Useful Notes: Zimbabwe

Our money is no good here.

From Bad to Worse — the country!

A republic in Southern Africa. Famous recently for tension between its current President Robert Mugabe and the United Kingdom over land issues. Was formerly the British colony of Southern Rhodesia; in 1965 it declared unilateral independence and spent 14 years under a conservative white government likened to The Apartheid Era. This led to an armed struggle with several partisan groups, most notably the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and its offshoot, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).

Finally saw segregation dismantled in 1979 and was renamed "Zimbabwe-Rhodesia" and then just "Zimbabwe" in 1980, when the world recognized its independence. Robert Mugabe, then chairman of ZANU, became the nation's first black prime minister.

The good times didn't last: by the mid-90s, now-President Robert Mugabe (upon becoming president, he abolished the PM post but kept all its powers) had gone Ax-Crazy and turned the country into a tolitarian dictatorship hyper-inflation, economic ruin and mass poverty ensued, as well as persecution of ethnic minorities and of all opposing political organizations (including the Movement for Democratic Change, who formed in response to Mugabe's crazy dictatorial actions). A botched election in 2008, which Mugabe secured via massive electoral fraud (with a healthy dose of intimidation by his militants), threatened to escalate into an all-out bloodbath.

Eventually, the MDC managed to negotiate a power sharing arrangement with Mugabe; Morgan Tsvangirai took the reconstituted post of Prime Minister, while Mugabe remained as President with reduced powers. Several years on, times are still very tough, with rampant poverty, famine, undevelopment, and a devastating exodus of skilled nationals to other countries, namely South Africa.

Used to be the "bread basket of Africa" before its current economic woes. The reason for the nickname was because Zimbabwe traditionally had a lively agricultural sector and was a net food exporter to neighboring African states. Most of this food was produced on commercial farms managed by white landowners. In 1998, Mugabe introduced a chaotic redistribution campaign which saw war veterans attacking the farms and forcibly evicting their occupants. Unfortunately, these veterans (and Mugabe) failed to realize that productive farming is actually pretty complicated. With little knowledge of how to use modern farm equipment and NO knowledge of effective commercial agriculture since they'd, y'know, gotten rid of the people who knew what they were doing the expropriated farms quickly went to seed. Food shortages followed, helped along by the worst drought in decades. To deal with the slump, Mugabe decided that the best way out would be printing more money, which led to Zimbabwe's infamous hyperinflation.

Keep in mind that, as this is a country which essentially transitioned from rule by white supremacists to a monumentally disastrous personality cult, the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement applies.


