The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the former 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. MUGABE in 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. Movement for Democratic Change - Tsvangirai opposition leader Morgan TSVANGIRAI won the most votes in the presidential poll, but not enough to win outright. In the lead up to a run-off election in June 2008, considerable violence 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 election, Zimbabwe enacted a new constitution by referendum, although many provisions in the new constitution have yet to be codified in law.
Location: Southern Africa, between South Africa and Zambia
Border Countries: Botswana 834 km, Mozambique 1,402 km, South Africa 230 km, Zambia 763 km
Total Area: 390,757 sq km Land:386,847 sq km Water: 3,910 sq km
Climate: Tropical; moderated by altitude; rainy season (November to March)
Terrain: Mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high veld); mountains in east
Natural resources: Coal, chromium ore, asbestos, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, vanadium, lithium, tin, platinum group metals
Land use: Agricultural land: 42.5% arable land 10.9%; permanent crops 0.3%; permanent pasture 31.3%Forest: 39.5% Other: 18% (2011 est.)
Ethnic groups: African 99.4% (predominantly Shona; Ndebele is the second largest ethnic group), Other 0.4%, Unspecified 0.2% (2012 est.)
Languages: 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)
Religions: 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% (2011 est.)
Literacy: 86.5%; Male: 88.5%; Female: 84.6% (2015 est.)
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
Economy: 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 the period 2010-13, before falling below 3% in the period 2014-17, due to poor harvests, low diamond revenues, and decreased investment. Lower mineral prices, 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. Adoption of a multi-currency basket in early 2009 - which allowed currencies such as the Botswana pula, the South Africa rand, and the US dollar to be used locally - reduced inflation below 10% per year. 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, though transactions were predominantly carried out in US dollars and South African rand until 2016, when the rand’s devaluation and instability led to near-exclusive use of the US dollar. The government in November 2016 began releasing bond notes, a parallel currency legal only in Zimbabwe which the government claims will have a one-to-one exchange ratio with the US dollar, to ease cash shortages. Bond notes began trading at a discount of up to 10% in the black market by the end of 2016. Zimbabwe’s government entered a second Staff Monitored Program with the IMF in 2014 and undertook other measures to reengage with international financial institutions. Zimbabwe repaid roughly $108 million in arrears to the IMF in October 2016, but financial observers note that Zimbabwe is unlikely to gain new financing because the government has not disclosed how it plans to repay more than $1.7 billion in arrears to the World Bank and African Development Bank. International financial institutions want Zimbabwe to implement significant fiscal and structural reforms before granting new loans. Foreign and domestic investment continues to be hindered by the lack of land tenure and titling, the inability to repatriate dividends to investors overseas, and the lack of clarity regarding the government’s Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act.
Agriculture - products: Tobacco, corn, cotton, wheat, coffee, sugarcane, peanuts; sheep, goats, pigs
Industries: 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