Country Profile

The Country


The Republic of Zimbabwe is a land-locked nation located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the west, Zambia to the north and Mozambique to the east. Much of the country consists of high veld grassland on a plateau 1200-1500 m (400-500 ft) high stretching across the central region of the country. The climate here is very pleasant due to the altitude and the fertile soil is good for farming. To the north and south of the plateau is the low veld, which has a more tropical climate. The country occupies a land area of 390,759 km2 (150,873 sq. miles) and the capital city is Harare (formerly Salisbury).
The population of the country has increased enormously since is was first explored by European settlers. In 1890 the population was only 600,000 blacks. By 1947 this had increased to 2.45 million – comprising 2.37 million blacks and 88,000 whites (3.3% of the total). In 2000 the total population was 11.9 million – comprising 71% Shona (or Mashona), 16% Ndebele (or Matabele), 11% other African, 1% White European and 1% Asian. White immigration (mainly from Britain) increased considerably after World War Two, and the white population reached a peak of 250,000 in the early 1960s before declining to its present level of below 100,000.

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National History

Summary Narrative History

Timeline – Key Dates in Zimbabwean History

Further National Information

BBC News Profile: Zimbabwe
Yahoo Zimbabwe page
wikipedia: Zimbabwe
wikipedia: History of Zimbabwe


Text to be added on the development of aviation in Zimbabwe.


Civil Aircraft Registrations

Under the British Empire and post-UDI, the registration sequences VP-YAA onwards and (later VP-Wxx) were used. After independence in 1980, the registration prefix Z-xxx was used, eg: Z-WPF.

All-time Zimbabwe – civil aircraft register (VP-Yaa VP-Waa Z2-aaa Z-aaa)
[Get involved with the Aeroflight Cloud.]

Aircraft Operators

Military Air Arms:

Air Force (Air Force of Zimbabwe)   [Includes Rhodesian Air Force]

Central Government Agencies:

Government Aviation – VIP transport is provided by aircraft chartered from commercial operators
Police Reserve Air Wing   [Rhodesia]

Public Service Aviation:

Medical Aviation – no EMS/Rescue helicopter service
Police Aviation (Zimbabwe Republic Police) – no aviation unit

Commercial Aviation

The local pre-WW2 airline was RANA (Rhodesia and Nyasaland Airways). At the outbreak of WW2 it was taken over by the Government and the company’s aircraft and personnel incorporated into the SRAF. Air routes continued to be operated under the title Southern Rhodesia Air Services. Aircraft operated included DH.89 Rapide, DH.84 Dragon and DH.90 Dragonfly.
Postwar, Central African Airways was formed in November 1965, became Air Rhodesia in September 1967 and Air Zimbabwe in April 1980.

Air Rhodesia Viscount VP-YNI, August 1972 in front of the
terminal, Salisbury. (photo, Robin D.W.Norton)

Affretair was formed by Jack Malloch as Air Trans Africa. In the late 1960s it flew into Biafra (Nigeria) during the civil war. It operated Super Constellations and DC-7 aircraft, mostly registered in Gabon but often with the markings covered up with brown paper and masking tape. The Constellations used were lost through crashes, engine failure and having to land in other hostile
African countries – where they were seized. The survivors finally being chopped up for scrap in 1970 at Salisbury Airport. The last one, VP-WAW, was used by another company within the group, Afro Continental Airways for charter work and a weekly return service to Windhoek in South West Africa (Namibia). This aircraft’s final use was as a club house at Charles Prince Airport for a time in
the 1970s before being scrapped. Affretair was formed when a DC-8 aircraft was acquired in the early 1970s for overseas freight operations, also registered in Gabon. The DC-7 aircraft were used for sanction busting flights with regular weekly schedules to Europe, mainly Amsterdam.

Father Christmas arrives early in Air Rhodesia Douglas
Dakota VP-YKP, November 1971. (photo, Robin D.W.Norton)

RUAC (Rhodesia United Air Charters) – became UAC after 1980
Matabele Air (Charter company operating out of Induna Airfield, Bulawayo in the 1970s)

Air Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Express

wikipedia: Airlines of Zimbabwe
The World’s Airlines: Zimbabwe

Private Aviation

To be added


Aircraft Manufacturers

None at present

Aircraft Maintenance/Repair Depots

None known.


