U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Zimbabwe, November 1995
Bureau of African Affairs
Prepared and released by the Bureau of African Affairs,
Office of Southern African Affairs
Official Name: Republic of Zimbabwe
Area: 390,580 sq. km. (150,760 sq. mi.), slightly larger than Montana.
Cities: Capital--Harare (Pronounced Ha-RAR-e), pop. 1.4 million.
Other Towns--Bulawayo (621,000), Chitungwiza (274,000), Mutare
(132,000), Gweru (125,000), Kwekwe (75,000), Masvingo (50,000),
Terrain: desert and savanna.
Climate: mostly subtropical.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Zimbabwean (sing.), Zimbabweans
Population (1991): 11.5 million.
Annual Growth Rate (1991): 3.1 percent (est.)
Ethnic Groups: Shona 71%, Ndebele 16%, other African 11%, white
1%, mixed and Asian 1%.
Religions: Christianity 75 percent, offshoot Christian sects, animist,
Languages: English (official), Shona, Sindebele.
Education: Attendance is mandatory for primary level. Adult literacy:
Health (1995): Infant mortality rate--96/1,000. Life expectancy--men:
40 (est.), women: 43 (est.)
Work force: 1.25 million in formal sector (est.).
Constitution: December 21, 1979.
Independence: April 18, 1980.
Branches: Executive--President (Chief of State and Head of
Government), Cabinet. Legislative--popularly elected House of
Assembly. Judicial--High court, Court of Appeal, local and customary
Administrative Subdivisions: Town Councils and District Councils.
Main Political Parties: Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic
Front) (ZANU-PF); ZANU-Ndonga;
Zimbabwe National Unity Movement (ZUM); Democratic Party (DP);
United African National Council (UANC); Conservative Alliance of
Flag: green, yellow, red, black with red, yellow and green horizontal
bands. On the left, the bird of Zimbabwe is superimposed on a five-
pointed red star centered on a triangular white field.
GDP (est. 1995): US$5,765 million.
Growth Rate (est. 1995, largely weather-dependent): 1.5 percent.
Per Capita GDP (est. 1995): US$508.
Average Inflation Rate: above 21%.
Natural Resources: deposits of over 40 minerals including ferrochrome,
gold, silver, platinum, copper, asbestos; 89 sq. km. of forest.
Agriculture (21 percent of GDP): Types of crops and livestock--corn,
cotton, tobacco, wheat, coffee, sugarcane, peanuts, cattle, sheep, goats,
Industry: Types--manufacturing (25 percent of GDP), public
administration (9 percent of GDP), commerce (9 percent of GDP),
mining (7 percent of GDP), transport and communication (6 percent of
Trade (est. 1995): Exports--US$1,980 million: mainly mineral and
agricultural commodities along with some apparel exports. Partners
(1995 est.)-- South Africa 22.1 percent, U.K. 10 percent, Germany 9
percent, U.S. 8 percent. Imports- US$1,886 million: Most of these
imports were construction and agricultural machinery, transportation
equipment, data processing equipment and software, industrial
machinery, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and general manufactured
products. Major Suppliers--South Africa 34 percent, U.K. 10.8 percent,
Germany 7.3 percent, U.S. 6 percent.
Economic Aid Received (actual 1995): US$257.25 million.
Total U.S. Aid Received: US$31.0 million primarily in health, drought,
food assistance, housing and privatization programs.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Primarily of the Bantu group of south and central Africa, the blacks are
divided into two major language groups, which are subdivided into
several ethnic groups. The Mashona (Shona speakers), who constitute
about 75 percent of the population, have lived in the area the longest
and are the majority language group. The Matabele (Sindebele
speakers), representing about 20 percent of the population and centered
in the southwest around Bulawayo, arrived in within the last 150 years.
An offshoot of the South African Zulu group, they maintained control
over the Mashona until the white occupation of Rhodesia in 1890.
