Diplomatic relations between Germany and Zimbabwe were established on April 18th 1980, the very day of Zimbabwe’s independence. In the following years a steady exchange of high-level visits took place, numerous German citizens came to work and live in Zimbabwe. The state-decreed expropriation of farms from 2000 onwards also affected German land owners and - together with the politically motivated violence during the 2002 elections - cast a dark shadow over the bilateral relations. Also, Zimbabwe then stopped repaying international debt with Germany being one of its main creditors.
After the handover of power in November 2017 and the elections in July 2018, the Zimbabwean Government showed increased interest in improving bilateral relations. The visit by Federal Minister Gerd Müller in August 2018 demonstrated Germany’s willingness to respond positively to this. However, Minister Müller made it clear that German assistance would only be granted if Zimbabwe implemented political and economic reforms. With reforms being delayed, bilateral relations have remained clearly below their promising potential. Furthermore, in an attempt to draw attention away from misguided economic policies and rampant corruption, the Government has blamed international sanctions for the country’s decline. However, at present an EU arms embargo is complemented by sanctions against Zimbabwe Defence Industries only.
Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic and social crisis. Foreign investors are put off by the lack of legal certainty, the inadequate protection of property, as well as problems with the supply of water, electricity, cash and foreign currency. After taking office, President Mnangagwa announced his intention to initiate economic reforms, ensure budgetary discipline and fight corruption. However, implementation has proven difficult.
A bilateral investment protection agreement entered into in force in the year 2000. However, frequent political interventions by Zimbabwean Government agencies have represented an obstacle to the full implementation of this agreement. A double taxation agreement has been in place since 1990.
Owing to political events in Zimbabwe, bilateral development cooperation was suspended in 2002. Today, all measures financed by Germany are designed to directly improve people’s quality of life and to promote democracy and the rule of law at local level. Germany is actively engaged in the fields of local governance, women´s rights, Good Financial Governance and Anti-Corruption as well as Human Rights. Additionally, the German Embassy supports a number of small-scale projects every year. Furthermore, Germany is a donor to the UNICEF-administered Education Development Fund (EDF), which is ensuring access to primary education in Zimbabwe and helping to ensure food security and the water supply.
Munich and Harare have been twin cities since 1996 and have developed cooperation in areas as IT or the development of geographical information systems.
Culture and education
A cultural agreement came into effect in the year 1998. In its implementation, German activities are focused on the education sector. Funding is provided for the secondment of a German lecturer who teaches German at the University of Zimbabwe, where around 100 students are currently enrolled in German language classes. The “Goethe Zentrum” in Harare also offers German language classes and a cultural program that provides insights into German arts, music and literature.