Difference between revisions of "Zimbabwe"
Revision as of 04:00, 17 March 2013
The Zambezi river forms the natural boundary with Zambia and when in full flood (February-April) the massive Victoria Falls on the river forms the world's largest curtain of falling water. The Victoria Falls are a major tourist attraction.
Once known as the Breadbasket of Africa, since 2000 Zimbabwe has undergone an economic collapse and the rule of law has gradually but largely broken down, although there have been a few signs of improvement since the theoretical formation of a unity Government in 2009 and the Zimbabwean economy has been on the rebound. GDP grew by more than 5% in the year 2010 and 2011 from a very low base. Growth is forecast to increase, buoyed by high mineral prices and the improving agriculture sector.
It is a great tragedy that Robert Mugabe and his corrupt regime reduced the entire country to an impoverished, cholera-ridden failed state, where neither the rule of law nor the economy functioned to any meaningful degree. Although the economy is slowly improving, mass unemployment, disease and food shortages are still rife. The Victoria Falls are Zimbabwe's most popular tourist destination and one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.
Zimbabwe could be a fantastic place for tourism. Only 20 years ago, it was the richest country in Africa. However, the present economical and political situation make it not a country you want to visit as a tourist. While the eastern parts of the country are strife torn, the western part is somewhat more safe for the traveller.
The most visited place are the spectacular Victoria Falls. Their mile-wide (2km) curtain of water plunges deep into the Zambezi Gorge creating a cloud of mist that can be seen up to 20 miles (32km) away. They can be seen on a short trip from Botswana or South Africa but in doing so travellers will be missing some fascinating areas.
Highlights are the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the beautiful Lake Kariba and also the two biggest cities of Zimbabwe are worth a visit: Harare and Bulawayo. Last but not least, to the east are the so-called Eastern Highlands, fine walking and fishing country, so cool that at certain times of the year, the grass in the morning can be trimmed with frost. In the west is the other-worldly jumble of granite rocks that make up the Matopos National Park.
Zimbabwe's largest wildlife sanctuary is Hwange National Park, situated on the western border with Botswana. Hwange is home to one of Africa's largest elephant populations and myriad other species. Other excellent game viewing areas are Matusadona, Mana Pools and Zambezi National Parks.
Stone cities were built in many locations in present-day Zimbabwe. The most impressive structures and the best known of these, Great Zimbabwe, were built in the 15th century, but people had been living on the site from about 400 AD.
The population was overwhelmingly made up of Shona speakers until the 19th century when the Nguni tribe of the Ndebele settled in what is now Matabeleland (in 1839-40), and then in 1890, the territory came under the control of the British South Africa Company under charter from the British Government.
The United Kingdom annexed Southern Rhodesia from the British South Africa Company in 1923, when the country got its own government and Prime Minister. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favoured whites in power. In 1965, the government unilaterally declared independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority. UN sanctions and a guerilla struggle finally led to both free elections and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980.
Robert Mugabe was the first leader of Zimbabwe and still clings on to power since 1987. He initially pursued a policy of reconciliation towards the white population but severity towards regions which had supported a competing guerilla group aided by North Korean military advisors. From 2000 onwards, Mugabe instituted a policy of extensive land redistribution on party political lines favouring his cronies and of "national service" camps. As a direct result of Mugabe's misrule, the economy was destroyed, inflation shot up, informal homes and businesses were destroyed, and there were severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine, together with the disappearance of the professional class and the emergence of mass unemployment. Life has grown miserable for Zimbabweans of all colours and they have left the country in large numbers. The prospects of real change still seem remote until the death of Mugabe and his cronies.
Tropical; moderated by altitude; rainy season (Nov-Mar). Although there are recurring droughts, floods and severe storms are rare.
Mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high veld); mountains in east. Low veld in the south eastern corner.
Elevation extremes : lowest point: junction of the Runde and Save rivers 162 m highest point: Inyangani 2,592 m
Category A (countries/territories whose nationals do not require visas):
For a stay of up to 6 months: Hong Kong SAR
For a stay of up to 3 months: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Congo (DRC), Cyprus, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadies, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia
Category B (countries whose nationals are granted visas at the port of entry on payment of the requisite visa fees):
Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana (Gratis), Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau Island, Palestine (State of), Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Seychelles, Slovak Republic, South Africa (Gratis), South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City and Virgin Islands
Visa fees at the port of entry for Category B nationals are as follows: US$30 (single entry), US$45 (double entry), US$55 (multiple entry) - a valid passport, travel itinerary, return/onward journey ticket and cash payment must be presented. Note that Canadian citizens are only able to obtain single entry visas on arrival at a cost of US$75, whilst British and Irish citizens pay higher fees for a visa on arrival (US$55 for single entry and US$70 for double entry).
