Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: key country facts

2013-07-30 10:06

Harare - Here are some basic facts about Zimbabwe which holds crucial presidential and general elections on Wednesday:

- GEOGRAPHY: Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa, bounded by Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. Covers 390 308 square kilometres.

- POPULATION: 13.72 million (World Bank, 2012).

- CAPITAL: Harare.

- LANGUAGES: A new constitution signed into law in May recognises 15 official languages.

- RELIGION: Christian (50%, mostly Anglican), animist (40%).

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- HISTORY/POLITICS: The area now known as Zimbabwe was home to several ancient civilisations, as shown by the spectacular ruins of Great Zimbabwe, near the modern town of Masvingo.

After the arrival of the Portuguese, who colonised neighbouring Mozambique, British settlers moved in from South Africa, attracted by mineral wealth and later by farming. In the late 19th century, the mining magnate Cecil Rhodes was to give his name to what became the British colony of Southern Rhodesia.

In 1965, when most remaining European colonies in Africa were obtaining independence under black majority rule, the tiny white minority in Southern Rhodesia broke away from Britain, forming a racist regime similar to that in neighbouring South Africa.

This led to a bloody liberation war from 1972, culminating in independence, negotiated under British auspices, in April 1980.

Robert Mugabe, who has led the country ever since and who changed its name to Zimbabwe, was the leader of one of the two main nationalist groups, today known as the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).

In 2000, Mugabe began a process of expropriating farms from the white minority and giving the land to blacks, in a process that led to accusations of corruption and cronyism.

Elections in 2002 and 2008, which returned Mugabe to power, were marked by accusations of widespread fraud and intimidation of opposition supporters, and resulted in western sanctions.

In February 2009, a power-sharing government was formed, with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as prime minister, as a path away from a decade of political violence.

On March 16 Zimbabwe overwhelmingly approved a new constitution, clearing the path to Wednesday's elections.

- ECONOMY: Farming (tobacco and cotton) and minerals (platinum, copper, gold).

Zimbabwe, southern Africa's former bread basket, went through a decade-long downturn marked by galloping inflation which peaked at 231 million percent.

This has since stabilised, and the annual inflation rate has remained below 5.0% since the country dumped the Zimbabwean dollar for the US dollar and the South African rand in 2009. The economy has started to grow - at 5% in 2012.

Per capita income was $680 in 2012 (World Bank), while external debt stood at more than $8bn in the same year (Central Bank).

For all Zimbabwe election stories please visit our Zimbabwe Special Report Page.

Read more on:    mdc  |  zanu-pf  |  morgan tsvangirai  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  zimbabwe elections 2013  |  southern africa

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