Official Name: Republic of Zimbabwe
Capital City: Harare
Official Currency: Zimbabwean dollar
Official Language: English, Shona, Ndebele
Population: 12 746 990; density: 32/km2
Religions: Christians- 50%; Ìuslims and others
Land Area: 390 580 km2
Borders: Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the continent of Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east.
Zimbabwe -- History --
Present-day Zimbabwe was the site of a large and complex African civilization in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was populated by descendants of the Bantu tribes, who had migrated from the north around the 10th century. Mainly pastoral, evidence of their lifestyle may be seen in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, near the present-day town of Masvingo.
The first contact with Europeans was with the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century. Relations between the two were fairly stable – the Portuguese were largely concerned with ensuring communications between their colonies in Angola and Mozambique on either side of Zimbabwe – until the 1830s, when the region was thrown into upheaval by the northward migration of the Ndebele people from South Africa. The Ndebele, who espoused a Zulu warrior tradition, effectively enslaved the indigenous Shona people until the end of the century.
At this point, a new aggressive breed of colonists arrived in the form of British mining interests led by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC). The BSAC took control of the country – which they called ‘Southern Rhodesia’ – until 1923, when it became, nominally, a British colony. This followed a referendum (for whites only) on joining the Union of South Africa. Despite attractive terms from South African leader Jan Smuts, there was a heavy vote against the merger. From 1953–63, Southern Rhodesia formed part of the Central African Federation with neighboring Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi). In 1965, to resist decolonization, the settlers – with South African support – issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). This triggered a bitter civil war between the white minority government and fighters for African independence, ending only in 1980, with the granting of independence and the holding of a general election under British auspices, which was won decisively by Robert Mugabe’s ZANU party.
Zimbabwe -- Economy --
Mineral exports, agriculture, and tourism are the main foreign currency earners of Zimbabwe. The mining sector remains very lucrative, with some of the world's largest platinum reserves being mined by Anglo-American and Impala Platinum. Zimbabwe is the biggest trading partner of South Africa on the continent. Zimbabwe maintained positive economic growth throughout the 1980s (5.0% GDP growth per year) and 1990s (4.3% GDP growth per year). However, the economy declined from 2000: 5% decline in 2000, 8% in 2001, 12% in 2002 and 18% in 2003. The government of Zimbabwe faces a variety of economic problems after having abandoned earlier efforts to develop a market-oriented economy. Problems include a shortage of foreign exchange, soaring inflation, and supply shortages. Zimbabwe's involvement from 1998 to 2002 in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. The downward spiral of the economy has been attributed mainly to mismanagement and corruption of the Mugabe regime and the eviction of more than 4,000 white farmers in the controversial land redistribution of 2000. This has also resulted in Zimbabwe, previously an exporter of maize, becoming a net importer. Tobacco exports have also declined sharply. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force released a report in June 2007, estimating 60% of Zimbabwe's wildlife has died since 2000. The report warns that the loss of life combined with widespread deforestation is potentially disastrous for the tourist industry. Inflation rose from an annual rate of 32% in 1998, to an IMF estimate of 150,000% in December 2007, and to an official estimated high of 231,000,000% in July 2008 according to the country's Central Statistical Office. This represented a state of hyperinflation, and the central bank introduced a new 100 billion dollar note. As of November 2008, unofficial figures put Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate at 516 quintillion per cent, with prices doubling every 1.3 days. Zimbabwe's inflation crisis is now (2009) the second worst inflation spike in history, behind the hyperinflationary crisis of Hungary in 1946, in which prices doubled every 15.6 hours. By 2005, the purchasing power of the average Zimbabwean had dropped to the same levels in real terms as 1953. Local residents have largely resorted to buying essentials from neighbouring Botswana, South Africa and Zambia. In January, 2009, Zimbabwe introduced a new Z$100 trillion banknote. On January 29, in an effort to counteract his country's runaway inflation, acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that Zimbabweans will be permitted to use other, more stable currencies (e.g. the Euro, South African Rand and the United States Dollar) to do business, alongside the Zimbabwe dollar.
Zimbabwe -- Culture --
Zimbabwe has many different cultures which may include beliefs and ceremonies, one of them being Shona. Zimbabwe's largest ethnic group is Shona. The Shona people have many sculptures and carvings of gods (idols) which are made with the finest materials available. Traditional arts in Zimbabwe include pottery, basketry, textiles, jewelry and carving. Among the distinctive qualities are symmetrically patterned woven baskets and stools carved out of a single piece of wood. Shona sculpture has become world famous in recent years having first emerged in the 1940s. Most subjects of carved figures of stylised birds and human figures among others are made with sedimentary rocks such as soapstone, as well as harder igneous rocks such as serpentine and the rare stone verdite. Shona sculpture in essence has been a fusion of African folklore with European influences. World renowned Zimbabwean sculptors include Nicholas, Nesbert and Anderson Mukomberanwa, Tapfuma Gutsa, Henry Muyradzi and Locardia Ndandarika. Internationally, Zimbabwean sculptors have managed to influence a new generation of artists, particularly Black Americans, through lengthy apprenticeships with master sculptors in Zimbabwe. Contemporary artists like New York sculptor M. Scott Johnson and California sculptor Russel Albans have learned to fuse both African and Afro-diasporic aesthetics in a way that travels beyond the simplistic mimicry of African Art by some Black artists of past generations in the U.S. Several authors are well known within Zimbabwe and abroad. Charles Mungoshi is renowned in Zimbabwe for writing traditional stories in English and in Shona and his poems and books have sold well with both the black and white communities. Catherine Buckle has achieved international recognition with her two books African Tears and Beyond Tears which tell of the ordeal she went through under the 2000 Land Reform. Prime Minister of Rhodesia, the late Ian Smith, has also written two books — The Great Betrayal and Bitter Harvest. The book The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera won an award in the UK in 1979 and the Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing's first novel The Grass Is Singing is set in Rhodesia.
Zimbabwe -- Political system, law and government --
Zimbabwe is a semi-presidential system republic, which has a parliamentary government.
Under the terms of the 1980 constitution, executive power is formally vested in the president, consulted by a prime minister, who, in reality, wields most power. He, in turn, is advised by a cabinet, which is responsible to the bicameral parliament, which wields all legislative authority. This consists of a House of Assembly, with 150 members, of whom 120 are elected by universal adult suffrage, 12 are nominated by the president, 10 are traditional chiefs and eight are provincial governors. The legal system is a mixture of Roman-Dutch and English common law. Zimbabwe is divided into 8 provinces and 2 cities with provincial status.