The Republic of Zimbabwe is a 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 west, Zambia to the north and Mozambique to the east.
Main article: History of Zimbabwe
Iron Age Bantu-speaking peoples began migrating into the area about 2,000 years ago, including the ancestors of the Shona, who account for roughly four fifths of the country's population today. Ruins at Great Zimbabwe, a Shona-speaking state, attest the existence of a medieval Bantu civilization in the region. Linked to the establishment of trade ties with Muslim merchants on the Indian Ocean coast around the early 10th century, Great Zimbabwe began to develop in the 11th century. The state traded gold, ivory, and copper for cloth and glass. It ceased to be the leading Shona state in the mid-15th century.
As of 1837 the Shona were frequently raided by the Ndebele, led by king Mzilikazi who was fleeing Shaka and his Zulu during the Mfecane, and forced them to pay tribute. Later in the 19th century British and Boer traders, hunters, and missionaries started encroaching on the area.
In 1888 British imperialist Cecil Rhodes extracted mining rights from king Lobengula of the Ndebele. In 1889 Rhodes obtained a charter for the British South Africa Company, which conquered the Ndebele and their territory (named "Rhodesia" in 1895 after Cecil Rhodes) and promoted the colonization of the region and its land, labor, and precious metal and mineral resources. Both the Ndebele and the Shona staged unsuccessful revolts against white colonialist encroachment on their native lands in 1896-1897.
Southern Rhodesia was adminstered by Rhodes' BSAC before becoming a self-governing British colony in 1922. In 1953 the two parts of Rhodesia were united, and combined with Nyasaland, modern day Malawi in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and after its dissolution in 1963 the whites demanded independence from Southern Rhodesia (Rhodesia from 1964).
As African majority governments were assuming control in neighboring Northern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland, the white-minority government, led by Ian Smith, declared unilateral independence on November 11, 1965. The United Kingdom called the declaration an act of rebellion but did not reestablish control by force. When negotiations in 1966 and 1968 proved fruitless, the UK requested UN economic sanctions against Rhodesia. The white-minority regime declared itself a republic in 1970. It was not recognized by the UK or by any other nation.
As guerrilla activities fighting minority rule intensified, the Smith regime opened negotiations with the leaders of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), led by Robert Mugabe after the assassination of Herbert Chitepo in Zambia in 1975, and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo. With his regime near the brink of collapse, Smith in March 1978 signed a desperate accord with three black leaders who offered safeguards for whites headed by Bishop Abel Muzorewa.
Muzorewa, who not only had the support of Smith but with the white-minority regime in South Africa as well, lacked credibility among significant sectors of the African population. The Muzorewa government soon faltered. In 1979 the British Government asked all parties to come to Lancaster House in an attempt to negotiate a settlement in the civil war.
Following the conference, held in London (1979-1980), Britain's Lord Soames was appointed governor to oversee the disarming of revolutionary guerrillas, the holding of elections, and the granting of independence to an uneasy coalition government with Joshua Nkomo, head of Zimbabwe African People's Union. In the free elections of February 1980, Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) won a landslide victory. Mugabe has won reelection ever since.
In 1982 Nkomo was ousted from his cabinet, sparking fighting (known as the Gukurahundi) between ZAPU supporters in the southern Ndebele-speaking region of the country and the ruling ZANU. The fighting was marked by a genocide of the Ndebele people by ZANU's infamous Fifth Brigade, headed by Colonel Perence Shiri. Ultimately, Nkomo had no choice but to sign a peace accord in 1987, resulting in ZAPU's merger (1988) into the ZANU Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
The drought in southern Africa, perhaps the worst of the century, affected Zimbabwe so severely that a national disaster was declared in 1992. The drought compounded the country's debt crisis, and the ensuing IMF-backed economic adjustment and austerity program caused further widespread hardship.
Despite majority rule, whites made up less than 1% of the population but held 70% of the country's commercially viable arable land. Land redistribution reemerged as the vital issue beginning in 1999.
In the aftermath of Mugabe's handling of the land crisis, which moved to redistribute land to blacks, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations on charges of human rights abuses and of election tampering in 2002. Later, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth.
The UN has recently estimated that 34% of the population has HIV/AIDS, probably the highest in the world, compared to about 0.65% averge in the world.
Main article: Politics of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a republic, with an executive president and a unicameral parliament, known as the House of Assembly. Robert Mugabe, elected Prime Minister in 1980, revised the constitution in 1987 to make himself President, and in 1990 to abolish the Senate. Mugabe and his party have won every election since coming to power. Presidential elections were last held in 2002 amid allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation, and fraud. The next Presidential elections are to be held 2008. The major opposition Party is the Movement for Democratic Change.
The 2005 Zimbabwe parliamentary elections were held on March 31. Evidence of widespread rigging is surfacing already and the Archbishop Pius Ncube has called for a peaceful, Orange revolution-like uprising.
Zimbabwe had a literacy rate of 90% in 2000, the highest in Africa. Zimbabwe had a Adult literacy rate (Percentage of persons aged 15 and over who can read and write), male of 93% (2000). Comparison with other SADC countries in 2004 is as follows: Zimbabwe, 90%, South Africa, 86%, Zambia, 79.9%, Swaziland, 80.9%, Namibia, 83.3%, Lesotho, 81.4%, Botswana, 78.9%, Tanzania, 77.1%, Malawi, 61.8%, Mozambique, 46.5%.
This is due to the support of various partners. Despite the suspension of lending, the technical relationship with the World Bank remains strong in social protection, resulting in its assistance in a major redesign of the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare (MPSLSW), (together with the National Aids Council) targeted school-fee waiver program, the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), which relies on geographic and community-based structures to identify the most needy students.   
Main article: Provinces of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is divided into 8 provinces and 2 cities with provincial status: Bulawayo (city), Harare (city), Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, and Midlands.
Main article: Geography of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a land-locked country, surrounded by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. The northwestern border is defined by the Zambezi River. Victoria Falls, the world's largest waterfall, is a popular tourist destination on the Zambezi.
Main article: Economy of Zimbabwe
The government of Zimbabwe faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems as it struggles to consolidate earlier progress in developing a market-oriented economy. Its involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. Badly needed support from the IMF suffers delays in part because of the country's failure to meet budgetary goals. Inflation rose from an annual rate of 32% in 1998 to 59% in 1999 and to 600% in 2003. The economy is being steadily weakened by AIDS; Zimbabwe has the highest rate of infection in the world which is a major problem for the country.
The destruction of much of Zimbabwe's agricultural base through the seizing of mainly white-owned farms throughout 1999 and 2000 has ruined the Zimbabwean economy. Many of the dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers moved to neighboring southern African countries. The political situation makes it unlikely that the West will be inclined to do much more than provide humanitarian assistance.
The lack of foreign currency , as well as the difference between the official exchange rate (officially 5300 to the US$, while 7500 to the dollar is available on the black market) have resulted in fuel shortages and a lack of basic supplies. In 2003 Libya supplied fuel, partially in exchange for land, but Zimbabwe could not meet the basic payments, and supplies stopped.
In 2004 a system of auctioning scarce foreign currency for importers was introduced, bringing more rationality to exchange rates.
Main article: Demographics of Zimbabwe
Main article: Culture of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe celebrates its national holiday on April 18.
Last updated: 10-20-2005 16:55:04