USD and South African Rand; 1 ZAR = .09 USD
Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, and Harare (suburbs)
Syncretic (Part Christian and African) 50%, Christian 25%, African 24%, Muslim and other 1%
Head Of State
Robert Gabriel Mugabe (since 1987)
Type of Government
Date of Independence
April 18, 1980
Platinum, Cotton, Gold, Tobacco, Ferroalloys, Clothing
Khoisan artifacts found in Zimbabwe indicate that the region was inhabited for thousands of years before the arrival of Bantu-speaking migrants in the early 1st millennium CE. The country derives its name from the “Great Zimbabwe” stone ruins, constructed by indigenous ancestors of the Shona peoples between the 11th and 14th centuries. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore inland territories of what is now Zimbabwe in the 16th century, but never visited Great Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s colonial history began in 1888, when Cecil John Rhodes’ British South Africa Company obtained mining rights in present-day Zambia and Zimbabwe. European settlers began displacing indigenous peoples, including the Shona and Ndebele, who unsuccessfully rebelled against British rule in the 1890s. In 1923, the territory known as Southern Rhodesia was declared a self-governing British colony. Britain consolidated its colonies into the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953. The federation was dissolved a decade later, although Rhodesia remained under British control.
In 1965, Prime Minister Ian Smith of the Rhodesian Front (RF) declared independence under white-minority rule, instigating years of civil war between the government and African nationalist groups. The two major nationalist groups, Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), joined forces and formed the Patriotic Front in the 1970s. In 1979, the British mediated a peace agreement and a new constitution guaranteeing minority rights. The international community formally recognized Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Mugabe was elected prime minister, and assumed the role of Zimbabwe’s first president in 1987. He has been re-elected since that year despite allegations of election fraud, and the country descended into a single-party dictatorship plagued by corrupt distribution of farmland and rampant inflation. Nearly 70% of the population lives in poverty as Mugabe remains in power, although the economy began to improve in 2010.
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/).
Richard Brown and Christopher Saunders, “Zimbabwe: Recent History,” Africa South of the Sahara (2008).
Zimbabwe Government Online, “History of Zimbabwe” (http://www.zim.gov.zw/index.php/zimbabwe-in-brief/history-of-zimbabwe).