Harare, The Capital of Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls

Capital: (and largest city) Harare

Official language(s): English, Shona, Ndebele

Demonym Zimbabwean

Independence from the United Kingdom

- Proclaimed 11 November 1965

- Recognized 18 April 1980


- Total 390,757 km2 (60th)

150,871 sq mi


- 2011 estimate 12,910,000(68th)

- Density 26/km2 (170th)

57/sq mi

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, 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 has three official languages: English, Shona and Ndebele.

Zimbabwe began as the British crown colony of Southern Rhodesia, created from land held by the British South Africa Company. President Robert Mugabe is the head of State and Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Morgan Tsvangirai is the Prime Minister. Mugabe has been in power since the country's internationally recognized independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia (1923), Rhodesia (1965), and Zimbabwe Rhodesia (1979). The name Zimbabwe was introduced from ca. 1960 in the context of the unilateral declaration of independence, and used by the African nationalist faction in the Rhodesian Bush War, the Zimbabwe African National Union of Robert Mugabe, and the Zimbabwe African People's Union of Joshua Nkomo.

The name is based on the Shona name for the ruined city now known as Great Zimbabwe, first recorded as Symbaoe in 1531 by Vicente Pegado, Captain of the Portuguese Garrison of Sofala.

There are two theories on the origin of the word "Zimbabwe": Various sources hold that the word is derived from dzimba-dza-mabwe, translated from the Karanga dialect of Shona as "large houses of stone" (dzimba = plural of imba, "house"; mabwe = plural of bwe, "stone"). The Karanga-speaking Shona people are found around Great Zimbabwe in the modern-day province of Masvingo. Archaeologist Peter Garlake claims that "Zimbabwe" is a contracted form of dzimba-hwe which means "venerated houses" in the Zezuru dialect of Shona, and is usually applied to chiefs' houses or graves.

Geography and environment

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa, lying between latitudes 15° and 23°S, and longitudes 25° and 34°E. Most of the country is elevated in the central plateau (high veld) stretching from the southwest to the northwest at altitudes between 1200 and 1600m. The country's east is mountainous with Mt. Nyangani as the highest point at 2,592 m. About 20% of the country consists of the low veld under 900m. Victoria Falls, one of the world's biggest and most spectacular waterfalls, is located in the country's northwest as part of the Zambezi river. The country has a tropical climate with a rainy season usually from November to March. The climate is moderated by the altitude.

Environmental issues

Large parts of Zimbabwe were once covered by forest, the African bush, with an abundant wildlife. Poverty, population growth and lack of fuel have led to extensive deforestation, which, along with poaching, has reduced the wildlife considerably. Deforestation and woodland degradation are a major concern and have led to erosion and land degradation which diminish the amount of fertile soil.