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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. Opposition and labor strikes in 2003 were unsuccessful in pressuring MUGABE to retire early; security forces continued their brutal repression of regime opponents. 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, according to UN estimates.


Southern Africa, between South Africa and Zambia

Geographic coordinates:

20 00 S, 30 00 E


total: 390,580 sq km
land: 386,670 sq km
water: 3,910 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 3,066 km
border countries: Botswana 813 km, Mozambique 1,231 km, South Africa 225 km, Zambia 797 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:

none (landlocked)


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


mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high veld); mountains in east

Elevation extremes:

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

Natural resources:

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

Land use:

arable land: 8.24%
permanent crops: 0.33%
other: 91.43% (2005)

Irrigated land:

1,740 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

recurring droughts; floods and severe storms are rare

Environment - current 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

Geography - note:

landlocked; the Zambezi forms a natural riverine boundary with Zambia; in full flood (February-April) the massive Victoria Falls on the river forms the world's largest curtain of falling water


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 37.4% (male 2,307,170/female 2,265,298)
15-64 years: 59.1% (male 3,616,528/female 3,621,190)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 199,468/female 227,151) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 19.9 years
male: 19.7 years
female: 20 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.62% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

28.01 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

21.84 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: there is an increasing flow of Zimbabweans into South Africa and Botswana in search of better economic opportunities (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 51.71 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 54.5 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 48.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 39.29 years
male: 40.39 years
female: 38.16 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

3.13 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

24.6% (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

1.8 million (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

170,000 (2003 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid
vectorborne disease: malaria
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2005)


noun: Zimbabwean(s)
adjective: Zimbabwean

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


definition: age 15 and over can read and write English
total population: 90.7%
male: 94.2%
female: 87.2% (2003 est.)

Country name:

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

Government type:

parliamentary democracy



Administrative divisions:

8 provinces and 2 cities* with provincial status; Bulawayo*, Harare*, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands


18 April 1980 (from UK)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 18 April (1980)


21 December 1979

Legal system:

mixture of Roman-Dutch and English common law


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

bicameral Parliament consists of a House of Assembly (150 seats - 120 elected by popular vote for five-year terms, 12 nominated by the president, 10 occupied by traditional chiefs chosen by their peers, and eight occupied by provincial governors appointed by the president) and a Senate (66 seats - 50 elected by popular vote for a five-year term, six nominated by the president, ten nominated by the Council of Chiefs)
elections: House of Assembly last held 31 March 2005 (next to be held in 2010), Senate last held 26 November 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: House of Assembly - percent of vote by party - ZANU-PF 59.6%, MDC 39.5%, other 0.9%; seats by party - ZANU-PF 78, MDC 41, Independents 1; Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - ZANU-PF 43, MDC 7

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court; High Court

Economy - overview:

The government of Zimbabwe faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems as it struggles with an unsustainable fiscal deficit, an overvalued exchange rate, soaring inflation, and bare shelves. Its 1998-2002 involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. Badly needed support from the IMF has been suspended because of the government's arrears on past loans, which it began repaying in 2005. The official annual inflation rate rose from 32% in 1998, to 133% at the end of 2004, and 585% at the end of 2005, although private sector estimates put the figure much higher. Meanwhile, the official exchange rate fell from 24 Zimbabwean dollars per US dollar in 1998 to 96,000 in mid-January 2006. The government's land reform program, characterized by chaos and violence, has 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.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$24.99 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$5.497 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

-7% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$2,100 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 17.9%
industry: 24.3%
services: 57.9% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

3.94 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 66%
industry: 10%
services: 24% (1996)

Unemployment rate:

80% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

80% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.97%
highest 10%: 40.42% (1995)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

56.8 (2003)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

585% official data; private sector estimates are much higher (yearend 2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

7.9% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $1.409 billion
expenditures: $1.905 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

30.1% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

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


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

Industrial production growth rate:

-1.7% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

8.877 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

11.22 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

3.3 billion kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

22,500 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - imports:

23,000 bbl/day

Current account balance:

-$517 million (2005 est.)


$1.644 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

cotton, tobacco, gold, ferroalloys, textiles/clothing

Exports - partners:

South Africa 31.5%, Switzerland 7.4%, UK 7.3%, China 6.1%, Germany 4.3% (2004)


$2.059 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and transport equipment, other manufactures, chemicals, fuels

Imports - partners:

South Africa 46.9%, Botswana 3.6%, UK 3.4% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$160 million (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$5.17 billion (2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$178 million; note - the EU and the US provide food aid on humanitarian grounds (2000 est.)

Currency (code):

Zimbabwean dollar (ZWD)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

317,000 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

423,600 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: system was once one of the best in Africa, but now suffers from poor maintenance; more than 100,000 outstanding requests for connection despite an equally large number of installed but unused main lines
domestic: consists of microwave radio relay links, open-wire lines, radiotelephone communication stations, fixed wireless local loop installations, and a substantial mobile cellular network; Internet connection is available in Harare and planned for all major towns and for some of the smaller ones
international: country code - 263; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat; two international digital gateway exchanges (in Harare and Gweru)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 7, FM 20 (plus 17 repeater stations), shortwave 1 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

16 (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

6,582 (2005)

Internet users:

820,000 (2005)


404 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 17
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 8 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 387
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 186
under 914 m: 196 (2005)


refined products 261 km (2004)


total: 3,077 km
narrow gauge: 3,077 km 1.067-m gauge (313 km electrified) (2004)


total: 97,440 km
paved: 18,514 km
unpaved: 78,926 km (2002)


on Lake Kariba, length small (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Binga, Kariba

Military branches:

Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF): Zimbabwe National Army, Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ), Zimbabwe Republic Police (2005)

Disputes - international:

Botswana has 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 and internally displaced persons:

IDPs: 400,000-450,000 (MUGABE-led political violence, human rights violations, land reform, and economic collapse) (2005)

Illicit drugs:

transit point for African cannabis and South Asian heroin, mandrax, and methamphetamines destined for the South African and European markets