Civil Airports & Airfields

Harare International Airport
Victoria Falls
Airports in Zimbabwe

Military Air Bases & Airfields

Military Air Bases Listing – to be added

On Show

Aviation Museums

The only museum with aircraft is the Zimbabwe Military Museum at Gweru.

Airshow Dates

Key Airshow Dates

More Information

Aviation-Related Magazines

No Rhodesian/Zimbabwean aviation magazines known.

Aviation Bibliography

Zimbabwe Aviation Bibliography

Web Links


Rhodesia and South Africa Military History

Rhodesian Aviation

Aviation Pictures

Air Rhodesia Viscounts

Thanks to Robin Norton for updating this page.

Zimbabwe National History

Due to it’s pleasant climate, Zimbabwe has long been a centre of human habitation. By the 11th century a flourishing Shona civilisation known as the Monomotapa Empire had developed, with its capital at Great Zimbabwe. A hilltop fortress and walled enclosure formed by huge stone walls fitted without mortar can still be seen here. At one time, trading links extended beyond India.

By the 1830s, the expansion of the Zulu nation in South Africa was forcing neighbouring tribes to move way. The Ndebele moved north to occupy the southern part fo Zimbabwe, displacing some of the native Shona people.

In the 1890s, the British South Africa Company (BSAC), formed by Cecil Rhodes, moved into the territory of the Ndebele and Shona to exploit the mineral reserves found there. The company obtained a royal charter to administer the region, in the same manner as for the earlier colonisation of India by the British East India Company. The new colony was named Southern Rhodesia after the company’s founder. Ambitions to acquire a block of British territory stretching from the Cape to Cairo, and then build a railway on it, didn’t survive the death of Rhodes.

Between 1898 and 1923 Southern Rhodesia was governed by a British High Commissioner in South Africa, but the BSAC controlled all internal aspects of administration. In 1923 Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing colony. In the following years the settlers progressively constructed a racially segregated society, in which half of the land was allocated to the small number of whites, and the other half to the much larger black population.

In 1953 the colonies of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland joined together to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (also known as the Central African Federation). The federal capital was in Salisbury, and so Southern Rhodesian politicians had a major influence on the direction of the country. The years after World War Two saw a large increase in the number of white immigrant settlers arriving in southern Africa. Many found the social and economic conditions in Rhodesia ideal for commercial farming. The native black population favoured cattle rearing, and so there was no local tradition of intensive arable farming until white settlers arrived.

By the early 1960s, the decolonisation process was gathering momentum and in 1962 the Rhodesian Front (RF) was established by white settlers to oppose any move to black majority rule in the country. In 1963 the Federation broke up, because of African opposition to the undue dominance of Rhodesia’s white population. The northern colonies became independent countries, while Southern Rhodesia remained a British colony.

Negotiations with the British Government to secure independence failed to reach a settlement and so, after having had its position endorsed in a general election, the Rhodesian Government under Ian Smith announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 11 November 1965. In the following year African nationalists began a guerrilla war to force change, but the Rhodesian security forces were able to contain the violence for several years. At the same time economic sanctions were imposed, but these proved to be largely ineffective.

By the 1970s the Rhodesian security forces had forced the guerrillas to relocate to bases outside of the country, mainly on the Mozambique and Zambia borders. However, the independence from Portugal of politically sympathetic Mozambique in 1975 offered the guerrillas a secure base from which to plan and conduct operations. Also, the formation of the Patriotic Front (PF) alliance between the hitherto seriously divided ZANU (Shona) and ZAPU (Ndebele) guerilla groups further increased their military strength.

The worsening security situation and continuing pressure from South Africa finally forced the Rhodesian Government to attempt an internal settlement with moderate black leaders. Bishop Abel Muzorewa became the first black Prime Minister in 1978, of a country now called Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. He ruled for only about six months.