More than half of the whites, primarily of English origin, arrived in
Zimbabwe after World War II. Afrikaners from South Africa and other
European minorities, including Portuguese from Mozambique, are also
present. Until the mid-1970's, there were about 1,000 white immigrants
per year, but from 1976 to 1985 a steady emigration resulted in a loss
of more than 150,000, leaving approximately 100,000 in 1992.
English, the official language, is spoken by the white population and
understood, if not always used, by more than half of the blacks.
The literacy rate is estimated at 70%. Primary and secondary schools
were segregated until 1979 when racial restrictions were removed.
Since independence, the educational system had been systematically
enlarged by the Zimbabwean Government which is committed to
providing free public education to all citizens on an equal basis. As of
the late 1970s, some 50 percent of the African children (5-19 years old)
were listed officially as attending rural schools. Today, most African
children attend primary school. Primary through post-secondary
enrollment has expanded from 1 million to about 2.9 million since
independence. About 40 percent of the rural primary schools were
destroyed during the Rhodesian conflict, which delayed improvement
of the rural education system. Higher education, offered at the
University of Zimbabwe in Harare, the new National University of
Science and Technology in Bulawayo, the new Africa (Methodist)
University in Mutare, several teacher-training colleges, and three
technical institutes, are being expanded with assistance from several
Archaeologists have found stone-age implements and pebble tools in
several areas of Zimbabwe, a suggestion of human habitation for many
centuries, and the ruins of stone buildings provide evidence of early
civilization. The most impressive of these sites is the "Great
Zimbabwe" ruins, after which the country is named, located near
Masvingo. Evidence suggests that these stone structures were built
between the 9th and 13th centuries A.D. by indigenous Africans who
had established trading contacts with commercial centers on Africa's
In the 16th century, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to attempt
colonization of south-central Africa, but the hinterland lay virtually
untouched by Europeans until the arrival of explorers, missionaries,
ivory hunters, and traders some 300 years later. Meanwhile, mass
migrations of indigenous peoples took place. Successive waves of more
highly developed Bantu peoples from equatorial regions supplanted the
original inhabitants and are the ancestors of the region's Africans today.
British Settlement And Administration
In 1888, Cecil Rhodes obtained a concession for mineral rights from
local chiefs. Later that year, the area that became Southern and
Northern Rhodesia was proclaimed a British sphere of influence. The
British South Africa Company was chartered in 1889, and the
settlement of Salisbury (now Harare, the capital) was established in
1890. In 1895, the territory was formally named Rhodesia after Cecil
Rhodes under the British South Africa Company's administration.
Following the abrogation of the company's charter in 1923, Southern
Rhodesia's white settlements were given the choice of being
incorporated into the Union of South Africa or becoming a separate
entity within the British Empire. The settlers rejected incorporation,
and Southern Rhodesia was formally annexed by the United Kingdom
that year. Until 1980, Rhodesia was an internally self-governing colony
with its own legislature, civil service, armed forces, and police.
Although Rhodesia was never administered directly from London, the
United Kingdom always retained the right to intervene in the affairs of
the colony, particularly in matters affecting Africans.
After 1923, European immigrants concentrated in developing
Rhodesia's rich mineral resources and agricultural potential. The
settlers' demand for more land led in 1934 to the passage of the first of
a series of land apportionment acts that reserved certain areas for
In September 1953, Southern Rhodesia was joined in a multiracial
Central African Federation with the British protectorate of Northern
Rhodesia and Nyasaland in an effort to pool resources and markets.
Although the federation flourished economically, it was opposed by the
African population who feared they would not be able to achieve self-
government with the federal structure dominated by White Southern
Rhodesians. The federation was dissolved at the end of 1963 after
much crisis and turmoil, and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland became
the independent states of Zambia and Malawi in 1964.
Unilateral Declaration Of Independence (UDI)
The European electorate in Rhodesia, however, showed little
willingness to accede to African demands for increased political
participation and progressively replaced more moderate party leaders.
