Formerly the British Crown colony of Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe’s earliest inhabitants are traced back to the 5th century.
In the 1900’s it evolved into a “white man’s country” orchestrated by the British, with almost 300,000 resident Europeans within its borders.
This takeover of sorts prompted national pride and local guerrilla wars that soon became a major civil war, one that eventually began the change to a black-majority rule and its independence from the United Kingdom in 1980. Once it gained its freedom, it called itself Zimbabwe, a name meaning “house of the chief.”
Since Independence Day, Robert Mugabe, the nation’s first prime minister, has dominated the country’s political system. At the start of his administration he established a one-party socialist institution.
During his long term in office, his reputation as a champion of the anticolonial movement has changed (for the worse) to an authoritarian ruler responsible for ruining the country’s economy and for egregious human rights abuses.
In the March 2008 elections, Mugabe was defeated by Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe, however, refused to step down, saying the vote count was incomplete. When results were finally released, Tsvangirai had the majority of the votes, but not the required 50%, causing a runoff election.
In the runoff in June, Mugabe was elected to a sixth term. However, the opposition party elected Lovemore Moyo to the post of speaker of Parliament – the first time a member of the opposition held the post since 1980. Due to opposition’s win, Mugabe and Tsvangirai have agreed to a power-sharing deal where they will share executive authority. Tsvangirai will serve as prime minister and Mugabe will continue as president.
In 2008, a major cholera outbreak killed over 500 and infected over 12,000. The inflation had increased by 7,000% since 2007, unemployment was 80% and the dollar was basically worthless.
However, the platinum mining sector is lucrative along with other mineral exports and tourism is growing, adding to the earning capabilities of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is currently the biggest trading partner of South Africa.
- Official Name Republic of Zimbabwe
- Population 12,462,879
- Capital City Harare (pop. 1,600,000)
- Currency Zimbabwean Dollar (ZWD)
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- Languages English (official), Shona, Sindebele, and numerous tribal dialects
- National Day April 18
- Religions Syncretic (50%), Christian (25%), others
- Country Dialing Code 263
- Electricity Zimbabwe uses 220 volts AC (50 Hz)
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- Land Area 390,624 sq km (150,820 sq miles)
- Coastline 0 (landlocked)
- Highest Point Inyangani – 8,503 ft. (2,592 m)
- Lowest Point Intersection of the Runde and Save Rivers – 531 ft. (162m)
- Land Divisions 8 provinces and 2 cities with provincial status, provinces include: Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands. Provincial cites include: Bulawayo and Harare.