A settlement that didn’t include the Patriotic Front was doomed to failure, and so in 1979 new talks involving all parties were held at Lancaster House in London. In November 1979 agreement was reached on a new constitution that protected the whites while giving power to the black population. On 18 April 1980, Zimbabwe formally gained independence under Robert Mugabe, the ZANU-PF leader and newly elected Prime Minister.

Initially, a spirit of reconciliation oversaw government relations with the whites, but this did not extend to members of ZAPU-PF and other black political groups. ZAPU-PF was sidelined on every possible occasion and in 1983 ZAPU-PF leader Joshua Nkomo was sacked from the government. This led to severe unrest in Matabeleland, which was quelled with extreme violence by the army’s 5th Brigade, resulting in the deaths of up to 20,000 people. In late 1987 the weakened ZAPU-PF was absorbed into ZANU-PF, creating a virtual one-party state.

Mugabe’s control of the country was strengthened in 1988 by the move to a US-style executive presidency. In March 1992 parliament passed a law permitting the seizure (without compensation) of land from commercial farmers for redistribution to the poor. By 1996 intimidation and murder of political opponents by government supporters had become widespread. In the March 1996 presidential elections, the opposition candidates withdrew after the voting rules were changed to favour Mugabe, (one of these opposition candidates was ZANU founder Ndabaningi Sithole).

In 1997 the Zimbabwe Dollar tumbled to an unprecendented low level. A growing economic crisis provoked riots and strikes in 1998. In September 1999 the Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions (ZCTU), civic groups, farmers and academics joined together to establish the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the first major opposition political party in more than ten years.

In February 2000 a referendum was held on a new draft constitution favoured by the government. The MDC ran a successful campaign for a ‘no’ vote, which angered pro-government activists – most notably Chenjerai Hunzvi, head of Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association. Later that month, the War Veterans leadership organised the seizure of hundreds of white-owned farms by armed groups of squatters. Although described as ‘War Veterans’, most of the men involved were actually unemployed teenagers – far too young to have served in the liberation war which ended twenty years ago. Many thousands of black farm labourers where immediately put out of work, and much of the farmland fell into disuse as the new inhabitants had no experience of farming methods. The best farms became the property of members of the Mugabe family and senior government figures.

In the June 2000 parliamentary elections, the MDC managed to win 57 seats out of 120, despite widespread intimidation. This demonstrated the MDC’s growing appeal and the rapid decline in ZANU-PF support. In January and March 2002 laws were passed which seriously limited press freedom. Many foreign reporters were banned from entering Zimbabwe and local journalists were prosecuted for reporting ‘false news’.

During April 2002 a state of disaster was declared as worsening food shortages threatened to bring about a famine. Presidential elections were held in March 2002, amid a massive increase in political violence and intimidation. MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai was charged with treason just before the voting took place. Mugabe was quickly declared the election winner, despite condemnation of the process by independent observers.

In December 2002, evidence came to light that the ZANU-PF government was purposely preventing emergency food aid from reaching areas which supported the MDC in the recent elections. The Police were shown to be actively involved in diverting food to ZANU-PF members.

Upon independence in 1980, Zimbabwe had a balance of payments surplus, a low foreign debt and regularly exported surplus food. After two decades of Robert Mugabe’s rule, the economy is in rapid decline, a land crisis has been created, political instability increases daily and much of the population is starving. A famine looms.

