The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses that travelers should not travel to Zimbabwe due to COVID-19, and should exercise increased caution due to crime and civil unrest. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.
The Institute for Economics & Peace Global Peace Index 2021 ranks Zimbabwe 133 out of 163 worldwide, rating the country as being at a low state of peace.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Harareas being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
The U.S. Department of State has included a Crime “C” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Zimbabwe, indicating that there may be widespread violent crime and/or organized crime present in the country, and/or that local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Zimbabwe for Econet mobile phone subscribers is 112 and for Net One subscribers it is 114. Review the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
Crime: General Threat
Crime of opportunity is prevalent in Zimbabwe, and especially in the larger cities such as Harare and Bulawayo. Pickpocketing and theft are common, both pedestrians and vehicles alike, but violence is usually not the preferred tactic. Harare especially suffers from many home break-ins and theft of resalable valuables. Though Harare has experienced a handful of armed break-ins and high-profile home invasions in the past year, audible alarm systems and the presence of an alert guard usually deter intruders. Thieves break into vehicles when valuables are visible. Organized and violent crime are not common in Harare. Police lack the capacity to solve most crimes.
Crime: Areas of Concern
There are no areas of particular concern or off-limits due to criminality. However, as with any metropolitan area, the downtown areas of Harare and Bulawayo see higher rates of crime than other parts of each respective city and the country as a whole. Pay particular attention to surroundings at night. In the past, mining towns in southern Zimbabwe have been epicenters for demonstrations and violence. Take caution when traveling in the area.
Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and Outs, Considerations for Hotel Security, and Taking Credit.
The U.S. Department of State has not included a Kidnapping “K” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Zimbabwe. Review OSAC’s reports, Kidnapping: The Basics and Active Shooter and Kidnapping Response Tips.
Kidnapping is not a common crime in Zimbabwe. There were a couple of isolated incidents in 2020, where criminals picked up people hitchhiking to work, robbed them of all their money and valuables, and dropped them off at separate location, but this trend has not continued. Overall, the threat of kidnapping in Zimbabwe is very low.
Recreational marijuana use has little to no impact on the crime statistics. Zimbabwe has experienced a recent increase in the use of and dependency on methamphetamines. The number of users has risen, especially in the younger unemployed population, and crimes of opportunity, especially in urban locations, have also increased. Zimbabwe lacks the resources and treatment facilities to manage a drug dependency of this severity.
Consult with the CIA World Factbook’s section on Illicit Drugs for country-specific information.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Harare as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
The U.S. Department of State has not included a Terrorism “T” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Zimbabwe.
The Institute for Economics & Peace Global Terrorism Index 2020 ranks Zimbabwe 68 out of 163 worldwide, rating the country as having a Low impact from terrorism.
Terrorism: General Threat
There are no large international terrorist groups claiming a presence in Zimbabwe, and there were no terrorist incidents in Zimbabwe in 2020. While the Government of Zimbabwe attempts to exercise strong control within its borders and over its population, there are very few acts of extremism in the country. Due to the lack of budget, equipment, and technical capability of the authorities, it is possible that a growing number of nefarious individuals could transit through or reside in Zimbabwe. There are also multiple crossing points and a lack of overhead monitoring.
Political Violence and Civil Unrest Environment
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Harare as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
There is considerable risk of political violence in Harare, particularly considering Zimbabwe’s deteriorating economic conditions. The Zimbabwean government continues to restrict large gatherings of people, and will generally issue permits for demonstrations only if the demonstration is clearly in favor of the government or a cause that the government supports. Peaceful demonstrations have repeatedly been violently dispersed by the police and/or military. If the government supports a demonstration, a considerable number of riot police typically accompany the demonstrators. In October 2019, for example, the government established a national holiday for “Anti-Sanctions Day” and permitted several large, peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Harare and Bulawayo, all of which featured ZDF protection.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the country’s central bank, continues to attempt to tackle the economic crisis, including a shortage of foreign exchange reserves, shortages of imported goods, and rising prices, by allowing its currency to depreciate. Due to a shortage of hard currency, it is not currently possible to withdraw cash with an international bank card, either at the airport in the capital or in popular tourist areas such as Victoria Falls. Bring sufficient funds in USD for your entire stay in the country.
Carefully review the U.S. sanctions program currently in place prior to engaging in the purchase/sale or transfer of money and other assets with a Zimbabwean citizen or entity. U.S. citizens should consult the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for up-to-date sanctions information.