Category C (countries whose nationals are required to apply for and obtain visas prior to travelling):
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazzaville, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros Islands, Congo (Brazzaville), Costa Rica, Conakry, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Djibouti Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, French Guiana, French Polynesia, French West Indies, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Gibraltar, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Macao SAR, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Macedonia, Mauritania, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niue, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Reunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Taiwan, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turk and Caicos Islands, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia
Visas can be obtained at Zimbabwean embassies/consulates. The fees for a visa vary between US$30 and 180 and depend on the applicant's nationality.
You might be able to apply for a Zimbabwean visa at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Zimbabwean diplomatic post. For example, the British embassies/consulates in Amman, Ankara, Istanbul and Tblisi accept Zimbabwean visa applications (this list is not exhaustive). British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Zimbabwean visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Zimbabwe require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Zimbabwe can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
Harare International Airport has a number of international flights, mainly to other African countries. When coming from Europe you can fly directly with Air Zimbabwe from London. Air Zimbabwe also operates to Dubai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Kuala Lumpur in Asia. However, a good option is to fly with South African Airways  or Airlink  via Johannesburg.
SAA operates to quite a few European airports and has many flights to South Africa and other African destinations. When coming from South Africa you can also use the no-frills airline Kulula.com . KLM offer flights from Amsterdam via Nairobi which continue on to Lusaka from Harare. 
British Airways has stopped non-stop flights between Harare and Heathrow.
Victoria Falls airport has daily services by South African Airways, South African Airlink http://www.saairlink.co.za and British Airways from and to Johannesburg. Air Namibia has flight to Victoria Falls from Windhoek/Nambia.
Bulawayo also has an international airport, with flights from Johannesburg operated by SAA and Air Zimbabwe.
For domestic flights inside Zimbabwe, linking international flights to domestic tourism and business destinations, Solenta Aviation has introduced domestic flights in Zimbabwe catering for the Charter and Scheduled market, linking all major tourist hubs and safari lodges along the Zambezi River, Lake Kariba, Victoria Falls and Hwange.
Zimbabwe is accessible by road from the countries that surround it. Contrary to past scenarios, the fuel situation has improved with prices now being quoted in US dollars. As fuel has to be imported from either Mozambique or South Africa, you can expect to pay more per litre than you would in most other Southern African countries.
It should also be noted that roads in Zimbabwe are now in a very dilapidated state, and due caution should be taken when driving, especially at night, and in particular, during the November to March rainy season. Potholes are a very common occurrence and a serious threat to any vehicle that hits one.
Regular deluxe bus services operate from Johannesburg to Harare. A number of buses also travel from Johannesburg to Bulawayo. Greyhound drives to both destinations. Tickets can be obtained directly from Greyhound or through the Computicket website.
No public transport exists from Victoria Falls directly to Botswana - a taxi to the border will cost around 40$, or some hotels in Vic Falls can arrange transfers.
The more adventurous tourists could travel by train from Bulawayo to the Victoria Falls (). The train also passes through Hwange National Park, one of the biggest national parks in Africa.
Between the cities, buses still run but are bad even by African standards. The only exception is with buses from the RoadPort in Harare which run to Johannesburg, Lusaka, Lilongwe (not Blantyre) amongst other destinations.
Minibus taxis are available for intra-city transport, and are relatively inexpensive by European standards. They provide a cheap, though a not necessarily safe way of seeing the true Zimbabwe.
Hitchhiking is also a viable option, but tourists need to take care with whom they accept lifts from; hijackings and robberies of hitchhikers, especially within Harare, have been on the increase in the last few years. Be sure to bring some money along, as drivers very often expect some sort of fee to be paid up front.
The condition of the roads in Zimbabwe seems to have improved considerably since the economic collapse of 2008. Roads between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, Bulawayo and Masvingo (Great Zimbabwe) and Masvingo and Mutare are all in excellent condition. Note that almost no gas stations in Zimbabwe currently take credit cards. Also road blocks are common but usually police just want to see your drivers license and your Temporary Import Permit (TIP). Police can fine you if you do not have adhesive reflectors on your car, red hazard triangles in your boot, a spare tire, and bizarrely, a fire extinguisher, so be sure to carry those items if you want to avoid a fine.
Zimbabwe legalised the use of foreign currencies as legal tender, thus negating the need for the inflation-ravaged Zimbabwe Dollar, which has now been withdrawn from circulation.
The US dollar is now the de facto currency in Zimbabwe, although the South African rand and the Euro are also widely accepted. Do not expect to be given change if the value is less than $1 as there are no coins in circulation, in supermarkets, you may be given change in chewing gum or sweets!
The use of credit cards is still very limited, with only a few service providers accepting VISA or MasterCards in Zimbabwe. Also, ATM use can be very limited for non-citizens, so please do yourself a favour and come with plenty of cash on hand.
As for prices, non-imported things are very cheap (especially labour intensive things), however for a tourist drinking coke and eating pizza, prices are not that much lower than in South Africa. Petrol (gasoline) supplies are improving, so are food supplies in supermarkets.
Haggling for a better price is common, but keep in mind that most people are very poor.