Zimbabwe Key Dates

300 AD    First Stone Age settlements.
5th C.    Bantu people arrive in the area.
11th-15th C.    Centre of flourishing Shona-based African civilisation, builders of the massive stone fortress at Great Zimbabwe (near Masvingo).
1830s    Ndebele people from South Africa conquer the south of present day Zimbabwe.
1885    South African leader Cecil J. Rhodes obtains mining rights from the Ndebele King Lobengula.
1889    British South Africa Company (BSAC) under Cecil Rhodes colonises the region under royal charter.
1890    City of Salisbury (now Harare) founded by settlers.
1893    BSAC troops defeat uprising by the Ndebele tribe.
1896-97    Uprisings by Ndebele and Shona are quelled by BSAC (1st Chimurenga).
1898    Name of Southern Rhodesia adopted.
1923    Southern Rhodesia becomes a self-governing colony British colony. White rule formalised in 1930.
1934    Black nationalist group African National Congress (ANC) founded with help from Congress Party of India.
1953    Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland formed from the former colonies of Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia. Salisbury is the capital.
1957    ANC reactivated under leadership of Joshua Nkomo.
1959    ANC banned by Federation Government.
1961    Zimbabwe African Patriotic Union (ZAPU) formed by Joshua Nkomo – banned in 1962.
1961    New constitution adopted, providing for nearly complete independence from Britain.
1962    Racial segregationist Rhodesian Front party wins elections.
August 1963    Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) formed from offshoot of ZAPU, led by Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole and Robert Mugabe.
December 1963    Federation breaks up due to racial discrimination policies of Federal Govt. Northern Rhodesia becomes Zambia, Nyasaland becomes Malawi. Southern Rhodesia remains a British colony.
April 1964    New Prime Minister Ian Smith rejects demands for black majority rule. ZANU banned.
1965    Talks with Britain on independence fail over demands for black majority rule.
May 1965    Ian Smith wins elections.
11 November 1965    Rhodesia issues Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Britain. Southern Rhodesia renamed Rhodesia. Independence not recognised by other nations.
1966    ANC, ZANU and ZAPU begin guerrilla war (2nd Chimurenga).
1967    South Africa begins to assist in anti-guerilla war.
1967    Rhodesia is first country to have UN sanctions imposed on it.
2 March 1970    Rhodesia declared a republic.
1976    South Africa officially ends support to Rhodesia government.
1976    ZANU and ZAPU unite to form Patriotic Front (PF).
1977    PF steps up guerrilla war from bases in surrounding ‘frontline’ countries.
March 1978    Rhodesian Govt. reaches settlement with moderate African nationalists for transition to black majority rule. Settlement rejected by PF and United Nations.
January 1979    New constitution enfranchises all blacks while retaining some protection for whites. Country renamed Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
31 May 1979    Bishop Abel Muzorewa becomes first black Prime Minister. Fighting between black nationalist groups.
November 1979    Lancaster House agreement. PF agrees to new settlement.
11 December 1979    Zimbabwe-Rhodesia votes to become British colony again.
1980    British Governor oversees elections for new government. UN Sanctions lifted.
18 April 1980    Zimbabwe formally gains independence. Robert Mugabe becomes Prime Minister after landslide election victory.
1980    Zimbabwe admitted to United Nations.
1982    Zimbabwe sends troops to Mozambique to secure the ‘Beira Corridor’ railway route and other strategic locations.
1983    Mugabe sacks Nkomo and accuses him of preparing to overthrow the government.
1983-84    Some 20,000 persons feared killed by Govt. troops in crushing a rebellion in Matabeleland amongst followers of Nkomo (ZAPU-PF).
1987    Reserved seats for whites in parliament are abolished.
22 December 1987    ZAPU-PF and ZANU-PF unite under Mugabe as the ZANU-PF.
1 January 1988    Constitutional change introduces executive President in place of Prime Minister. Mugabe is President.
March 1992    New law allows compulsory land redistribution from white farmers to blacks.
March 1996    Opponents withdraw from presidential election after voting rules are changed to favour Mugabe.
1998    Economic crisis provokes riots and strikes.
1999    Zimbabwe military forces deployed to assist beleaguered Democratic Republic of Congo government.
September 1999    Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party formed by the ZCTU and various groups.
February 2000    Mugabe defeated in referendum on draft constitution. Squatters seize hundreds of white-owned farmers in violent campaign.
July 2001    Finance Minister admits economic crisis and serious food shortages.
February 2002    Parliament passes law limiting press freedom.
March 2002    Mugabe wins another rigged presidential election.
April 2002    State of disaster declared as worsening food shortages threaten famine. UN says farm seizures are a contributing factor.
December 2002    ZANU-PF government accused of preventing emergency food supplies from reaching areas supporting the MDC.