to determine the nature, for the foreseeable future, of water supply and sanitation in Zimbabwe.
Three major factors are the severely depressed state of the Zimbabwean economy, the reluctance of foreign aid organizations to build and finance infrastructure projects, and the political instability of the Zimbabwean state.
Zimbabwe has relatively well-developed national infrastructure and a long-standing tradition of promoting research and development (R&D), as evidenced by the levy imposed on tobacco-growers since the 1930s to promote market research.
The country also has a well-developed education system, with one in eleven adults holding a tertiary degree. Given the country’s solid knowledge base and abundant natural resources, Zimbabwe has the potential to figure among the countries leading growth in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020.
To do so, however, Zimbabwe will need to correct a number of structural weaknesses. For instance, it currently lacks the critical mass of researchers needed to trigger innovation. Although the infrastructure is in place to harness research and development to Zimbabwe’s socio-economic development, universities and research institutions lack the requisite financial and human resources to conduct research and the current regulatory environment hampers the transfer of new technologies to the business sector. The economic crisis has precipitated an exodus of university students and professionals in key areas of expertise (medicine, engineering, etc.) that is of growing concern. More than 22% of Zimbabwean tertiary students were completing their degrees abroad in 2012, compared to a 4% average for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. In 2012, there were 200 researchers (head count) employed in the public sector, one-quarter of whom were women. This is double the continental average (91 in 2013) but only one-quarter the researcher density of South Africa (818 per million inhabitants). The government has created the Zimbabwe Human Capital Website to provide information for the diaspora on job and investment opportunities in Zimbabwe.
Despite the fact that human resources are a pillar of any research and innovation policy, the Medium Term Plan 2011–2015 did not discuss any explicit policy for promoting postgraduate studies in science and engineering. The scarcity of new PhDs in science and engineering fields from the University of Zimbabwe in 2013 was symptomatic of this omission.
Nor does the development agenda to 2018, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Economic Transformation, contain any specific targets for increasing the number of scientists and engineers, or the staffing requirements for industry and other productive sectors. In addition, the lack of co-ordination and coherence among governance structures has led to a multiplication of research priorities and poor implementation of existing policies.
The country's Second Science and Technology Policy was launched in June 2012, after being elaborated with UNESCO assistance. It replaces the earlier policy dating from 2002. The 2012 policy prioritizes biotechnology, information and communication technologies (ICTs), space sciences, nanotechnology, indigenous knowledge systems, technologies yet to emerge and scientific solutions to emergent environmental challenges. The Second Science and Technology Policy also asserts the government commitment to allocating at least 1% of GDP to research and development, focusing at least 60% of university education on developing skills in science and technology and ensuring that school pupils devote at least 30% of their time to studying science subjects.
In 2014, Zimbabwe counted 21 publications per million inhabitants in internationally catalogued journals, according to Thomson Reuters' Web of Science (Science Citation Index Expanded). This placed Zimbabwe sixth out of the 15 SADC countries, behind Namibia (59), Mauritius (71), Botswana (103) and, above all, South Africa (175) and the Seychelles (364). The average for sub-Saharan Africa was 20 scientific publications per million inhabitants, compared to a global average of 176 per million.
Zimbabwe's total population is 12.97 million. According to the United Nations World Health Organisation, the life expectancy for men was 56 years and the life expectancy for women was 60 years of age (2012). An association of doctors in Zimbabwe has made calls for President Mugabe to make moves to assist the ailing health service. The HIV infection rate in Zimbabwe was estimated to be 14% for people aged 15–49 in 2009. UNESCO reported a decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant women from 26% in 2002 to 21% in 2004.
Some 85% of Zimbabweans are Christian; 62% of the population attends religious services regularly. The largest Christian churches are Anglican, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist and Methodist.
As in other African countries, Christianity may be mixed with enduring traditional beliefs. Ancestral worship is the most practised non-Christian religion, involving 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.
Bantu-speaking ethnic groups make up 98% of the population. The majority people, the Shona, comprise 70%. The Ndebele are the second most populous with 20% of the population.
The Ndebele 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, Nambya, Tswana, Xhosa and Lozi.
Minority ethnic groups include white Zimbabweans, who make up less than 1% of the total population. White Zimbabweans are mostly of British origin, but there are also Afrikaner, Greek, Portuguese, French and Dutch communities. The white population dropped from a peak of around 278,000 or 4.3% of the population in 1975 to possibly 120,000 in 1999, and was estimated to be no more than 50,000 in 2002, and possibly much less. The 2012 census lists the total white population at 28,782 (roughly 0.22% of the population), one-tenth of its 1975 estimated size. Most emigration has been to the United Kingdom (between 200,000 and 500,000 Britons are of Rhodesian or Zimbabwean origin), South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Coloureds form 0.5% of the population, and various Asian ethnic groups, mostly of Indian and Chinese origin, are also 0.5%.
According to 2012 Census report, 99.7% of the population is of African origin. Official fertility rates over the last decade were 3.6 (2002 Census), 3.8 (2006) and 3.8 (2012 Census).