Country profile: Zimbabwe
The fortunes of Zimbabwe
have for almost three decades been tied to President Robert Mugabe, the
pro-independence campaigner who wrested control from a small white
community and became the country's first black leader. Until
the 2008 parliamentary elections, Zimbabwe was effectively a one-party
state, ruled over by Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF. A power-sharing deal has
raised hopes that Mr Mugabe might be prepared to relinquish some of his
powers, but in the meantime he presides over a nation whose economy is
in tatters, where poverty and unemployment are endemic and political
strife and repression commonplace.
Zimbabwe is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders
of the world, the stone enclosures of Great Zimbabwe - remnants of a
past empire - and to herds of elephant and other game roaming vast
stretches of wilderness.
Robert Mugabe, in office since 1980, agreed to an historic
power-sharing deal with the opposition in September 2008, following
months of political turmoil
Economy: Economy in crisis, with rampant
inflation, "de-industrialisation" and shortages of food and fuel.
Agricultural production is shrinking
International: Hopes that political deal will alleviate international isolation
For years it was a major tobacco producer and a potential bread basket for surrounding countries.
the forced seizure of almost all white-owned commercial farms, with the
stated aim of benefiting landless black Zimbabweans, led to sharp falls
in production and precipitated the collapse of the agriculture-based
economy. The country has endured rampant inflation and critical food
and fuel shortages.
Many Zimbabweans survive on grain handouts.
Others have voted with their feet; hundreds of thousands of
Zimbabweans, including much-needed professionals, have emigrated.
agencies and critics partly blame food shortages on the land reform
programme. The government blames a long-running drought, and Mr Mugabe
has accused Britain and its allies of sabotaging the economy in revenge
for the redistribution programme.
The government's urban slum
demolition drive in 2005 drew more international condemnation. The
president said it was an effort to boost law and order and development;
critics accused him of destroying slums housing opposition supporters.
Either way, the razing of "illegal structures" left some 700,000 people without jobs or homes, according to UN estimates.
former Rhodesia has a history of conflict, with white settlers
dispossessing the resident population, guerrilla armies forcing the
white government to submit to elections, and the post-independence
leadership committing atrocities in southern areas where it lacked the
support of the Matabele people.
Zimbabwe has had a rocky
relationship with the Commonwealth - it was suspended after President
Mugabe's controversial re-election in 2002 and later announced that it
was pulling out for good.
- Full name: Republic of Zimbabwe
- Population: 12.5 million (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Harare
- Area: 390,759 sq km (150,873 sq miles)
- Major language: English (official), Shona, Sindebele
- Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs
- Life expectancy: 43 years (men), 44 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Zimbabwe dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Tobacco, cotton, agricultural products, gold, minerals
- GNI per capita: US $340 (World Bank, 2007)
- Internet domain: .zw
- International dialling code: +263
President: Robert Mugabe
Under a power-sharing deal
signed with the opposition in September 2008, President Mugabe remains
head of state, head of the cabinet and head of the armed services.
President Mugabe has agreed to share power
The deal followed months of political turmoil in Zimbabwe.
In the March 2008 parliamentary election, Zanu-PF loses its majority in parliament for the first time in 28 years.
Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential election, also held in
March 2008, but won the run-off in June after opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, the only challenger, pulled out on the grounds that a free
and fair election was not possible because of violent attacks on his
After the initial power-sharing deal was signed,
further talks aimed at thrashing out the details were stalled until
January 2009, when Mr Tsvangirai declared his party's willingness to
join the power-sharing government.
Now in his eighties, Robert
Mugabe played a key role in ending white rule in Rhodesia and he and
his Zanu-PF party have dominated Zimbabwe's politics since independence
Ideologically, Mr Mugabe belongs to the African
liberationist tradition of the 1960s - strong and ruthless leadership,
anti-Western, suspicious of capitalism and deeply intolerant of dissent
He has defended his controversial land reform
programme and has vowed not to leave power until all land is in the
hands of the majority black population.
Prime Minister: Morgan Tsvangirai
Mr Tsvangirai hopes power-sharing will work
Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister in February 2009,
following months of wrangling over a power-sharing agreement originally
signed in September 2008.
A final accord on power-sharing was
reached in January, after Mr Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe following
an absence of more than two months for fresh talks with President
Earlier negotiations had faltered after the MDC accused
Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF of keeping the most powerful ministries - including
the one that controls the police - to itself.
In a speech after
his inauguration, Mr Tsvangirai called for an end to human rights
abuses and political violence. He also pledged to do all in his power
to help alleviate the suffering of Zimbabweans.
Mr Tsvangirai is a former union leader who helped found the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999.
MDC leader he has faced intimidation, treason charges, physical assault
and at one stage was charged with plotting to kill Mr Mugabe.
son of a bricklayer, Mr Tsvangirai worked as a miner for a number of
years, before climbing to the top of the country's trade union
He first took on the government when, as secretary
general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, he led a series of
strikes against high taxes in the late 1990s.
Soon after becoming PM, Mr Tsvangirai was hit by personal tragedy when his wife Susan died in a car crash in March 2009.
All broadcasters transmitting from Zimbabwean soil, as well as the main newspapers, are state-run and toe the government line.
Newspapers operate under restrictive media laws
The press is dominated by two pro-government dailies, the
Harare-based Herald and the Bulawayo-based Chronicle, both tightly
controlled by the Information Ministry.
which are relatively vigorous in their criticism of the government,
have come under severe pressure. A leading private daily, the Daily
News, was banned after a legal battle.
independent press is largely confined to two weeklies, the Standard and
the Zimbabwe Independent. Another weekly, The Zimbabwean, is produced
in London and distributed in Zimbabwe as an international publication.
of rampant inflation, cover prices have spiralled and are beyond the
reach of many Zimbabweans. Publishers have been hit by escalating
printing and newsprint costs.
range of draconian laws and institutions, along with prison sentences
for "publishing false news", are used to clamp down on critical
comment. Journalists who fail to register with a government body risk
State-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)
operates the country's only TV and radio stations. ZBC formerly had two
TV channels; its second network was leased to private station Joy TV
which closed in 2002. Some of its programmes were said to have ruffled
Radio is the main source of information for many Zimbabweans.
Although there are no private stations, the country is targeted by
The Voice of the People, set up by
former ZBC staff with funding from the Soros Foundation and a Dutch
organisation, operates using a leased shortwave transmitter in
Another station, the UK-based SW Radio Africa, aims to give listeners in Zimbabwe "unbiased information".
the US, the government-funded Voice of America (VOA) operates Studio 7,
a twice-daily service for listeners in Zimbabwe which aims to be a
source of "objective and balanced news".
Radio broadcasts by foreign stations deemed hostile to the government have been jammed.