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 1997 and intensified after 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. In April 2005, the capital city of 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 Mugabe in June 2007 instituted price controls on all basic commodities causing panic buying and leaving store shelves empty for months; a period of increasing hyperinflation ensued. 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-T 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 of national unity," in which Mugabe remained president and Tsvangirai became prime minister, were finally settled in February 2009, although the leaders failed to agree upon many key outstanding governmental issues. Mugabe was reelected president in June 2013 in balloting that was severely flawed and internationally condemned. As a prerequisite to holding the elections, Zimbabwe enacted a new constitution by referendum, although many provisions in the new constitution have yet to be codified in law.

Country Name:

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


  • name: Harare
  • 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);Vice Presidents Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko (since 12 December 2014)
  • head of government: Executive President Robert Gabriel Mugabe (since 31 December 1987); note - following the 31 July 2013 presidential election, the position of prime minister was abolished
  • 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); election last held on 31 July 2013 (next to be held in 2018); co-vice presidents drawn from party leadership​​

Legislative Branch:

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

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; High Court


People & Society


  • 13,771,721 (global rank: 72)
  • growth rate: 4.36% (global rank: 2)


  • noun: Zimbabwean(s)
  • adjective: Zimbabwean

Major Cities:

  • Harare (capital): 1.495 million

Ethnic Groups:

  • African 99.4% (predominantly Shona; Ndebele is the second largest ethnic group), other 0.4%, unspecified 0.2%


  • Protestant 75.9% (includes Apostolic 38%, Pentecostal 21.1%, other 16.8%), Roman Catholic 8.4%, other Christian 8.4%, other 1.2% (includes traditional, Muslim), none 6.1%


  • Shona (official; most widely spoken), Ndebele (official, second most widely spoken), English (official; traditionally used for official business), 13 minority languages (official; includes Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Shangani, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa)

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 55.68 years (global rank: 205)
  • male: 55.4 years
  • female: 55.97 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 26.55 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 70)
  • male: 28.88 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 24.15 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 14.99% (global rank: 5)
  • people living with AIDS: 1,390,300 (global rank: 8)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 83.6%
  • male: 87.8%
  • female: 80.1%



Overview: Zimbabwe's economy depends heavily on its mining and agriculture sectors. Following a decade of contraction from 1998 to 2008, the economy recorded real growth of more than 10% per year in 2010-13, before slowing to roughly 3% in 2014 due to poor harvests, low diamond revenues, and decreased investment. Infrastructure and regulatory deficiencies, a poor investment climate, a large public and external debt burden, and extremely high government wage expenses impede the country’s economic performance. Until early 2009, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) 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 reduced inflation below 10% per year, but exposed structural weaknesses that inhibit broad-based growth. The RBZ reintroduced coins denominated in local currency in December 2014, more than five years after the Zimbabwe dollar was taken out of circulation. In January 2015, as part of the government’s effort to boost trade and attract foreign investment, the RBZ announced that the Chinese renmimbi, Indian rupee, Australian dollar, and Japanese yen would be accepted as legal tender in Zimbabwe. 
Gross Domestic Product:
  • GDP (PPP): $26.88 billion (global rank: 132)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $2,000 (global rank: 203)
  • real growth rate: 3.1% (global rank: 103)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 20.1%, industry: 25.7%, services: 54.2%


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


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

Agricultural Products:

  • tobacco, corn, cotton, 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: 10.34%
  • permanent crops: 0.26%
  • other: 89.4%

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: 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; South Africa has placed military units to assist police operations along the border of Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migration
  • internally displaced peoples: undetermined (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 subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Zimbabwean women and girls from towns bordering South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia are subjected to prostitution, sometimes being sold by their parents; Zimbabwean men, women, and children experience forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in rural areas, as well as domestic servitude and sex trafficking in cities and towns; Zimbabwean women and men are lured into exploitative labor situations in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Korea, and South Africa with false job offers, while women and girls are lured to Zambia, China, Egypt, the UK, and Canada and forced into prostitution; adults and children from Bangladesh, Somalia, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia are trafficked through Zimbabwe en route to South Africa
  • illicit drugs: transit point for cannabis and South Asian heroin, mandrax, and methamphetamines en route to South Africa

Published: Saturday, April 18, 2015

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.