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Zimbabwe, officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in southern 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. The capital is Harare. Zimbabwe achieved independence from the United Kingdom in April 1980.

Population
 Zimbabwe’s total population is 12.97 million. Bantu-speaking ethnic groups make up 98% of the population. The majority people, the Shona, comprise 70%. The Ndebele are the second most populous with 20% of the population. The Ndebele descended from Zulu migrations in the 19th century and the other tribes with which they intermarried. Up to one million Ndebele may have left the country over the last five years, mainly for South Africa. Other Bantu ethnic groups make up the third largest with 2 to 5%. These are Venda, Tonga, Shangaan, Kalanga, Sotho, Ndau and Nambya.
History

Proto-Shona speaking societies first emerged in the middle Limpopo valley in the 9th century before moving on to the Zimbabwean highlands. The Zimbabwean plateau eventually became the centre of subsequent Shona states, beginning around the 10th century. Around the early 10th century, trade developed with Arab merchants on the Indian Ocean coast, helping to develop the Kingdom of Mapungubwe in the 11th century. This was the precursor to the more impressive Shona civilisations that would dominate the region during the 13th to 15th centuries, evidenced by ruins at Great Zimbabwe, near Masvingo, and other smaller sites. The main archaeological site uses a unique dry stone architecture.

The Kingdom of Mapungubwe was the first in a series of sophisticated trade states developed in Zimbabwe by the time of the first European explorers from Portugal. They traded in gold, ivory and copper for cloth and glass.

From about 1300 until 1600, Mapungubwe was eclipsed by the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. This Shona state further refined and expanded upon Mapungubwe’s stone architecture, which survives to this day at the ruins of the kingdom’s capital of Great Zimbabwe. From c. 1450–1760, Zimbabwe gave way to the Kingdom of Mutapa. This Shona state ruled much of the area that is known as Zimbabwe today, and parts of central Mozambique. It is known by many names including the Mutapa Empire, also known as Mwene Mutapa or Monomotapa as well as “Munhumutapa,” and was renowned for its stategic trade routes with the Arabs and Portugal. Eventually, however, the Portuguese sought to monopolise this influence and began a series of wars which left the empire in near collapse in the early 17th century.

As a direct response to increased European presence in the interior, a new Shona state emerged, known as the Rozwi Empire. Relying on centuries of military, political and religious development, the Rozwi (meaning “destroyers”) expelled the Portuguese from the Zimbabwean plateau by force of arms. They continued the stone building traditions of the Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe kingdoms while adding muskets to their arsenal and recruiting a professional army to defend recent conquests.

Around 1821, the Zulu general Mzilikazi of the Khumalo clan successfully rebelled against King Shaka and created his own clan, the Ndebele. The Ndebele fought their way northwards into the Transvaal, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and beginning an era of widespread devastation known as the Mfecane. When Dutch trekboers converged on the Transvaal in 1836, they drove the tribe even further northward. By 1838, the Rozwi Empire, along with the other petty Shona states were conquered by the Ndebele and reduced to vassaldom.

After losing their remaining South African lands in 1840, Mzilikazi and his tribe permanently settled the southwest of present-day Zimbabwe in what became known as Matabeleland, establishing Bulawayo as their capital. Mzilikazi then organised his society into a military system with regimental kraals, similar to those of Shaka, which was stable enough to repel further Boer incursions. Mzilikazi died in 1868 and, following a violent power struggle, was succeeded by his son, Lobengula.

In the 1880s, white colonists arrived with Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company (BSAC). In 1888, Rhodes obtained a concession for mining rights from King Lobengula of the Ndebele peoples. He presented this concession to persuade the government of the United Kingdom to grant a royal charter to the company over Matabeleland, and its subject states such as Mashonaland as well.

Rhodes used this document in 1890 to justify sending the Pioneer Column, a group of Europeans protected by well-armed British South Africa Police (BSAP) through Matabeleland and into Shona territory to establish Fort Salisbury (now Harare), and thereby establish company rule over the area. In 1893 and 1894, with the help of their new Maxim guns, the BSAP would go on to defeat the Ndebele in the First Matabele War. Rhodes additionally sought permission to negotiate similar concessions covering all territory between the Limpopo River and Lake Tanganyika, then known as “Zambesia”

In accordance with the terms of aforementioned concessions and treaties, mass settlement was encouraged, with the British maintaining control over labour as well as precious metals and other mineral resources. In 1895 the BSAC adopted the name “Rhodesia” for the territory, in honour of Rhodes. In 1898 “Southern Rhodesia” became the official denotation for the region south of the Zambezi, which later became Zimbabwe. The region to the north was administered separately and later termed Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).  Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony in October 1923

Following the fifth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held in Lusaka, Zambia from 1 to 7 August in 1979, the British government invited Muzorewa, Mugabe, and Nkomo to participate in a constitutional conference at Lancaster House. The purpose of the conference was to discuss and reach an agreement on the terms of an independence constitution, and provide for elections supervised under British authority allowing Zimbabwe Rhodesia to proceed to legal independence.

Currency
 The US Dollar is the official currency of Zimbabwe.  South African Rands are widely accepted.  Other major world currencies may be changed at the banks.  You will be required to produce your passport.  Credit cards are accepted in some institutions – check prior to travel with the provider, and with your bank.  Limited ATM’s will accept Visa or Mastercard in order to draw US dollar cash in Zimbabwe.
Religion
 Some 85% of Zimbabweans are Christian; 62% of the population attends religious services regularly.The largest Christian churches are Evangelist, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist and Methodist. As in other African countries, Christianity may be mixed with enduring traditional beliefs. Besides Christianity, ancestral worship is the most practised non-Christian religion, involving spiritual intercession; the Mbira Dza Vadzimu, which means “Voice of the Ancestors”, an instrument related to many lamellophones ubiquitous throughout Africa, is central to many ceremonial proceedings. Mwari simply means “God the Creator” (musika vanhu in Shona). Around 1% of the population is Muslim.
Language

English is the main language used in the education and judiciary systems. The Bantu languages Shona and Sindebele are the principal indigenous languages of Zimbabwe. Shona is spoken by 70% of the population, Sindebele by 20%. Other minority Bantu languages include Venda, Tsonga, Shangaan, Kalanga, Sotho, Ndau and Nambya. Less than 2.5%, mainly the white and Coloured (mixed race) minorities, consider English their native language. Shona has a rich oral tradition, which was incorporated into the first Shona novel, Feso by Solomon Mutswairo, published in 1956. English is spoken primarily in the cities, but less so in rural areas. Radio and television news now broadcast in Shona, Sindebele and English.

Zimbabwe has 16 official languages and under the constitution, an Act of Parliament may prescribe other languages as officially recognised languages

Public Holidays
  • January 1 New Year’s Day
  • April 18  Independence Day
  • Easter – varies Good Friday
  • Easter – varies Easter Saturday
  • Easter – varies Easter Monday
  • May 1   May Day
  • May 25   Africa Day
  • August 11  Heroes Day
  • August 12  Defence Forces Day
  • December 22  National Unity Day
  • December 25  Christmas
  • December 26 Public Holiday

Getting Around Zimbabwe :  Reference http://www.lonelyplanet.com/zimbabwe/transport/getting-there-away