Zimbabwe Religion

A large majority of Zimbabweans profess Christianity. Most of them are Protestants but around a third are Catholics. Christian revival movements such as the Pentecostal church have grown rapidly in recent years.

Around 15 percent of the residents profess to traditional African religions, with elements of the spirit and ancestral worship. Many Christians have also preserved the customs and rites of the traditional religions.

The traditional religions are strongly associated with the family and the inherited earth. After death, people become protective spirits that watch over the survivors. But the spirits can also punish sickness and adversity if they become dissatisfied. A n’anga (healing healer) can then help the affected person to appease the protection spirit. Often, n’anga also master the traditional healing arts.

Christianity came to Zimbabwe with missionaries during the colonial era. Many in the black middle class and in the political leadership have received their education in mission schools.

Religious freedom prevails and the relationship between the state and the religious communities has been described as quite good. Robert Mugabe, who was the country’s leader from 1980 to 2017, however, expressed concern over the Christian revival movements, which in many cases are anti-socialist. Occasionally, government-critical religious leaders are harassed and arrested.

One of Mugabe’s sharpest critics, Bulawayo’s Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, was forced to resign in 2007 after voicing human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean state power. The same year, the Catholic bishops of the country condemned in a joint shepherd letter Mugabe’s government as “racist, corrupt and lawless”.

Zimbabwe Population Pyramid 2020


Around 95% of the population of Zimbabwe belong to the Bantu peoples. The largest population groups are the Shona with 70% and the Ndebele with 16%. The majority of the population are Christians, the rest of them follow natural religions. About 2% of the population are descendants of European immigrants. The number of whites rose from 2000 in 1908 to 282,000 in 1976. After gaining independence in 1980, many of the white settlers left the country. Today their number is around 100,000.

The population density is greatest in the east and in the center of the country. The majority of the black population lives in the countryside. Around 80% of the whites live in the cities and their catchment areas, especially in Harare and Bulawayo. Zimbabwe’s population growth is comparatively high. Family planning measures are intended to counteract this.

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Zimbabwe, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.



General becomes Vice President

December 28

The military further strengthens its influence over politics when General Constantino Chiwenga is sworn in as one of the country’s two vice presidents. In recent weeks, a number of officers have been appointed ministers or given key posts within the government party.

Mugabe is still guaranteed life in luxury

December 28

State media states that Robert Mugabe, who was laid off in November 2018 after 37 years in power, will be allowed to take advantage of pension benefits for former presidents. This means Mugabe gets a residence, 20 employees, a number of classy cars, the right to fly private planes on a certain number of trips abroad each year and a pension corresponding to the salary of the incumbent president.

The government orders occupants to leave farms

December 14

The country’s new Minister of Agriculture announces that people who have occupied white farmers’ farms without the support of the authorities must vacate the occupied land. “Only those who have documents that they possess the land can stay on the farms,” ‚Äč‚Äčannounces Minister Perrance Shiri. The country’s new president Mnangagwa has said he does not intend to return the farms to the white farmers who were driven away from their holdings during the land reform initiated by Mnangagwa’s predecessor Robert Mugabe in the years following the turn of the millennium (see Modern history), but he has stated that those who got their farms seized should receive compensation. Homeless farmers should also be offered to rent farms on long-term contracts in an attempt to stimulate agriculture. Prior to the land reform, Zimbabwe was South Africa’s convoy. After the reform, agricultural production collapsed dramatically and it has not yet recovered.

Budget should attract capital

December 7

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa presents a budget that includes a number of measures to stimulate business and encourage investors. Among other things, changes are proposed in the law introduced by the country’s deposed leader Robert Mugabe and which has placed restrictions on foreign ownership in Zimbabwean companies (see March 14, 2018). The budget also aims to curb corruption and waste by public funds. Among other things, for officials no longer fly first class, the number of embassies are lost and public servants are forced to retire at age 65.


New government raises criticism

December 30

President Mnangagwa appoints a new government which immediately faces criticism as Mnangagwa retains a sizable share of the ministers who served under Robert Mugabe’s representative. The critics are also upset by the fact that two high-ranking soldiers are given ministerial posts while the opposition is put out. Because of the criticism, Mnangagwa replaces two of Mugabe’s ministers.

Mnangagwa new president

November 24

Emmerson Mnangagwa is sworn in as president. The ceremony takes place at a crowded sports arena in the capital. Ex-President Robert Mugabe is not present at the ceremony. In his installation figures, Mnangagwa promises to pursue a policy that in many respects runs counter to Mugabe’s. Mnangagwa promises to compensate the white landowners who had their farms seized legally under Mugabe’s rule. He also says he will curb foreign investment and try to improve Zimbabwe’s relationship with the outside world. He further announces that elections will be held in 2018 as planned.