  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: Rhodesia developed the world's first mineproof APC. Elements of the design are still being used by the US military today.
  • Badass Army: The Rhodesian security forces, and especially Selous Scouts and Rhodesian Light Infantry, who waged an incredibly effective campaign against much more numerous and well-armed insurgents.
    • Overlaps with Elite Army, since Rhodesia's lack of white manpower forced it to depend on small, specialist, units trained to disproportionate standards.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Every belligerent in the Rhodesian Bush War committed atrocities against helpless civilians, including the guerrillas ostensibly fighting for their freedom.
  • Bland-Name Product: Due to an international trade embargo, Rhodesia dabbled in import substitution. Zimbabwe continued this trend with markedly little success during the early 1980s.
  • Butt Monkey: It's a prime source of jokes due to the hyperinflation, and the fact that its president is one of the last remaining Africa-type Certified Nuts.
  • Crazy Survivalist: What the politicians and soldiers of white Rhodesia often acted like, to the growing unease of the UK and the international community.
  • Enemy Civil War: After taking office, Mugabe started mass purges against rival politicians like Joshua Nkomo, and, more tragically, his tribe.
  • Everything Is Racist: Mugabe and supporters like to portray foreign opposition to his rule as stemming from racism.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Mugabe.
  • Improvised Weapon/Closest Thing We Got: Rhodesia took these tropes to almost ridiculous levels within their rag-tag military during the Rhodesian Bush War. Essentially, any vehicle that the Rhodesians could weaponize - be it a truck, jeep, helicopter or plane - they weaponized. Then they took the whole thing Up to Eleven by inventing some very creative and Crazy-Prepared combined arms tactics for waging modern war in the African wilderness.
  • Insistent Terminology: When the country made its Unilateral Declaration of Independence, it called itself simply "Rhodesia". Britain refused to call it anything other than "Southern Rhodesia", its colonial name, for the next fifteen years. ("Northern Rhodesia" achieved independence in 1964 as Zambia).
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople: Until 1981, the capital of the country was Salisbury, named in honor of the titular English lord. In 1982, the capital was renamed Harare, derived from the historical Shona chieftain Neharawa. (The Shona and the Ndebele are the two main nationalities of Zimbabwe. Both belong to the Bantu language group.)
  • Moral Myopia: Ian Smith, in his biography, accused the British Commonwealth of this, saying they while they opposed white-ruled Rhodesia, they supported even less democratic regimes.
  • Never My Fault: Mugabe and his proponents claim that Zimbabwe's economic woes are due to colonial oppression and conspiracies by Britain and other major powers. Also, former members and/or sympathizers of the government from the Rhodesian era often tend to paint themselves in a thoroughly revisionist, rosy way, denying virtually any accusation of racism within their prejudice-fueled regime of The Sixties and The Seventies, not to mention denying their own heavy hand against "unruly elements" of the country's populace.
  • Propaganda Machine: The unrecognized Republic of Rhodesia from the 60s and 70s tried to abuse this as much as they could, portraying themselves, despite their racial rhetoric, as brave defenders of civilization and order in that part of Africa.
    • Backfired spectacularly in 1980. The country had gained independence in April of that year, but the athletes meant to represent Zimbabwe in Moscow 1980 had been chosen the year before, when minority rule was still partly in force. Nearly all the athletes were white. The visual of all-white teams representing the newest black nation on the world stage made the former White Rhodesian regime look rather ridiculous.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: Before dropping their currency they were printing notes with expiration dates, after which the notes were worth only the paper they were printed on... Which is to say they increased in their value...
    • This should give a pretty good idea of their value.
    • The best estimates we have say that Zimbabwe's hyperinflation reached its monthly peak in November 2008, with an inflation rate of 79,600,000,000% (that's 79.6 billion percent). To put that in perspective, it meant that it got to the point that prices doubled each day! It's the second-worst case of hyperinflation on record, and would've soon become the absolute worst if they hadn't decided to just chuck the Zim-$ altogether.
  • Riches to Rags: From troubled yet prosperous Rhodesia - to horribly poor and starving hellhole during Mugabe's rule.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized/Reign of Terror: Many people thought of Mugabe as about noble freedom fighter, before he emerged as a power-hungry tyrant.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: The Great Zimbabwae that gave the country its' current name was this for a long while, as a stone city of this scale was epically rare in Southern Africa. It was the subject of some of the most insane and partisan Flame Bait in archeological history by people who believed it could not have been built by Africans and thus had to have been made by Europeans or Arabs, in spite of the fact that the truth was discerned mere decades after its' discovery. This was encouraged by the Rhodesian regime, but the site had been abandoned for so long that many of the natives living around it at the time it was found were newcomers to the region who also believed it had to have been built by whites. Nowerdays, the Great Zimbabwae's indigenous origins and status as a global trade hub are one of the least controversial things about modern Zimbabwe.
  • Secret Police: Zimbabwe's notoriously brutal Central Intelligence Organization (CIO).

The Zimbabwean flag
The twin green, yellow and red stripes symbolize the peasants and agriculture, mineral wealth, and the blood of the fallen during Zimbabwe's struggles for independence, respectively; the black central stripe stands for the people; the white triangle symbolizes peace, containing the red star of the revolution, upon which is superimposed the Zimbabwe Bird, a soapstone sculpture of an African Fish Eagle found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe.