|General background: The UK annexed Southern
Rhodesia from the 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.
Area comparative: Slightly larger than Montana.
Climate: Tropical; moderated by altitude;
rainy season (November to March).
Mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high
veld); mountains in east
Ethnic groups: African 98% (Shona 82%, Ndebele
14%, other 2%), mixed and Asian 1%, white less than
Religions: Syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous
beliefs) 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs 24%,
Muslim and other 1%
Language: English (official), Shona, Sindebele
(the language of the Ndebele, sometimes called Ndebele),
numerous but minor tribal dialects.
Government type: Parliamentary democracy
Legal system: Mixture of Roman-Dutch and English
Economic overview: The government of Zimbabwe
faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems
as it struggles to consolidate earlier moves to develop
a market-oriented economy. Its involvement in the
war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example,
has already drained hundreds of millions of dollars
from the economy. Badly needed support from the IMF
has been suspended because of the country's failure
to meet budgetary goals. Inflation rose from an annual
rate of 32% in 1998 to 59% in 1999, to 60% in 2000,
and to 100% by yearend 2001. The economy is being
steadily weakened by excessive government deficits,
AIDS, and rampant inflation. The government's land
reform program, characterized by chaos and violence,
has derailed the commercial sector, the traditional
source of exports and foreign exchange and the provider
of 400,000 jobs. Distribution of income is extremely
Communication/Telephone system: System was once
one of the best in Africa, but now suffers from poor
Places of interest: It boasts the majestic
Victoria Falls, magnificent wildlife preserves and
the medieval ruins of Great Zimbabwe.
Travel tips: Zimbabwe is in a state of turmoil.
Travelers are not recommended to go to Zimbabwe, first
check with your consulate.