Forget Covid-19. Forget the lockdown for a second and feel the breeze as we slowly but surely embrace that indeed, “life begins at 40.” Let’s see how well you know our motherland. We bring you 10 interesting facts about Zimbabwe as we celebrate four decades of independence. Dive right in, won’t you?

The majestic Zimbabwean flag. Image credit:

1. It was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia until 1980 when it changed to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe was home to many kingdoms and rulers. It does not have a distinct, single history before the British occupation. In the 1800s, mining businessman Cecil John Rhodes and his British South Africa Company arrived. With the help of the British forces, he successfully defeated kings and tribal chieftains occupying the area. He declared it as a British colony and named it Rhodesia. The British South Africa Company ruled the colony until Rhodes died in 1902. When it became a self-governing British colony in 1923, the name was changed to Southern Rhodesia. After the locals gained their independence from the British on April of 1980, it was changed to Republic of Zimbabwe. The name comes from an indigenous local language, which means “a great house of stone.”

2. Zimbabwe is home to Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders in the world.

Mother Nature was very generous with this African country. She gave Zimbabweans the breathtaking Victoria Falls. It is not the widest or the tallest but when the width and height is combined, it is massive. It is twice as tall as Niagara Falls, making it one of the largest waterfalls in the world. Its majestic beauty earned Zimbabwe one of the spots in the “Seven Natural Wonders in the World” list. An interesting fact about Zimbabwe is that the locals call it “The Smoke That Thunders” and it truly does, as the noise from the falling sheets of water can still be heard even from 40 kilometers away.

3. It has the world’s biggest man-made lake and reservoir, Lake Kariba.

Situated in the borders of Zimbabwe and Zambia, Lake Kariba measures at 220 kilometers in length and covers a distance of about 40 kilometers in width from its widest point. The maximum depth is at 318 feet. It was designed by French engineer Andre Coyne. After the completion of the Kariba Dam, they filled the artificial lake with water from 1958 to 1963. The process of filling million tons of water caused 20 earthquakes registering more than 5 on the Richter scale, a fun fact about Zimbabwe.

A stature at the national heroes acre in Harare. Image credit: Zimbabwe Tourism

4. Zimbabwe is one of the landlocked countries in Africa.

With a total area of 150,804 square miles, this African country is bordered by other countries on all sides making it landlocked. The east side is bordered by Mozambique, the west by Botswana, the north by Zambia, and the south by South Africa. No part of the country can be accessed through any ocean.

5. It is considered one of the most educated countries in Africa.

According to UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Zimbabwe has a high literacy rate of 87% in 2015 making them 9th most literate country in Africa. In 2016, the World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report stated that the country’s math and science quality of education is quite good. One of the greatest investments that former President Mugabe made after gaining their independence in 1980 was to provide easy access to good education for his people.

6. Potbellies in men are symbols of wealth in Zimbabwe.

Just like in most African countries, men sporting potbellies or large stomachs in Zimbabwe are regarded as wealthy, a fun Zimbabwe fact. Those who have it gained more respect as it would mean the person has more money to spend for food. It is not fashionable to be thin in Africa as it would indicate serious illness, malnutrition, or lack of funds.

7. It is believed that King Solomon’s Ophir was the ancient ruins of Great Zimbabwe.

There were biblical verses that King Solomon mentioned that he acquired gold and other precious stones from Ophir. Many archeologists and even biblical scholars joined expeditions to explore possible Ophir locations in the modern times. One popular theory is that Ophir was an ancient name of one of the old ruins in Zimbabwe called Great Zimbabwe. However, new findings revealed that the ruins are dated back to the Medieval Age long after King Solomon had lived. Even if it had been proven that it is not the legendary Ophir, it is still considered as a national treasure. Great Zimbabwe is recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

8. Zimbabwe was once a multiple currency country.

When the nation’s own currency was rendered useless in 2009, the government removed it from its banking system. Zimbabweans relied on the U.S. dollar, South African rand, Euro, and Botswana Pula. It was not unusual to buy using U.S. dollars for goods and services that were priced in SA rand and get a change in Euros. However, that changed in 2019 when the government banned the use of these currencies to boost its very own Zimbabwe dollars.

9. Africa’s “Big Five” resides in its wildlife parks.

The most iconic wildlife African species are buffalos, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos. These majestic animals are considered to be Africa’s “Big Five.” The name was coined during the continent’s colonial period in the 1800s. Most hunters believed that they are the most elusive, dangerous, and challenging animals to hunt. Zimbabwe’s wildlife parks could take it off anyone’s bucket list in just one visit. They have them all.

10. Zimbabwe has a “two-toed tribe,” the Vadoma People.

A small tribe in Zimbabwe, the Vadoma People, is called the “two-toed tribe” or “ostrich people.” They are referred to as Doma or Dema and some of them were born with a genetic defect known as ectrodactyly or lobster claw syndrome. The absence of the three middle toes and the remaining toes curled inward make it look similar to ostrich feet. Every one of four children in the family inherits this defect. They are forbidden to marry outside of the tribe and so this rare genetic abnormality does not pass on to other tribes except their own, a crazy fact about Zimbabwe.

Trust me, I’m not naive enough to think that you guys were empty slates, nah. I believe though that this piece curated from surely opened your eyes on some of the things you did not know about Zimbabwe. Get in touch with us and share some fun facts about Zimbabwe.

By Mbulelo Mpofu

Mbulelo eMKlass is grammarian, author, pundit, musician, podcaster and content creator who just loves speaking to people.