In April 1964, Prime Minister Winston Field, accused of not moving
rapidly enough to obtain independence from the United Kingdom, was
replaced by his deputy, Ian Smith. Prime Minster Smith led his
Rhodesian Front Party to an overwhelming victory in the 1965
elections, winning all 50 of the first roll seats and demoralizing the
more moderate European opposition.
Although prepared to grant independence to Rhodesia, the United
Kingdom insisted that the authorities at Salisbury first demonstrate
their intention to move toward eventual majority rule. Desiring to keep
their dominant position, the white Rhodesians refused to give such
assurances. On November 11, 1965, after lengthy and unsuccessful
negotiations with the British Government, Prime Minister Smith issued
a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United
The British government considered the UDI unconstitutional and
illegal but made clear that it would not use force to the rebellion. On
November 12, 1965, the United Nations also determined the Rhodesian
government and UDI to be illegal and called on member states to
refrain from assisting or recognizing the Smith regime. The British
government imposed sanctions on Rhodesia and requested other
nations to do the same.
On December 16, 1966, the UN Security Council, for the first time in
this history, imposed mandatory economic sanctions on a state.
Rhodesia's primary exports including ferrochrome and tobacco, were
replaced on the selective sanctions list, as were shipments of arms,
aircraft, motor vehicles, petroleum, and petroleum products to
Rhodesia. On May 29, 1968, the Security Council unanimously voted
to broaden the sanctions by imposing an almost total embargo on all
trade with, investments in, or transfers of funds to Rhodesia and
imposed restrictions on air transport to the territory.
In the early 1970s, informal attempts at settlement were renewed
between the United Kingdom and the Rhodesian administration.
Following the April 1974 coup in Portugal and the resulting shifts of
power in Mozambique and Angola, pressure on the Smith regime to
negotiate a peaceful settlement began to increase. In addition, sporadic
antigovernment guerilla activity which began in the late 1960s,
increased dramatically after 1972, causing destruction, economic
dislocation, casualties, and a slump in white morale. In 1974, the major
African nationalists groups-- the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union
(ZAPU), and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which
split away from ZAPU in 1963--were united into the "Patriotic Front"
and combined their military forces, at least nominally.
In 1976, because of a combination of embargo-related economic
hardships, the pressure of guerilla activity, independence and majority
rule in the neighboring former Portuguese territories, and a UK-US
diplomatic initiative, the Smith government agreed in principle to
majority rule and to a meeting in Geneva with black nationalist leaders
to negotiate a final settlement of the conflict. Blacks represented at the
Geneva meeting included ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo, ZANU leader
Robert Mugabe, UANC chairman bishop Abel Muzorewa, and former
ZANU leader Rev. Nadabaningi Sithole. The meeting failed to find a
basis for agreement because of Smith's inflexibility and the inability of
the black leaders to form a common political front.
On September 1, 1977 a detailed Anglo-American plan was put
forward with proposals for majority rule, neutrally administered with
pre-independence elections, a democratic constitution and the
formation of an integrated army. Reactions were mixed, but no party
rejected them. In the interim, on March 3, 1978, the Smith
administration signed the "internal settlement" agreement in Salisbury
with Bishop Muzorewa, Rev. Sithole, and Chief Jeremiah Chirau. The
agreement provided for qualified majority rule and elections with
universal suffrage. Following elections in April 1979, in which his
UANC party won a majority, Bishop Muzorewa assumed office on
June 1, becoming "Zimbabwe-Rhodesia's" first black prime minister.