Mugabe announces his departure

November 21st

President Mugabe surprisingly announces his immediate departure in a letter read by the President of Parliament to the elected members. In the letter, Mugabe writes that he chooses to leave voluntarily to secure a peaceful change of power. Shortly before the letter was read, Parliament launched a judicial procedure against Mugabe. The message of Mugabe’s departure triggers wild scenes of joy in the capital Harare and is greeted with satisfaction by the outside world. Mugabe’s letter reveals nothing about the fate of wife Grace. She has not been watched since the military intervened a week earlier.

Mugabe clings to power

November 19

Zanu-PF dismisses President Mugabe as party leader and replaces him with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was fired at the beginning of the month. Mugabe is also called on to resign as head of state and the party announces that a judicial process will be initiated against the president if he does not resign. In a televised speech later in the day, Mugabe appears as if nothing has happened and says that the military’s intervention did not pose a challenge to him as head of state or commander-in-chief. He further announces that he will lead the party congress which is scheduled for December.

The military takes control of the capital

November 15

The army occupies positions around Harare and inside the city. In a televised statement, an Army spokesman announces that the military has intervened to ensure that President Mugabe and his family are safe and that it is not a coup. During the night, gunfire was heard near Mugabe’s private residence. Where Mugabe is located is not clear. The spokesman says cryptically about the goal of the campaign: “We only focus on criminals around the president who committed crime… which has caused social and economic suffering in our country. As soon as our mission is accomplished, we expect the situation to return to it. normal. ” Later in the day, South African President Jacob Zuma reports that he spoke with Mugabe who was feeling well but suggested that he be detained in his home.

The military threatens Mugabe

November 14

Army Chief General Constantino Chiwenga holds a press conference in the presence of 90 high-ranking militants, saying that “the ongoing cleansing of party members from the freedom struggle must be stopped immediately”. Chiwenga is believed to be aiming for the resignation of Vice President Mnangagwa just over a week earlier. Unless Chiwenga’s call is obeyed, he threatens a military intervention. The Zanu-PF government condemns Chiwenga’s play and calls his behavior “treacherous”. Later in the evening, tanks are reported to move near the capital and the military takes control of the state radio and television company. During the night, gunfire is heard in the suburb where President Mugabe lives.

Mugabe dismisses his vice president

November 6

Mugabe dismisses his Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who has worked close to him for 40 years. Already in October, Mnangagwa was downgraded by the Justice Minister and allowed to become one of two Vice Presidents instead. Now, Mnangagwa is accused of being disloyal and showing a lack of respect. The dismissal is seen as a success for Mugabe’s wife Grace, who the day before had urged the president to dispose of Mnangagwa. Both Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe are expected to succeed President Mugabe in the long term. After the dismissal, Mnangagwa fled the country and urged his party mates to dismiss Mugabe. There are reasons for the president to worry. Mnangagwa, after his time as Minister of Defense and Minister of State Security, has good relations with the country’s military.


Imports of fruits and vegetables are stopped

October 17

President Mugabe orders the importation of fruit and vegetables to be halted, as he says it involves a waste of foreign currency. That money should instead be used to buy more fertilizers and insecticides.

The Minister of Finance is replaced by government reform

October 9

Two ministers are fired and ten may change duties when President Mugabe conducts a major government reform. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is appointed head of a newly formed Ministry of IT Security and is replaced by former Interior Minister Ignatius Chombo. Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is forced to leave the government but may retain the post of one of two vice presidents. New Minister of Justice will be Happyton Bonyongwe, who was head of the intelligence service. Mnangagwa has emerged as a competitor to President Mugabe’s wife to take over the post of Robert Mugabe. In recent days, Mnangagwa has figured in the media since his followers claimed that at an election meeting he became ill from poisoned ice cream made in a dairy owned by Grace Mugabe.

Quarrels between the Vice Presidents

October 5

President Mugabe dismisses allegations that Vice President and Minister of Justice Emmerson Mnangagwa should have been poisoned at a political meeting (see August 2017), but Mnangagwa holds on to the charges, prompting his colleague, Vice President Phekezela Mphoko, to blame Mnangagwa the following day and “destabilize the country”.


Protests against austerity

October 29th

Police clash with about 100 protesters gathered outside Parliament when the country’s finance minister presents the 2018 budget. The protesters accuse the government of corruption and point to the purchase of 42 fire trucks for more than SEK 8 million each as an example of waste with state funds. A number of protesters are arrested and taken away by police.