For a sample of what Zimbabweans eat (in some form, nearly every day), ask for "sadza and stew." The stew part will be familiar, served over a large portion of sadza - a thick ground corn paste (vaguely like polenta and the consistency of thick mashed potatoes) that locals eat at virtually every meal. It's inexpensive, quite tasty and very filling.
If you want to really impress your African hosts, eat it how they do: take a golfball-sized portion of the sadza in one hand and kneed it into a ball, then use your thumb to push a small indentation into it and use that to scoop up a bit of stew before popping it into your mouth. Don't 'double dunk'.
For extra credit, clap your hands together twice gently when it (or anything else for that matter) is served to say, "Thank you." Believe it or not, they'll be very impressed.
A variety of domestic brews are made in Zimbabwe, mainly European-style lagers with a few milk stouts mixed in for good measure. If you're feeling very adventurous, you may want to try the unusual "beer" that most locals drink, a thick, milky beverage known as Chibuku: guaranteed to be unlike anything you've ever tasted outside of Africa. It is generally sold in a 2 litre plastic bottle called a 'skud' but is often decanted into a plastic bucket after a good shake. Beware, however: it's definitely an acquired taste!
Imported drinks and locally made franchises are available as well as local soft drinks. Mazoe, the local orange squash (or other fruit flavour), is generally available in most eateries. Bottled water is also available. Tap water, as a source of potable water, in general, should be avoided. If no other source of water is available for drinking, then it is best boiled prior to consumption.
Zimbabwe has a great number of tourist facilities, and offers a variety of accommodation options, from international hotels to guest houses, lodges, and safari camps for all budgets.
There are various hotels and motels in Harare. Several hotels have international partnerships, such a Meikles Hotel, Crown Monomotapa Hotel, Holiday Inn in Harare and Bulawayo.
In Bulawayo inner city, you may stay at the Bulawayo Club - a charming old building you may also visit for lunch or dinner - choose Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel , Holiday Inn, or one of numerous lodges and backpacker's places.
The Eastern Highlands has much to offer. The Leopard Rock Hotel in the Bvumba is said to be beautiful, having been described as so by HRH Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who said, "Where is there a more beautiful place in Africa? It is surely one of the most special places in the world." Another pleasant resort in the area is Troutbeck Resort
If you are on a safari tour there are tented camps, chalets and camping sites in most of the safaris areas.
The US, Japan and Germany lifted their travel warnings to Zimbabwe in April 2009; an indication that the security risk for visitors is low. However, given the political and economic instability in the country, travellers to Zimbabwe should take care with their personal security and safety. Whilst many locals may be curious about you and your country, remember, most Zimbabweans are still very sensitive to foreigners' opinions of their country and its politicians. Therefore, it is always a wise idea to avoid political discussions or discussions pertaining to opinions of political leaders.
Lastly, don't forget to tip as times are tough for locals, and they depend enormously on your generosity.
In the current economic situation many medicines are in short supply or cannot be sourced, so you are strongly advised to take all medications with you. Medical attention will be very hard to get: many hospitals even in cities are completely closed or unable to offer substantial care. Some medical personnel may perform procedures for payment, in somewhat dangerous and underequipped surrounds. Medical supplies are severely restricted. Your travel insurance is very likely to be invalid if you travel to Zimbabwe and medical evacuations impossible to arrange.
HIV/AIDS infection rate in Zimbabwe is the 6th highest in the world at around 15% or 1 in 7 infected. Obviously you should never have unprotected sex. If you form a serious relationship, consider both getting an HIV test before taking things further.
There is at present a cholera outbreak throughout the country, including in Harare.
Malaria is prevalent, so unless you are going to stay entirely within Harare or Bulawayo, anti-malarials are advised. Drugs reduce the severity of the disease but don't prevent infection, so also consider precautions such as:
Bilharzia is present in some lakes. Ask locally before swimming.
Snakes are common in the bush, and most bites are on the foot or lower leg. If walking, particularly in long grass, wear proper boots and either long, loose trousers or thick, concertinaed hiking socks. Shake out boots and shoes in the morning, in case you have a guest. These precautions also reduce the chance of scorpion sting. If you do get bitten or stung, stay calm. Try to identify the exact culprit, but get to medical assistance as rapidly as you can without undue exertion. Many bites and stings are non-fatal even if not treated, but it is safer to seek treatment, which is very effective these days.
Clapping twice is an accepted "thank you", especially when someone is handing you something (food, a purchase). If one hand is full you can clap the free hand on your chest. Unlike in Asia, taking items passed to you with both hands is considered impolite, as it is seen as being greedy. Men should clap so that fingertips and wrists meet, but women should 'golf clap' with hands crossing. This is a society with deep gender divisions.
When shaking hands or handing anything valuable to someone, it is polite to support the right forearm with the left hand (or vice versa), to signify the "weight" of the gift or honour. In practice this often means just touching the forearm, or even gesturing towards it.
When taking something from a local, it is strictly done with the right hand as it is seen as an insult if the left hand is used regardless of dexterousness. The same rule applies when passing something.
Be careful with your opinion as speaking out against the government is a crime.