However, the installation of the new black majority government did not
end the guerilla conflict that had claimed more than 20,000 lives since
Shortly after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's conservative
government took power in May 1979, the British began a new round of
consultations that culminated in an agreement among the
Commonwealth countries as the basis for fresh negotiations among the
parties and the British involving a new constitution, free elections and
The British and the African parties began deliberations on a Rhodesian
settlement at Lancaster house in London on September 10, 1979. On
December 10, 1979, in preparation for the transition under British
authority to officially recognized independence, the "Zimbabwe-
Rhodesia" reverted de facto to colonial status. On December 12, British
Governor Lord Christopher Soames arrived in Salisbury to reassert
British authority over the colony. His arrival signaled the end of the
Rhodesian rebellion and the "internal settlement," as well as the
beginning of Zimbabwe's transition to independence. The United
Kingdom lifted all remaining sanctions against Zimbabwe that day.
The United States lifted sanctions effective December 16.
On December 21, after three months of hard bargaining, the parties
signed an agreement at Lancaster House calling for a ceasefire, new
elections, a transition period under British rule, and a new constitution
implementing majority rule while protecting minority rights. The
agreement specified that upon the granting of independence, the
country's name would be Zimbabwe. The same day, the U.N. Security
Council endorsed the settlement agreement and formally voted
unanimously to call on member nations to remove sanctions.
During the transitions period, nine political parties campaigned for the
February 27-29 pre-independence elections. The elections were
supervised by the British government and monitored by hundreds of
observers, most of whom concluded that, under the prevailing
circumstances, the elections were free and fair and reflected the will of
the people. Robert Mugabe's ZANU(PF) party won an absolute
majority and was asked to form Zimbabwe's first government.
In a series of public statements during the transition period, Prime
Minister Mugabe indicated that he was committed to a process of
national reconciliation and reconstruction as well as moderate
socioeconomic change. His priorities were to integrate the various
armed forces, reestablish social services and education in rural areas,
and resettle the estimated one million refugees and displaced persons.
Mugabe also announced that his government would begin investigating
ways of reversing past discriminatory policies in land distribution,
education, employment, and wages.
Mugabe stated that Zimbabwe would follow a non-aligned foreign
policy while seeking assistance from all actions and would pursue a
pragmatic relationship with South Africa. He noted that while
Zimbabwe opposed apartheid and would support democratic change in
South Africa, it would not provide bases for anti-South African
The British government formally granted independence to Zimbabwe
on April 18, 1980. Most nations recognized Zimbabwe following
independence. The United States was to first nation to open an embassy
in Salisbury on that day. Parliament convened for the first time on May
13, 1980. Zimbabwe became a member of the United Nations on
August 25, 1980.
In seeking national reconciliation, Prime Minister Mugabe's first
cabinet comprised members of ZANU-PF, PF-ZAPU, and independent
white members of parliament (MPs) and senators. The government
embarked on an ambitious reconstruction and development program
and instituted increases in minimum wages. Land redistribution
proceeded under four experimental models on land that the government
had purchased at market rates from willing sellers.
Zimbabwe Since Independence
Prime Minister Mugabe's policy of reconciliation was generally
successful during the country's first two years of independence, as the
former political and military opponents began to work together.
Although additional blacks were hired to fill new places in the civil
service, there was no retribution for those whites who had worked for
the Smith regime. Smith and many of his associates held seats in the
parliament where they participated freely in debates. Likewise, Joshua
Nkomo, Mugabe's rival as leader of the nationalist forces, was included
in the first cabinet along with several other members of PF-ZAPU.
Splits soon developed, however. In 1981, several MPs from Smith's
party left to sit as "independents," signifying that they did not
automatically accept his antigovernment posture. More importantly,
government security officials discovered large caches of arms and
ammunition on properties owned by ZAPU, and Nkomo and his
followers were accused of plotting to overthrow Mugabe's government.
Nkomo and his closest aides were expelled from the cabinet.