Protest & Demonstration Activity
Protests and demonstrations occurred very rarely during 2020, largely due to the strict COVID-19 lockdowns rules. In the past, authorities only allowed pro-government demonstrations and rallies to occur, and met any opposition rally or demonstration critical to government policies with heavy-handed response from security forces. Avoid all demonstrations, which are prime spots for violent clashes.
For more information, review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
Law Enforcement Concerns: Security Agencies
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) maintain internal security. However, they are underfunded and poorly trained. The level of competence between officers varies greatly. The ZRP lack basic skills to investigate crime and locate subjects, except for the most high-profile cases.
ZRP and the Immigration Department, both under the Home Affairs Ministry, are primarily responsible for migration and border enforcement. Although police are officially under the authority of the Home Affairs Ministry, the Office of the President directs some police roles and missions in response to civil unrest.
The military is responsible for external security, but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force constitute the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, and report to the defense minister. The Central Intelligence Organization, under the Office of the President, engages in internal and external security matters. Civilian authorities at times do not maintain effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces have reportedly committed numerous abuses.
Officers may find it difficult to respond to a call for mobile assistance. Often, a complainant must go to the nearest police station and pick up an officer to assist. For vehicle accidents, police response may take an extended period.
Law Enforcement Concerns: Emergency Contact/Information
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Zimbabwe for Econet mobile phone subscribers is 112 and for Net One subscribers it is 114.
Harare Central Police Station (Inez Terrace): +263-(0) 242-777 777 or +263-(0) 242-748 836
Remand Prison (along Enterprise Road): +263-(0) 242 793 894
The streets around the President’s residence and the Botanical Gardens are closed to vehicles, bicycles, and foot traffic from 0600 to 1800 daily. The President and senior government officials travel around Harare with large and aggressive motorcades that have been known to run motorists off the road. Security personnel occasionally beat and harass drivers who fail to pull out of the way quickly. Move quickly off the road and come to a complete stop if overtaken by a motorcade. Do not use electronic devices while the motorcade passes, as this may be interpreted as taking photos of the motorcade.
The greatest danger to a person’s physical wellbeing in Zimbabwe is being involved in a serious road accident. Large, overloaded trucks ply the main roads. Highways are often narrow and have abrupt step-downs off the asphalt onto the shoulders. Motorists routinely disregard traffic laws and norms, including ignoring traffic signals (if they are working), driving against the direction of traffic, and exceeding the speed limit. Most roads lack passing lanes, shoulders, lighting, reflectors, and other safety features. Large potholes are frequent in cities and on the highways, causing drivers to swerve at high speeds. At highway speeds, potholes can be very dangerous, and are often difficult to see due to poor lighting. Motorists may also encounter other hazards, especially at night, such as pedestrians in dark clothing walking along or on the roads; motor vehicles with no lights; restricted visibility when passing; faded lane markers and non-functioning street/traffic lights; and service stations lacking fuel and spare parts.
Nighttime travel is substantially more dangerous; avoid it if possible.
With little maintenance and frequent power outages, traffic lights are often either non-functional or have one light working per intersection (often clustered amongst several inoperable lights). It is customary for local drivers to use hazard lights when entering these intersections. Use caution when crossing any intersection that is not clearly marked by lights.
Police personnel have routinely stopped motorists at high-profile roadblocks, claiming some traffic infraction. In the past, police officers have levied a “spot-fine” on motorists and demanded cash payment. This practice appears to have been outlawed. Although this practice was technically legal, with a maximum spot fine of US$20 per infraction, it was often used to extort higher amounts from unwitting motorists. Government officials have publicly announced the increased enforcement of traffic violations (such as radar speed traps and other moving violations) due to the high number of traffic deaths as a result of unsafe speed, poor driving, unsafe vehicles, and aggressive driving. The number of roadblocks has significantly reduced under the new administration. However, the government still uses marked and unmarked roadblocks to enforce order and collect fines, particularly in urban centers and on major roads.
For detailed, country-specific road and vehicle safety information, read the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on Road Safety.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety in Africa, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Safety
Public transportation is dominated by second-hand minivans, called kombis. These vans are unregulated, inadequately maintained, and frequently in disrepair. Kombi drivers are often unlicensed and rarely follow the regulations of the road. Kombis are usually filled beyond capacity, which compounds the other safety deficiencies. Kombis are either directly involved in, or are a contributing factor to, most vehicle accidents involving U.S. Embassy personnel.
There are a few registered taxi companies in Harare. If you are staying at a reputable hotel, the front desk will likely have a preferred taxi company or driver recommendations. Shuttle Direct, Avondale Taxi, and G-Taxi are some examples of reputable companies.
Air traffic controllers at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport (HRE) have staged several recent “slowdowns” and work stoppages. These incidents are typically brief, but they have caused flight delays and occasional flight cancellations.
Air Zimbabwe, the national carrier, is a failing business and is blocked from international travel to the EU. U.S. Embassy prohibit its employees from flying with Air Zimbabwe due to the airline’s lack of an automated system for tracking the completion of safety checks.
South African Airways recently experienced a wage strike that briefly stopped service between Harare and Johannesburg.
After a COVID-19 shutdown of all scheduled flights in and out of Harare by all airlines, they have slowly returned service to Harare, though some are still not back to normal. Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya, and Emirates are some of the biggest international airlines that have returned to full service in Harare.
Review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights; and consider the European Union Air Safety List.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country and thus does not have maritime issues to contend with. Lake Kariba, a large man-made lake created by the Kariba Dam, lies along the northern border with Zambia. The expansive lake is a hub for fishermen and recreational activities. There are no known security issues along the lake.
Personal Identity & Human Rights Concerns
Zimbabwe is a constitutional republic. Observers note serious concerns and have called for further reforms necessary to meet regional and international standards for democratic elections. Numerous factors contribute to a flawed overall election process, including the Zimbabwe Election Commission’s lack of independence; heavily-biased state media favoring the ruling party; voter intimidation; unconstitutional influence of tribal leaders; disenfranchisement of alien and diaspora voters; failure to provide a preliminary voters roll in electronic format; politicization of food aid; security services’ excessive use of force; and lack of precision and transparency around the release of election results.
Zimbabwe is challenged by some significant human rights issues, including unlawful or arbitrary killings of civilians by security forces; torture and arbitrary detention by security forces; cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners or detainees; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious government restrictions on free expression, press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; restrictions on political participation; widespread acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting women and girls, and the existence of (unenforced) laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Safety Concerns for Women Travelers
The law criminalizes sexual offenses, including rape and spousal rape, with conviction punishable by lengthy prison sentences. Nonetheless, rape remains widespread, sentences are inconsistent, and victims are not consistently afforded protection in court. The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission reported that, as of November 2019, an average of 22 women were raped daily in Zimbabwe.
Female political leaders are targeted physically and face violent threats and intimidation.
Domestic violence remains a serious problem, especially intimate partner violence perpetrated by men against women. Although conviction of domestic violence is punishable by a substantial monetary fine and a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment, authorities generally consider it a private matter, and prosecution is rare.
No specific law criminalizes sexual harassment, but labor law prohibits the practice in the workplace. Media reports that sexual harassment is prevalent in universities, workplaces, and parliament. Female college students report routinely encountering unwanted physical contact from male students, lecturers, and nonacademic staff, ranging from touching and inappropriate remarks to rape.
Consider composite scores given to Zimbabwe by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in its Gender Development Index, measuring the difference between average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development, and Gender Inequality Index, measuring inequality in achievement in reproductive health, empowerment, and the labor market. For more information on gender statistics in Zimbabwe, see the World Bank's Gender Data Portal.
Review the State Department’s webpage for female travelers.
Safety Concerns for LGBTI+ Travelers
The constitution of Zimbabwe outlaws marriage between people of the same gender, and allows for discrimination based on sexual orientation. Consensual sex between men is criminalized in Zimbabwe, with both parties subject to a fine of US $5,000 and/or a year imprisonment. While there is no explicit legal prohibition against sexual relations between women, societal violence and harassment against LGBTI+ individuals is pervasive.
Review OSAC’s report, Supporting LGBT+ Employee Security Abroad, and the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI travelers.
Safety Concerns for Travelers with Disabilities
The Zimbabwe constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, access to public places, and the provision of services. However, the law is not widely known and remains poorly implemented and rarely enforced. Persons with disabilities face harsh societal discrimination and widespread physical barriers. Many public buildings do not have wheelchair ramps, operational elevators, or suitable restroom facilities. Public transportation does not include lifts or access by wheelchair. Road crossing aids for the disabled are nonexistent, and sidewalks in urban areas are in disrepair and cluttered with numerous obstacles.
Safety Concerns for Travelers Based on Race, Religion, & Ethnicity
Although there are rivalries between the Shona majority and Ndebele minority, religious/ethnic violence is rare. Political infighting among certain tribes continues, occasionally resulting in violence and intimidation. Shona representation dominates in Harare, while Ndebele representation dominates in Bulawayo.
Religious and civil society groups have reported that the government of Zimbabwe occasionally monitors public events, prayer rallies, church congregations, and religiously affiliated NGOs perceived to be critical of the government, but there have been no reports of specific incidents or disruptions.
NGOs continue to report that some religious officials who engage in political discourse perceived as negative toward the government have become targets of the security services. The government generally monitors public events with neither reported preference nor deference shown for religious gatherings. Religious activities and events remain free from restrictions, but observers state the government continues to categorize some public gatherings as political, including religious gatherings such as prayer vigils and memorial services, perceived to be critical of the ruling party.
Review the latest U.S Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom for country-specific information.
Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.
There is anti-U.S., and to a certain extent, anti-Western sentiment in Zimbabwe, especially from the Government of Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe has made little progress implementing promised political and economic reforms to strengthen democracy and improve the investment climate. As Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has worsened, the government has increasingly blamed the crisis on U.S. and other Western nations’ economic sanctions, and organized poorly-attended rallies nationwide calling for the removal of sanctions.
Concerns involving the Rule of Law, Arbitrary Detention, Official Harassment, Corruption &/or Transparency
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, although other sections of the law effectively weaken these prohibitions. The government enforces laws in conflict with the constitution. Security forces arbitrarily arrest and detain persons, particularly political and civil society activists, labor leaders, and journalists perceived as opposing the government. Security forces frequently arrest large numbers of persons during and following antigovernment protests.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Zimbabwe 157 out of 180 worldwide, where 1 means most transparent.
The constitution provides for freedoms of expression and of the media, but the law limits these freedoms in the “interest of defense, public security or professional confidentiality, to the extent that the restriction is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.” The government continues to arrest, detain, and harass journalists and critics. While independent media continues to operate, journalists and editors practice self-censorship. Government failure to investigate or prosecute attacks on human rights defenders and peaceful protesters has led to de facto restriction on freedom of expression, assembly, and association.
The law permits the government to monitor all communications in the country, including internet transmissions. The government regulates internet and mobile phone communication to curb dissent, and has increased its share of the information and communications technology market and international gateways. The government regularly monitors and interferes with use of social media. Denial-of-service attacks have been used on social media to silence opposition voices, and some independent news websites have had to shut down at times.
There are restrictions on individuals criticizing the government or discussing matters of public interest. Authorities are sensitive to criticism in general, particularly when directed at the highest levels of government and their families. Persons accused of insulting the president and his office are charged with undermining authority of or insulting a president, despite a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that the section infringed on the right to freedom of expression on the basis of the previous constitution. The law remains in force. In 2020, authorities charged 30 activists or critics of the government with violating other sections of the same law for attempting to subvert a constitutionally elected government or being a criminal nuisance.
The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks Zimbabwe 130 out of 180 worldwide, where 1 means most freedom. The Freedom House Freedom on the Net report rates Zimbabwe’s internet freedom as Partly Free, and its Freedom in the World report rates Zimbabwe’s freedom of speech as Not Free.
Review OSAC’s report, Lèse Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad.
Emergency Health Services
The public medical infrastructure in Zimbabwe is subpar, and medical facilities are limited. Provincial hospitals in rural areas are rudimentary and not equipped to care for serious injuries. Serious illnesses or injuries require medical evacuation to South Africa.
Some healthcare providers in Harare accept employer-provided health insurance. However, hospitals often require advance payment for services. This would require pre-arranged access to cash and then making a claim for reimbursement from your insurance company after the event. All travelers should obtain traveler’s insurance that covers foreign (i.e., non-U.S.) medical providers and medical evacuation.
Many hotels in Victoria Falls have pre-established arrangements with specific ambulance service providers. Some of the ambulance service providers provide specific ambulance insurance for travelers staying at a hotel without pre-arranged ambulance coverage.
Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on health insurance overseas.
The U.S. Department of State has included a Health “H” Indicator on the Travel Advisory for Zimbabwe, indicating that Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that temporarily disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. Review the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) country-specific Travel Health Notices for current health issues that impact traveler health, like disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, and natural disasters.
See OSAC’s Guide to U.S. Government-Assisted Evacuations; review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad; and visit the State Department’s webpage on Your Health Abroad for more information.
The Yellow Fever (YF) vaccine is required for travelers over 9 months of age who arrive from a country with risk of YF virus transmission, including transit longer than 12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YF virus transmission.
Review the CDC Travelers’ Health site for country-specific vaccine recommendations.
Issues Traveling with Medications
There are no known issues with traveling with personal use quantities of medications. Bring medications sufficient for the duration of your trip in its original packaging, and carry your prescriptions.
Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.
Zimbabwe has old, inadequate infrastructure. There are concerns related to water availability, safety, and delivery as well as sewage disposal, the supply of consistent and adequate power to businesses and residents.
Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?
Being a landlocked country, Zimbabwe is very well protected against environmental threats. Rarely, but at times, a severe tropical cyclone will make landfall in Mozambique, and travel far enough inland to impact the southeastern corner of Zimbabwe. In 2020, Zimbabwe experienced a record-setting amount of rain, but for the previous two years, Zimbabwe suffered severe droughts that exacerbated problems with the largely hydropower-based power system.
Safety standards and training vary at game parks and wildlife viewing areas. Ascertain whether operators are trained and licensed. Respect all animals as wild and extremely dangerous. Keep a safe distance from animals, and remain in vehicles or other protected enclosures when visiting game parks. Review OSAC’s report, Best Practices for a Safe Safari.
Using the internet and internet services in Zimbabwe comes with the assurance that you can be monitored by the Government of Zimbabwe at any time. Criminal elements aren't known to have the ability or intent to conduct cyberattacks or compromise cyber information. However, given the ZRP's poor capabilities, becoming a victim of cybercrime in Zimbabwe, from within or outside Zimbabwe, would leave you with no recourse to identify or prosecute the attackers.
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling Abroad with Mobile Devices, and Guide for Overseas Satellite Phone Usage.
Businesses and individuals working on democracy, governance, or human rights issues in Zimbabwe will generally receive a higher level of scrutiny and surveillance from the Government of Zimbabwe. Recently, Zimbabwe instituted policies that make it easier for authorities to declare that an organization is attempting to subvert the government. Critics see this as a step torward "legally" kicking opposing or critical organizations out of the country, should they become a threat to the current government.
Other Security Concerns
Zimbabwe is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Dense belts of landmines were laid by the Rhodesian Army along the country’s borders with Mozambique and Zambia during the Liberation War in the 1970s. Just over 40 square kilometers of landmine contamination remained at the end of 2019, according to the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC).
Tourists wishing to hunt in Zimbabwe must be accompanied by a licensed operator. Request and check the authenticity of their license by contacting the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ). Hunters should confirm that they are not hunting on illegally-seized land or in a nature conservancy, as doing so may subject you to arrest, lawsuits, fines, seizure of possessions, and imprisonment. Contact the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Washington, D.C. to determine appropriate permits for importing weapons into the country.
A country-specific listing of items goods prohibited from being exported to the country or that are otherwise restricted is available from the U.S. International Trade Agency website.
It is illegal to photograph government buildings and members of the security forces in Zimbabwe. Doing so could lead to arrest.
Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
There are no additional identification requirements in Zimbabwe.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Zimbabwe has a very old, inadequate infrastructure. There are concerns related to water availability, safety, and delivery as well as sewage disposal, the supply of consistent and adequate power to businesses and residents, and the upkeep of transportation systems, to include highways and trains. The roads are in disrepair, lacking signage, curbs, and working traffic lights. The electric grid is overstretched and power supply is inadequate leading to shortages for businesses and private residences. Power is unreliable and, during peak months, locations can go without power all day long. The telecommunications infrastructure also suffers due to the lack of power. Cell phone towers often run on generators, and if the fuel runs out, gaps in the cell phone network will impact residents.
OSAC Country Chapters
Contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.
Embassy Contact Information
U.S. Embassy: 2 Lorraine Drive, Bluffhill, Harare. Tel:: +263-867-701-1000
Hours of Operation: Monday-Thursday: 0800-1700; Friday: 0800-1230
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