Zimbabwe has a population density of 37 residents per km
2 (2019), but depending on the colonial land
distribution legislation, the population is very unevenly
distributed. Large parts of the more upland areas in the
middle parts of the country were reserved for European-owned
large-scale farming and are therefore still relatively
sparsely populated. By contrast, the more peripheral, and
less fertile, areas allocated to African settlement show
relatively high population concentrations. In the latter
areas, the increased pressure due to high population growth
has led to increased supply problems with consequent soil
degradation in the form of erosion damage.
Countryaah data, about 32 percent of the population in cities (2019), of
which Harare (1.5 million residents, 2013), Bulawayo
(653,300) and Chitungwiza (356,800) are the largest.
Of the Zimbabwean population, about 82 percent are
Shona-speaking peoples, while the area in the far south is
inhabited by South African immigrants from Ndebele, which
comprises 14 percent of the population. The white
population, mainly descendants of British and South African
immigrants who began to flow into the country in the 1890s,
has largely emigrated since the beginning of the 1980s. They
currently amount to just under 45,000. At the far north
there are 300,000 people belonging to the Tsonga people.
There is also a small group of san (previously named
bushmen) of 1,200 people, who are trying to live as hunters
and collectors. However, discrimination, poverty and
legislation, in many ways, make their lives more difficult.
The country also has about 68,000 swazi.
The Shona-speaking peoples consist of the ethnic
subgroups kalanga, karanga, kore-kore, manyika and zezuru.
These groups have a similar culture with clear roots in the
prehistoric kingdoms that were described as early as the
16th century by Portuguese traders. Best known of these
kingdoms is Monomotapa, which had its heyday in the 17th
century, and its predecessors in the area of Greater
The Shona people still consider themselves to be part of
the local kingdom where the sacred chieftain, in
consultation with his spirit medium, bears the
responsibility for rain and fertility in his region. The
Shona people, who traditionally have a strictly patrilineal
family structure, attach great importance to the male
ancestors - both the royal ancestors, who provide rain, and
the "private" who are responsible for the well-being of the
individual family. In addition, medicine men are often hired
for sessions with healing and spirit crew.
The Shona people's livelihood was previously based on
millet ("man's crop") and root fruits and vegetables
("women's crops"). In addition, most families keep a few
cows near their compact "family villages". Today, when most
working-age men have wage jobs in urban centers or on
European farms, women do both cows and agriculture, and the
millet has been replaced by corn.
The everyday life of the Shona people has a strong
ceremonial touch when members of different generations and
genders meet. The role of father (baba) is
emphasized ritually in hierarchical family life, as well as
in myths and sayings. Behind the scenes, however, the wife/
mother has the power over the children and now also shows
The Ndebele people in the south are mainly descendants of
warriors who deserted from Zulu Chief Shaka's army in the
1820s. In principle, they have almost the same (but less
ceremonial) family organization and livelihood as the Shona
people, but they place more emphasis on livestock
Their culture in general testifies to the kinship of the
Nguni people, mainly Zulu, Sotho and Tswana, from which
their ancestors were recruited into the Shaka army. Ndebele
has created a stratified society with three social classes.
At the top of the rank is zansi, who consider themselves
Zulu descendants, including some of Sotho descendants and
below loswi or holi, who are regarded as descendants of the
English is the official language and predominates in
administration and mass media, but is spoken as a native
language of no more than 1% of the population. The largest
indigenous languages are Shona (50–75%) and Ndebele
(10–15%), both of which are Bantu languages. Another dozen
bantu languages are spoken by smaller groups.
Today, over 80% of the population is estimated to be
Christian, and more than half (46%) of them belong to an
independent church that can refer to themselves as
Pentacostal, Charismatic, New Charismatic, Apostolic or as a
Zionist Church. The proportion of the population who are
Protestants, e.g. Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans,
Presbyterians and Congregationalists amount to just over
20%. These communities began to operate in the country
during the second half of the 19th century.
The first Christian church to establish itself in the
country, however, was the Catholic. The Portuguese Jesuit
missionary Gonšalo da Silveira arrived in the country in
1560. He was assassinated the following year, but
Catholicism continued until 1667, when all Catholic
activities in the country ceased. The Catholic Church
returned in 1890 and today it is estimated that about 14% of
the population are Catholics.
Among other Christian communities in the country are the
Seventh-day Adventists, who have a membership of just over
6% of the population. The proportion of Muslims, who mainly
live in the cities, is just under one percent and those
belonging to Bahai are about the same.
Traditional indigenous religion is of great importance in
Zimbabwe. The proportion of followers is stated to be
one-fifth of the population, but beliefs are shared by many
more because the syncretistic elements are large (see
syncretism). During the struggle for majority rule,
ancestral cult and mediators with the spirit world had great
According to the secular constitution and other laws,
religious freedom is guaranteed. Zimbabweans have the right
to choose and change religion. They also have the right to
practice their religion both privately and publicly and to
propagate it. Criminal law prohibits witchcraft intended to
harm a person. Under the same laws, it is forbidden to
persecute and kill medicine men and to falsely accuse
someone of being a witch/medicine man. In many official
contexts, Christian prayers that are not associated with any
specific community are being prayed for. According to the
law on public order and security, the government happens to
intervene in larger public prayer meetings that are
considered to have political content, ie. in front of
criticism against the ruling party ZANU-PF.
The country's political elite are often closely
associated either with one of the established Christian
traditional churches or with a Pentecostal church. Some
Christian groups, especially apostolic ones, support the
In the upper secondary schools teaching is given about
Christian communities and also about other religions. About
30% of the country's primary and secondary schools are run
by some church or congregation. These schools are free to
decide their own curricula, which also applies to the
Islamic, Jewish and Hindu schools.
The following days are religious national holidays:
Easter Day and Christmas Day.