As a result of what they perceived as persecution of Nkomo (known as
"Father Zimbabwe") and of his party, PF-ZAPU supporters, some of
them deserters from the army, began a loosely organized and ill-
defined campaign of dissidence against the government. Centering
primarily in Matabeleland, home of the Ndebeles who were PF-ZAPU's
main followers, this dissidence continued through 1987 and involved
attacks on government personnel and installations, armed banditry
aimed at disrupting security and economic life in the rural areas, and
harassment of ZANU-PF members. Occasionally, some demanded the
Nkomo and his colleagues be reinstated in the cabinet. More
frequently, however, dissidents called for the return of farms and other
properties seized from PF-ZAPU.
Because of the unsettled security situation immediately after
independence and the continuing anti-government dissidence, the
government kept in force a "state of emergency," which was first
declared before UDI. This gave government authorities widespread
powers under the "Law and Order Maintenance Act," including the
right to detain persons without charge.
In 1983-84, the government declared a curfew in areas of Matabeleland
and sent in the army in an attempt to suppress dissidents. Credible
reports surfaced of widespread violence and disregard for human rights
by the security forces during these operations, and the level of political
tension rose in the country as a result. Nkomo and his lieutenants
repeatedly denied any connection with the dissidents and called for an
all-party conference to discuss the political problems facing the
country. In the 1985 elections, ZANU-PF increased its majority,
holding 67 of the 100 seats. ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU agreed to unite
in December 1987, and the parties formally merged in December 1989.
In October 1987, in accordance with the Lancaster House Accords, the
constitution was amended to end the separate roll for white voters and
to establish an executive presidency to replace the whites whose
reserved seats had been abolished; among the new members were 15
whites in the Senate and House of Assembly. Elections in March of
1990 resulted in another overwhelming victory for Mugabe and his
party, which won 117 of the 120 election seats. However, voter turnout
was only 54% and the campaign was not free and fair although the
actual balloting was. Not satisfied with a de facto one-party state,
Mugabe called the ZANU-PF Central Committee to support the
creation of a de jure one-party state in September 1990 and lost. The
state of emergency was lifted in July 1990. However, though control of
the media, the huge parastatal sector of the economy, and the security
forces, the government has managed to keep political opposition to
Since independence, Zimbabwe has enunciated and follows a policy of
"active nonalignment". In practice, this has meant that Zimbabwe
usually adheres to positions established by the non-aligned movement,
the organization of African Unity (OAU), or the commonwealth.
Zimbabwe took a particular interest in the search for independence for
Namibia (South-West Africa) from South Africa. In addition, as
chairman of the Front-line States in southern AFRICA, Zimbabwe has
spoken out vigorously against the policies of apartheid in South
African and frequently called for the imposition of economic sanctions
In November 1982, Zimbabwe was chosen by the OAU to hold one of
the nonpermanent seats in the U.N. Security Council for the following
two years, which brought it onto the center stage of world events and
gave it much needed experience in international affairs. In 1986,
Zimbabwe was the site of the Non-aligned Movement summit meeting;
Prime Minister Mugabe became chairman of that organization, giving
both Mugabe and Zimbabwe added international visibility and
Zimbabwe maintains embassies in the United States, United Kingdom,
Egypt, Angola, Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria, India, Sweden, France, China,
Malaysia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Swaziland, Belgium, Tanzania,
Botswana, the FRY, Mozambique, Switzerland, Cuba, Canada, Japan,
Australia, Germany, India, Italy, Russia, and South Africa. Sixty-six
countries are represented in Harare as are several international
organizations including U.N. institutions, the European Economic
Community, and the World Bank. Zimbabwe is a member of many
international organizations including the International Monetary Fund
(IMF); African Development Bank; the Commonwealth; Southern
African Development Community (SADC); Preferential trade Area for
Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA); African Caribbean and Pacific
Countries (ACP, in association with the EU); Group of 77 (G-77);
Group of 15 (G-15); Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); Organization of
African Unity (OAU); Customs Cooperation Council (CCC); and the
World Federation of Trade Unions.
According to Zimbabwe's constitution, the president is head of state
and ahead of government elected for a 6-year term by popular majority
Parliament consists of the House of Assembly and has up to a 5-year
life span. The House of Assembly has 120 members elected by the
common-roll electorate, eight governors, 10 chiefs, 12 presidential
appointees, the Speaker and the Attorney General.
The Zimbabwean constitution institutionalizes majority rule and
protection of minority rights. The elected government controls senior
appointments in the public service, including the military and police,
and insures that appointments at lower levels are made on an equitable
basis by the independent Public Service Commission.
The judiciary is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme court who
like the other justices is appointed by the President on the advice of the
Judicial Service Commission. The constitution has a bill of rights
containing extensive protection of human rights. The bill of rights
could not be amended for the first ten years of independence except by
unanimous vote of the House of Assembly.
Zimbabwe is divided into eight provinces, each administered by a
provincial governor appointed by the president. The provincial
governor is assisted by the provincial administrator and representatives
of several service ministries.
Zimbabwe is governed by President Robert Mugabe and his
Zimbabwean African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF),
which has dominated the legislative and executive branches since
independence in 1980. The ruling party effectively controls 148 of the
150 seats in Parliament. The Constitution allows for multiple parties
and there are a number of small, poorly funded and generally poorly
organized opposition parties. The two most significant opposition
parties-- the Forum Party of Zimbabwe (FPZ), led by former Chief
Justice Enoch Dumbutshena, and the United Parties, led by former
Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa--both advocate
strong protection for the Constitutional Bill of Rights and the
independence of the judiciary.
Support for ZANU-NDONGA, the only opposition party represented in
Parliament (2 seats) is based primarily on regional and tribal loyalties
rather than ideology. All three parties bill themselves as pro-business
and are highly critical of the Government of Zimbabwe's early socialist
policies. Only one party, the Front for Popular Democracy, headed by
UK-based Professor Austin Chakaodza, advocates the scrapping of the
Economic Structural Adjustment Program.
Principal Government Officials
Vice Presidents--Simon Muzenda and Joshua Nkomo
Foreign Minister--Stanislus Mudenge
Ambassador to the U.S.--A.B. Midzi
Zimbabwe maintains an embassy in the United States at 1608 New
Hampshire Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009 (tel. 202-332-7100).
A Zimbabwean mission to the United Nations is located at 19 East 47th
St., New York, New York.
Properly managed, Zimbabwe's wide range of resources should enable
it to support sustained economic growth. The country has an important
percentage of the world's known reserves of metallurgical-grade
chromite. Other commercial mineral deposits include coal, asbestos,
copper, nickel, gold and iron ore.
Zimbabwe has adequate internal transportation and electrical power
networks. Paved roads link the major urban and industrial centers, and
rail lines tie it into an extensive central African railroad network with
all its neighbors. In non-drought years, it has adequate electrical power,
mainly generated by the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River but
augmented since 1983 by large thermal plants adjacent to the Wankie
coal field. Telephone service is problematic, and new lines are difficult
The manufacturing sector, already well developed before UDI in 1965,
was given a major stimulus by the imposition of U.N. sanctions. The
sanctions obliged Rhodesian industry to diversify and create many
import-substitution undertakings to compensate for loss of traditional
sources of imports. Rhodesian processing of local raw materials also
grew rapidly. Major growth industries include steel and steel products,
heavy equipment, transportation equipment, ferrochrome, textiles, and
Agriculture is the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy. Corn is the
largest crop. Tobacco is the largest export crop followed by cotton.
In the early 1970's, the economy experienced a modest boom. Real per
capita earnings for blacks and whites reached record highs, although
the disparity in incomes between blacks and whites remained, with
blacks earning only about one-tenth as much as whites. After 1975,
however, Rhodesia's economy was undermined by the cumulative
effects of sanctions, declining earnings from commodity exports,
worsening guerilla conflict, and increasing white emigration. When
Mozambique severed economic ties, the Smith regime was forced to
depend on South Africa for access to the outside world. Real gross
domestic product (GDP) declined between 1974 and 1979. An
increasing proportion of the national budget (an estimated 30%-40%
per year) was allocated to defense, and a large budget deficit raised the
public debt burden substantially.
