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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 390,757 sq. km (150,872 sq. mi)
Population: 13.5 million (UN 2008). Note: more than 3m Zimbabweans are now estimated to live outside the country
Capital City: Harare (population of Greater Harare: 1.1 million)
People: Shona, Ndebele, Others (10%)
Languages: English (official language), Shona and Ndebele
Religion(s): Christian (various); indigenous; small Hindu, Muslim, Jewish communities
Currency: Multi-currency, predominantly the US dollar and South African rand (the most widely used currencies) but also the Botswanan pula, British pound and the euro. The Zimbabwe dollar was suspended indefinitely by the Zimbabwe government in April 2009 following a period of hyper-inflation.
Head of State: President Robert Mugabe, ZANU(PF) (since 1987)
Prime Minister: Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC-T (since February 2009)
Foreign Minister: Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, ZANU(PF) (since April 2005)
Membership of international groupings/organisations: United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF) ; World Bank, African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Non Aligned Movement (NAM). Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth on 7 December 2003 following its suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth.

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ECONOMY

GDP: 1.3 bn USD (2009 estimate)
GDP growth: 7-8%(2010 estimate)
Inflation: Major Industries: Agriculture, mining.
Major trading partners: South Africa, China.
In spite of having once had a well-developed infrastructure and financial systems, Zimbabwe's economy declined rapidly from the late 1990s as a direct result of the poor governance of the Mugabe regime. GDP fell by half from 1998 to 2008. However, since the formation of the Inclusive Government and the appointment of Tendai Biti as Minister of Finance, there has been a significant reversal of the relentless economic decline that had marked the previous decade. Budget revenue increased from $133 million in 2008 to $975 million in 2009. Donors gave $670 million in aid in 2008 and $650 million in 2009.

However, serious economic problems remain. Electricity is severely restricted and there are frequent water shortages. Official unemployment is over 90%. Life expectancy – at 37 for men and 34 for women - is the lowest in the world. HIV/AIDS kills an average of 50 people a day. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, but has been severely disrupted by land resettlement. Agricultural production has shrunk by over 50% since 1996 and the large-scale commercial sector now produces less than 10% of the national maize output. Violent farm invasions continue while part of the population still receives food aid. This has led to a collapse in investor confidence and the flight of capital. Although discussions continue over implementation, the gazetting of the Indigenisation Bill in February 2010, which requires all enterprises in Zimbabwe worth more than $500,000 to move to 51% ownership by indigenous Zimbabweans within five years, has created a further serious impediment to attracting or retaining investment.

In February 2010 the IMF restored Zimbabwe’s voting and related rights, and its eligibility to use resources from the IMF’s General Resources Account (GRA), following a request from Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

Zimbabwe does not receive loans from the IMF or World Bank because of its failure to repay arrears to both institutions. However, the IMF began regular missions to Zimbabwe in 2009 following the creation of the inclusive government and discussions are continuing, particularly on technical assistance.

The IMF and Zimbabwe (http://www.imf.org/external/country/ZWE/index.htm)

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HISTORY

Until the 19th century, the area covering modern day Zimbabwe was ruled by a succession of Shona kingdoms, including the builders of the famous Great Zimbabwe complex (from which the country takes its name). By the 1820s internal and external pressures had led to the collapse of the Shona polities, laying the country open to occupation. Nguni conquerors from South Africa occupied what is now Matabeleland, and in 1890 Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company (BSAC) founded Salisbury (now Harare) and took control of the rest of the country by 1893. The BSAC's defeat of the 1896 Shona and Ndebele rebellion (the 'First Chimurenga') secured the country for widespread European settlement. In 1923, after a referendum which rejected union with South Africa, the country became a self-governing colony. In an attempt to pre-empt black majority rule the white-controlled Rhodesian parliament made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, leading to a 15 year guerrilla war ('the Second Chimurenga'). After the Lancaster House agreement in 1979 the country returned briefly to direct British rule, and elections were held in 1980.

The Shona-dominated Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) won a majority (57 out of 80) of seats available to blacks (20 seats had been reserved for a separate white election) in the new parliament, and its leader, Robert Mugabe, became Prime Minister. ZANU used its majority gradually to amend the constitution, introducing, for example, an executive presidency to which Mugabe was elected in 1987. In the same year, following several years of conflict in Matabeleland ('the gukurahundi'), ZANU and its Ndebele-dominated rivals, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) signed a Unity Accord which merged the two parties into the Zimbabwe African National Union-Popular Front. ZANU(PF) exercised a virtual monopoly on national politics until the emergence of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999.

BBC News Country Profile: Zimbabwe (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1064589.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Zimbabwe generally has good relations with its neighbours. SADC (Southern African Development Community) members did not publicly confront Zimbabwe on humanitarian, human rights and related political issues as the country descended into violence and mis-governance, largely because of historic loyalties. However, to try to assist in preparations for the 2008 elections, SADC charged South African President Mbeki with mediating in disputes between the parties. The Mbeki/SADC mediation led, after the disputed poll, to a power-sharing agreement between ZANU(PF) and the two MDC parties in September 2008. SADC, as a guarantor of the GPA along with the African Union (AU), remains responsible for ensuring the agreement is implemented fully and fairly.

In October 2009 following months of ZANU prevarication, Tsvangirai announced MDC-T’s “disengagement” from the Inclusive Government and appealed to South Africa and SADC to intervene. After the involvement of current South African President Zuma, who appointed a high-level mediation team to work with the parties in Zimbabwe to try and resolve outstanding issues, Tsvangirai rejoined the government. However, GPA implementation remains a contentious issue, and the South African mediation team continues to visit Zimbabwe regularly for discussions with the political parties on resolving disagreements. . The AU, a co-guarantor of the GPA, has endorsed the SADC’s lead on Zimbabwe. Defence relations with western donors began to sour in 1997, when an arms embargo was imposed by the EU in response to Zimbabwe's intervention in DR Congo.

Political relations declined rapidly after 2000 because of ZANU(PF)'s repressive political and economic programmes, particularly the seizure of land, the introduction of draconian legislation and increasing violence against its political opponents. In 2002, the EU introduced targeted measures in the form of an asset freeze and travel ban on individuals and entities associated with the violence and human rights abuses of Mugabe’s regime. These measures are revised annually each February. These measures do not hurt ordinary Zimbabweans, nor do they affect humanitarian assistance or legitimate business. The EU does not have any economic sanctions against Zimbabwe (see "EU Common Position" below).

In 2004, Mugabe announced a 'Look East' policy, primarily intended to revive Zimbabwe's economy in the absence of investment from elsewhere. Close relations with China and Iran in particular are being cultivated under this policy, China is now Zimbabwe's second biggest export market (by value) after South Africa, but Chinese investors remain reluctant to risk much capital in the country.

Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in December 2003 in reaction to its suspension.

Bilateral Relations with the UK

Visits

UK concerns about the Mugabe government's ruinous policies meant there was no high-level contact for many years. No British Government Minister has visited Zimbabwe since the late 1990s.

However, the formation of the Inclusive Government in Zimbabwe reinvigorated bilateral contacts and in 2009 Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Biti visited the UK. Africa Minister, Mr Bellingham, has received Deputy Prime Minister Mrs Khupe and Deputy Agriculture Minister designate Mr Bennett at the FCO, and Lord Howell has received Deputy Prime Minister Mr Mutambara and Education and Sports Minister Mr Coltart. The Prime Minister has met Prime Minister Tsvangirai abroad.

UK Nationals

There are approximately 10,000 UK nationals registered with the British Embassy in Zimbabwe.

Cultural Relations

The British Council Zimbabwe (http://www.britishcouncil.org/africa-zimbabwe.htm) is the focal point for cultural relations between Britain and Zimbabwe.

Policy

For recent statement of UK policy towards Zimbabwe enter Zimbabwe into the search engine of the Hansard website (http://www.parliament.uk/hansard/hansard.cfm) .

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GEOGRAPHY

Zimbabwe is twice the size of the United Kingdom. The country is completely land-locked, occupying the high plateau between the Zambezi River to the north and the Limpopo to the south, with a mountainous region in the east. Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana border Zimbabwe (clockwise from the north).

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

UK investment in, and trade with, Zimbabwe has declined in recent years. In 2009, the UK exported £19.5 million worth of goods to Zimbabwe, a fall of 5% compared to 2008. UK imports from Zimbabwe in 2009 were worth £49.5 million, a rise of over 33% on the previous year, Uncertainty over implementation of the Economic Empowerment and Indigenisation Act (gazetted in February 2010) has further eroded investor confidence in Zimbabwe.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Zimbabwe (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/zimbabwe)

Development

UK aid to Zimbabwe was worth £60 million in 2009-10 – our largest programme ever in Zimbabwe. The UK is the largest bilateral donor after the United States and DFID support has helped to stabilise the humanitarian situation. All DFID’s bilateral aid is currently under review, including in Zimbabwe. However future UK support will aim to lay the foundations for sustained recovery in Zimbabwe by: improving access to basic services for the poor; providing assets and skills to build livelihoods; linking the poor to markets, business opportunities and micro-finance and renewing essential infrastructure. It will also help reduce poverty and hunger; increase access to and the quality of education; empower women and girls; improve maternal and child health; reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS; and reduce the number of people without access to water and sanitation. All aid is channelled through international organisations and civil society organisations not through the Government of Zimbabwe.

Department for International Development Country Profile: Zimbabwe (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/countries/africa/zimbabwe.asp)

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POLITICS

President Mugabe and ZANU(PF)’s monopoly on power was not seriously challenged until the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999. The MDC split in 2005 – the larger faction, MDC-T, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the smaller, MDC-M, led by Deputy Prime Minister Prof Arthur Mutambara. Mutambara was replaced as leader by his party’s Secretary-General, Welshman Ncube, in January 2011. In March 2008, for the first time since Independence, ZANU(PF) lost its Parliamentary majority and Mugabe lost in the first round of Presidential elections to Tsvangirai (by 47.9% to 43.2%). However, Tsvangirai did not pass the 50% threshold required for outright victory. The run up to the second round of voting held in June 2008 was marred by widespread and orchestrated violence against MDC supporters, leading Tsvangirai to withdraw and leaving Mugabe to stand unopposed. In Parliament, MDC-T became the largest party in the House of Assembly, winning 100 of the 210 seats to ZANU(PF)’s 99. In the Senate (Upper House), ZANU(PF) hold a majority. Given the parliamentary stalemate and the disputed presidential election, the SADC mandated Thabo Mbeki, the then President of South Africa, to broker a power-sharing agreement – the Global Political Agreement (GPA) – between ZANU(PF) and the two MDC parties. The GPA was signed in September 2008 and created a coalition government – the Inclusive Government. Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister – a newly created post – in February 2009, with Mutambara as one of his Deputies and an expanded portfolio of Ministerial positions divided between the parties.

The Inclusive Government is a transitional arrangement. Under the GPA, a cross-party parliamentary committee was established to organise public consultations with a view to drafting a new Constitution that would reflect the wishes of the majority of Zimbabweans and take into account the views of civil society. The process on constitutional reform was delayed by political wrangling and logistical concerns but public outreach eventually started in June 2010 and was completed in October. Thematic committees are now considering the recommendations, after which there will be a second All-Stakeholder conference and a referendum. No date has been set yet for elections, which are scheduled to be held after a new constitution has been agreed.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Zimbabwe's human rights record since 1999 has been vigorously criticised by the international community including the European Union, the Commonwealth, the United Nations, and the African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights, as well as by the United States and other countries. The widespread random violence perpetrated by ZANU(PF) youth and war veteran groups that marked the election period in 2008 has now abated, but human rights issues are still of serious concern. Although the regulatory framework is improving, there are still restrictions on the ability of independent broadcast media to operate freely, and human rights defenders continue to be harassed, assaulted and sometimes prevented from holding peaceful demonstrations. Repressive legislation remains in place, limiting fundamental freedoms. Prison conditions are cause for serious concern, torture occurs and there is a general culture of impunity, whereby perpetrators of abuses are not prosecuted. The formation of the Inclusive Government has led to the release of political prisoners, although some remain on strict bail conditions, and the justice system remains opaque and corrupt. Violent farm invasions continue.

Human Rights Annual Report 2009 (http://centralcontent.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/human-rights-reports/human-rights-report-2009)

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Last Updated: March 2011

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