“Diamond money went to Mugabe and the country’s spy service”

11 September

The organization Global Witness, which works against corruption, accuses the government of secretly taking control of diamond extraction in the country when the intelligence service CIO quietly gained influence over a diamond company in the Marange region. Global Witness also claims that the many billions of dollars lost in the diamond industry have personally enriched President Mugabe and his allies. The intelligence service should also have received part of the lost money that has been used to quell the opposition, claims Global Witness.


Grace Mugabe gets prosecutorial immunity

20th of August

South Africa gives legal immunity to Grace Mugabe, who has been reported to the police for abusing a photo model. Grace Mugabe returns to Harare with her husband President Mugabe. The South African opposition is strongly critical of Mrs Mugabe being granted freedom of prosecution and allowed to leave the country.

Mugabe’s wife police report in South Africa

August 16th

Mugabe’s wife is reported to police in South Africa by a photo model who claims that the president’s wife brutally beat her by repeatedly striking her in the head with an electric cord. The reason must have been that Grace Mugabe discovered that the model was hanging out with Mugabe’s two grown sons at a hotel in Johannesburg where the family was in front of a meeting with the regional cooperation organization SADC. Grace Mugabe is called to the police for questioning but claims she has diplomatic immunity and sends a lawyer instead. The opposition in South Africa demands that the police seize Mrs Mugabe and the police say they have increased readiness to try to prevent her from leaving the country.

Poisoning elements in the power struggle

12th of August

Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa quickly falls ill in stomach ailment at a party meeting and is flown to South Africa for treatment. Mnangagwa claims to have been poisoned but does not speculate on how things have gone. However, his followers say that Mnangagwa was poisoned by ice cream made in a factory owned by President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace. Mnangagwa is seen as a potential successor to Mugabe who is 93 years old, and in the eyes of the outside world is a silent power struggle between Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe who also showed signs of wanting to become president. Formally, the matter has already been decided as Robert Mugabe is already nominated for the ruling party’s candidate for the 2018 presidential election.

MDC politicians bridge divide

5 August

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai reunites with his former allies who broke out of the MDC and formed new parties (see Political system). He announces that they have decided to put their disagreements aside and form a united front against President Mugabe in the 2018 elections.

Clash between police and military

August 4th

The country’s security services confirm testimony that soldiers and police have been involved in violent fighting in the capital Harare a few days earlier. The noise is said to have originated in a traffic offense by the military. When the police used a nail mat to stop a military vehicle, the soldiers released the police with batons and whips. The incident seems to illustrate the growing contradictions between police and military, but security services claim at a press conference that the forces are united. An investigation is added to investigate what really happened.


Parliament gives Mugabe the right to appoint chief judges alone

July 25

Parliament adopts a constitutional amendment that gives President Mugabe the right to appoint the country’s highest judge alone. Under previous rules, the president could only appoint judges based on proposals from a legal commission and after public hearings with the candidates.

Air Zimbabwe halves its staff strength

July 12

The crisis-hit state airline Air Zimbabwe is laying off 200 of its 424 employees in an attempt to continue the traffic. The company has debts equivalent to more than US $ 300 million and has been banned from flying to the EU since May for security reasons.

Mugabe donates money to AU

July 3

President Mugabe sells livestock worth $ 1 million and donates the money to the African Union (AU). He justifies the decision that it should reduce the AU’s dependence on aid. About 60 percent of the organisation’s operations are financed through development aid. Mugabe makes the donation even though the Zimbabwean economy is in crisis and there is a shortage of food.


The prosecutor is kicked

June 10th

President Mugabe dismisses State Prosecutor Johannes Tomana for “abuse of office” and incompetence. Tomana is to be tried. He was suspended from office in February 2016 after pleading guilty to two men accused of planning a blast attack on an agriculture owned by President’s wife Grace Mugabe.


Opposition Alliance for 2018

April 19

Opposition parties MDC and NPP, led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru, conclude an agreement on cooperation ahead of the 2018 general elections. Tsvangirai says other parties should also be offered to join the alliance.


The opposition calls for a new election commission

March 22

Several opposition parties jointly demand the dissolution of the state-appointed electoral commission, which, according to the critics, constitutes an obstacle to free and honest elections. Among those who joined the claim are the MDC, Joice Mujuru’s newly formed National People’s Party (NPP, see Political system) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Negotiations are underway between a number of opposition parties to form an alliance with Zanu-PF ahead of the 2018 elections. Among other requirements are biometric voter registration to get rid of “ghost voters”, equal access to the media for all parties and that international observers should be invited to the elections.


Protest leader free against bail

February 8

Pastor Evan Mawarire, who in 2016 emerged as a unifying force within the opposition, is released on bail. He was arrested a week earlier at the airport in Harare when he returned from a time spent abroad. In July 2016, he fled first to South Africa, then to the United States, when he feared being arrested.

Zimbabwe Religion