Following the Lancaster House settlement in December 1979,
Zimbabwe enjoyed a brisk economic recovery. REAL growth for
1980-81 exceeded 20%. However, depressed foreign demand for the
country's mineral exports and the onset of a drought cut sharply into
the growth rate in 1982, 1983, and 1984. In 1985, the economy
rebounded strongly due to a 30% jump in agricultural production.
However it slumped in 1986 to a zero growth rate and registered
negative of about minus 3% in 1987 due primarily to drought and
foreign-exchange crisis faced by the country. Growth in 1988-90
averaged about 4.5%.
Paragraph on economic reform program began in 1991. Its features,
results, and any new data/paragraphs that should be added to this
With considerable hydroelectric power and plentiful coal deposits for
thermal power station, Zimbabwe is less dependent on oil as an energy
source than most other comparably industrialized countries. Only about
15% of Zimbabwe's total energy consumption is accounted for by oil,
all of which is imported. Zimbabwe imports about 1.2 billion liters per
year. Dependence on petroleum is managed through the price controls
for vehicle fuels, the use of gasohol, and the substitution of diesel-
electric locomotives on the railway system. Zimbabwe also has
substantial coal reserves that are utilized for power generation, and
recently discovered in Matabeleland province are coalbed methane
deposits greater than any know natural gas field in Southern or Eastern
At independence, then Prime Minster Mugabe declared that integrating
Zimbabwe's then three armed forces would be one of Zimbabwe's top
priorities. The existing Rhodesian forces were combined with the two
guerilla armies--the 20,000-strong ZANLA forces of ZANU-PF and
the 15,000-strong ZIPRA forces of PF-ZAPU. Currently the armed
forces of Zimbabwe are completely integrated and are composed of an
army (ZNA) and an air force (AFZ). The ZNA currently has an active
duty strength of 37,000. The air force has about 5,000 men assigned. In
July of 1994 the combined Zimbabwe Defense Forces Headquarters
was created. Major military suppliers include the United Kingdom, the
Peoples Republic of China, and the Democratic Peoples Republic of
Korea. Several foreign countries including the United States, the
United Kingdom, Pakistan, North Korea, and China have provided
training for the Zimbabwean military. Currently about 12 ZNA/AFZ
personnel receive training in the U.S. each year.
After the Universal Declaration of Independence was issued in
November 1965, the United States recalled its Consul General from
Salisbury, closed the U.S. Information Service (USIS) library, and
withdrew its Agency for International Development (AID) and trade
promotion officials. After 1965, the small remaining American
consular staff continued to operate under authority of exequaturs issued
by Queen Elizabeth II. Following declaration of a republic, the United
States closed its Consulate General on March 17, 1970.
In 1971, despite Administration opposition, the US Congress passed
legislation permitting the United States to import strategic materials,
such as chrome, from Rhodesia. The legislation, which took effect
January 1, 1972, was of little real economic benefit to the Rhodesian
economy, and the United States continued to support the balance of the
sanctions program. After the legislation was repealed in March 1977,
the United States once again enforced all sanctions.
The United States supported the United Nations and the United
Kingdom consistently in their efforts to influence Rhodesian authorities
to accept the principles of majority rule. Beginning in 1976, the United
States began to take a more active role in the search for a settlement in
cooperation with the British. The Anglo-American proposals of late
1977, aimed at bringing a negotiated end to the dispute, lent the weight
of the United States to the search for a peaceful settlement and were a
counterpart to the Soviet-Cuban use of military power to increase their
influence in southern Africa. The United States supported British
efforts to bring about and implement the settlement signed at Lancaster
House on December 21, 1979.
