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Zimbabwe officially the Republic of Zimbabwe 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.

Background History

The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the [British] South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert Mugabe, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence. His chaotic land redistribution campaign, which began in 2000, caused an exodus of white farmers, crippled the economy, and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities. Ignoring international condemnation, Mugabe rigged the 2002 presidential election to ensure his reelection. The ruling ZANU-PF party used fraud and intimidation to win a two-thirds majority in the March 2005 parliamentary election, allowing it to amend the constitution at will and recreate the Senate, which had been abolished in the late 1980s. In April 2005, Harare embarked on Operation Restore Order, ostensibly an urban rationalization program, which resulted in the destruction of the homes or businesses of 700,000 mostly poor supporters of the opposition. President Mugabein June 2007 instituted price controls on all basic commodities causing panic buying and leaving store shelves empty for months. General elections held in March 2008 contained irregularities but still amounted to a censure of the ZANU-PF-led government with the opposition winning a majority of seats in parliament. MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes in the presidential polls, but not enough to win outright. In the lead up to a run-off election in late June 2008, considerable violence enacted against opposition party members led to the withdrawal of Tsvangirai from the ballot. Extensive evidence of violence and intimidation resulted in international condemnation of the process. Difficult negotiations over a power-sharing government, in which Mugabe remained president and Tsvangirai became prime minister, were finally settled in February 2009, although the leaders have yet failed to agree upon many key outstanding governmental issues. Mugabe in October publicly called for early elections in 2011-two years before his term ends-but no election date has been set.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Zimbabwe
  • conventional short form: Zimbabwe
  • former: Southern Rhodesia, Rhodesia


  • name: Harare
  • population: 1,606,000
  • geographic coordinates: 17 50 S, 31 03 E
  • time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 18 April 1980 (from the UK)

Government Type:

  • parliamentary democracy

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: Executive President Robert Gabriel Mugabe (since 31 December 1987)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (since 11 February 2009); Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara
  • cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president and prime minister; responsible to the House of Assembly
  • elections: presidential candidates nominated with a nomination paper signed by at least 10 registered voters (at least one from each province) and elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); elections last held on 28 March 2008 followed by a run-off on 27 June 2008 (next to be held in 2013)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate and a House of Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; High Court

People & Society


  • 12,619,600 (global rank: 72)
  • growth rate: 4.357% (global rank: 2)


  • noun: Zimbabwean(s)
  • adjective: Zimbabwean

Major Cities:

  • Harare(capital): 1.606 million

Ethnic Groups:

  • African 98% (Shona 82%, Ndebele 14%, other 2%), mixed and Asian 1%, white less than 1%


  • syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs) 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs 24%, Muslim and other 1%


  • English (official), Shona, Sindebele (the language of the Ndebele, sometimes called Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 51.82 years (global rank: 214)
  • male: 51.95 years
  • female: 51.68 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 28.23 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 72)
  • male: 30.67 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 25.73 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS (2009 est.):

  • adult prevalence rate: 14.3% (global rank: 5)
  • people living with AIDS: 1.2 million (global rank: 7)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 90.7%
  • male: 94.2%
  • female: 87.2%


Overview: Zimbabwe's economy is growing despite continuing political uncertainty. Following a decade of contraction from 1998 to 2008, Zimbabwe's economy recorded estimated real growth of 6% in 2011. However, the government of Zimbabwe still faces a number of difficult economic problems, including infrastructure and regulatory deficiencies, ongoing indigenization pressure, policy uncertainty, a large external debt burden, and insufficient formal employment. Zimbabwe's 1998-2002 involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. The government's subsequent land reform program, characterized by chaos and violence, badly damaged the commercial farming sector, the traditional source of exports and foreign exchange and the provider of 400,000 jobs, turning Zimbabwe into a net importer of food products. Until early 2009, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe routinely printed money to fund the budget deficit, causing hyperinflation. Dollarization in early 2009-which allowed currencies such as the Botswana pula, the South Africa rand, and the US dollar to be used locally-ended hyperinflation and restored price stability but exposed structural weaknesses that continue to inhibit broad-based growth.
Gross Domestic Product:
  • GDP (PPP): $5.916 billion (global rank: 157)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $500 (global rank: 223)
  • real growth rate: 6% (global rank: 46)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 20.4%, industry: 10%, services: 24%


  • currency: Zimbabwean Dollas (ZWD)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 234.25


  • unemployment rate: 95%
  • population below poverty line: 68%

Agricultural Products:

  • corn, cotton, tobacco, wheat, coffee, sugarcane, peanuts; sheep, goats, pigs


  • mining (coal, gold, platinum, copper, nickel, tin, diamonds, clay, numerous metallic and nonmetallic ores), steel; wood products, cement, chemicals, fertilizer, clothing and footwear, foodstuffs, beverages

Export Commodities:

  • platinum, cotton, tobacco, gold, ferroalloys, textiles/clothing

Import Commodities:

  • machinery and transport equipment, other manufactures, chemicals, fuels, food products



  • Southern Africa, between South Africa and Zambia


  • total: 390,757 sq km (global rank: 61)
  • land: 386,847 sq km
  • water: 3,910 sq km
  • comparative: slightly larger than Montana


  • tropical; moderated by altitude; rainy season (November to March)

Land Use:

  • arable land: 8.24%
  • permanent crops: 0.33%
  • other: 91.43%

Natural Resources:

  • coal, chromium ore, asbestos, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, vanadium, lithium, tin, platinum group metals

Current Environmental Issues:

  • deforestation; soil erosion; land degradation; air and water pollution; the black rhinoceros herd - once the largest concentration of the species in the world - has been significantly reduced by poaching; poor mining practices have led to toxic waste and heavy metal pollution

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: Botswana built electric fences and South Africa has placed military along the border to stem the flow of thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing to find work and escape political persecution; Namibia has supported, and in 2004 Zimbabwe dropped objections to, plans between Botswana and Zambia to build a bridge over the Zambezi River, thereby de facto recognizing a short, but not clearly delimited, Botswana-Zambia boundary in the river
  • refugees (country of origin): 2,500 (Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • internally displaced peoples: 569,685 (MUGABE-led political violence, human rights violations, land reform, and economic collapse)
  • human trafficking: Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation; some victims of forced prostitution are subsequently transported across the border to South Africa where they suffer continued exploitation; Zimbabwean men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in rural areas, as well as domestic servitude and sex trafficking in cities and towns; children are also utilized in the commission of illegal activities, including gambling and drug smuggling
  • illicit drugs: transit point for cannabis and South Asian heroin, mandrax, and methamphetamines en route to South Africa

Published: Monday, September 08, 2008