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Country Reports

Zimbabwe Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

The general state of affairs in the poor, southern landlocked African country of Zimbabwe (population 14.5 million) is concerning. Zimbabwe faces major economic and social crises, with an unemployment rate of over 90 percent and two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line.

AREAS TO AVOID

Most Western governments advise against travel to two areas of the country: the northeastern border with Mozambique - due to the presence of landmines - and the Marange mine zone (central east), which is heavily guarded by local authorities.

CRIME

Crime rates in the country are relatively low but still present a risk. Due in part to disastrous economic conditions, crimes of opportunity including petty theft and vehicle and home burglaries are known to occur. "Smash-and-grab" vehicle attacks can occur at dark intersections at night (especially where there are malfunctioning traffic lights). Instances of assault usually happen after nightfall, with many reported along the road between the city center and the airport in the capital Harare. In addition, walking alone after dark in the main city centers of Harare or Bulawayo is ill-advised. Caution should be exercised when traveling by car (keep windows and doors locked); if confronted, do not risk escalation by offering resistance.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISK

The political situation in Zimbabwe, although presently calm, could deteriorate at any moment due to a tense social climate. Zimbabwe's political situation drastically changed on November 6, 2017, when then-President Robert Mugabe dismissed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa over alleged plots against the government. The dismissal, which was seen by many as paving the way for Mugabe's wife to take over, sparked additional tension between the president and ZANU-PF members. On November 15, the army encircled the capital Harare, seizing television broadcasting stations and placing President Mugabe under house arrest. After several days of uncertainty, and amid calls for his resignation, Mugabe eventually accepted to step down on November 21, as an impeachment procedure against him was underway. Mnangagwa was appointed as Interim President on November 22 and assumed office two days later. Following a 90-day period, the parliament will elect a new president who will remain in office until the presidential elections scheduled for 2018.

Generally speaking, it is recommended to avoid public political discussions or criticism of the government. It is an offense in Zimbabwe to make derogatory or insulting comments about the president or carry materials considered to be offensive to the office.

TRANSPORTATION

Road accidents in Zimbabwe present a serious danger to travelers. Vehicles are often overcrowded, highways are narrow, and large potholes can cause drivers to swerve at high speeds. Due to poor maintenance and frequent power outages, some traffic lights are not functional. Local drivers often use hazard lights in intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights. Zimbabwean police are mostly funded through fines collected at roadblocks and often pull people over to levy spot fines for traffic infractions.

Of note, it is an offense to continue driving when the president's motorcade drives by, no matter which side of the road you are on. Pull over to the side of the road and wait until it passes; a number of instances have been reported of security forces assaulting individuals for not stopping soon enough.

NATURAL RISKS

Flash flooding during the rainy season (November to February) can impact travel and leave certain roads impassable.

HEALTH

Health and medical conditions are very poor. Medical facilities are few and far between and generally lack equipment and trained medical personnel. All travelers should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure.

Malaria is an endemic health risk in Zimbabwe and is particularly threatening from November to June. Other insect-borne diseases, including Rift Valley fever, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, and dengue fever, are present in the country. To minimize the risk of contracting insect-borne diseases, take measures to protect yourself against mosquito and insect bites (insect repellents, long sleeved shirts and pants, etc.).

The infection rate of HIV-AIDS is very high and is the leading cause of death in Zimbabwe. 

Cholera and typhoid fever are both present in the country, as are other diarrheal diseases. It is advised to wash hands regularly and drink only filtered bottled water.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Finally, shortages of food, fuel, water, and medication regularly affect hundreds of thousands of people in the country, especially in rural areas. During the dry season (May-October), lengthy power outages are common due to the low level of the Zambezi River; most of the country's electricity comes from hydroelectric sources. Mobile and landline phone networks are largely unreliable.

Climate

Zimbabwe's climate is tempered by its high elevation; the entire country is essentially located on a plateau. The winter (May to October) is hot and sunny during the day but cool at night; conditions are warmer and more humid in the Lowveld and Zambezi Valley. The summer (November to April) is rainy and violent but brief storms are common; humidity levels are very high and often stifling.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +263 Police: 995 Emergency Services: 999 Ambulance: 994 (only Harare)

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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