At the Zimbabwe conference on reconstruction and development
(ZIMCORD) in March 1981, the United States pledged $225 million
over a 3-year period toward the government's goals of postwar
reconstruction, distribution and development of land, and the
development of skilled manpower. By the end of FY-1986, the United
States had contributed $380 million, the majority in grants, with some
loans and loan guarantees. However, in July 1986, the U.S. government
decided to discontinue future bilateral aid to Zimbabwe as a result of a
continuing pattern of uncivil and undiplomatic statements and actions
by the government of Zimbabwe. These actions included statements in
the United Nations and elsewhere that were unacceptably offensive.
Aid programs previously agreed upon were not affected by the
decision, nor were regional development programs that might benefit
Zimbabwe. Full programming was restored in 1988.
President Mugabe has made several visits to the United States. In 1980,
1984, 1986, 1990, and 1995 he visited the United States after attending
sessions of the UN general assembly; in 1983 and 1991, he made
official working visits to Washington where he met with Presidents
Reagan and Bush and other senior U.S. officials. In November 1982,
then Vice President Bush made an official visit to Zimbabwe as part of
his African tour.
Bilateral relations have greatly improved since 1990. The U.S. and
Zimbabwe worked very closely together throughout the gulf crisis.
Cooperation and coordination in the UN Security Council has been
Principal U.S. officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--James Carragher
USAID Mission Director--Peter Benedict
Public Affairs Officer--Lucy Hall
Peace Corps Director--David Bellama
Defense Attache--Col. Grant Hayes
Offices of the US Mission:
US Embassy (Chancery)--
172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare
US Agency for International Development--
1 Pascoe Avenue Belgravia, Harare
US Information Service--
Century House East, Baker Avenue, Harare
Customs: Zimbabwe permits U.S. citizens to enter without a visa. Be
prepared to show tickets for onward travel and sufficient funds for stay.
All cash must be declared upon entry. Travelers planning to use
overland transport should check with the Department of State or the
nearest U.S. Consular Office, since areas of eastern Zimbabwe are
considered unsafe for travel by Americans.
Climate and clothing: light, summer apparel is appropriate from
October to May. Fall or spring clothing is suitable the rest of the year.
Health: tap water is safe in all urban areas but not in rural regions.
Medical facilities are good in the cities, adequate in rural areas.
Telecommunications: telephone and telegraph service is available in
most of the country. Zimbabwe is seven times zones ahead of eastern
Transportation: Harare is linked by air service to Johannesburg,
Nairobi, Lagos, London, Athens,. Frankfurt, Lisbon, Perth, and other
major cities. Zimbabwe is the railroad hub of much of southern Africa,
although passenger service is limited. Taxis and rental cars are
available and inexpensive in the cities. Zimbabwe has an excellent road
system. Traffic moves on the left.
Tourist attractions: Zimbabwe has varied scenery and a pleasant
climate. Popular tourist attractions are the renowned Victoria Falls in
the west, the eastern highlands, and the "Great Zimbabwe" ruins near
Masvingo. Several national and game parks have abundant wildlife; the
Hwange park is larger that Connecticut and is home to several
thousand elephants and innumerable small game. Hunting and
photographic safaris are available on private game reserves, and the
Zambezi River system offers some the finest canoeing, white water
rafting, and sport fishing in Africa.
National Holidays: Establishments including the U.S. embassy are
closed on the following holidays.
New Years Day--January 1
Good Friday through Easter Monday--dates vary
Independence Day--April 18
Workers Day--May 1
Africa Day--April 25
Heroes Day--August 11
Defense Forces Day--August 12
Christmas Day--December 25
Boxing Day--December 26
DEPARTMENT OF STATE'S WORLD WIDE WEB SITE
The most current Background Notes information
can be found on the Department of State's
World Wide Web site at http://www.state.gov
Return to Africa Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage