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Zimbabwe 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Zimbabwe; Africa > Zimbabwe > Harare

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Harare does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HARARE AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Zimbabwe-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

The greatest criminal threat continues to be crimes of opportunity (petty theft, vehicle burglaries, home intrusions, smash-and-grab vehicle attacks at dark intersections at night (usually with inoperable traffic lights), spontaneous/unauthorized large-scale political demonstrations/protests). Due to the economic challenges in 2016 (introduction of bond notes, the cash liquidity crises), crimes of opportunity that involve a low risk of arrest and a high chance of achieving financial success remain the key target of criminals. Overall crime increased 10-15% across most sectors in 2016. Walking alone in the main city centers of Harare or Bulawayo is not advisable after dark.

Harare has experienced a higher number of reports of “spotting” incidents, in which several individuals involved are followed or attacked upon arrival at a residence. For those who will make Harare their home, residential security precautions should be taken, including the installation of anti-forced entry devices (solid doors/grilles). Robust perimeter fences should be at least 6.5 feet high and topped by razor/electric wire. An automatic or manned gate control mechanism is also highly recommended. Any house alarm that sounds an audible alarm (with a panic button) is very useful and strongly recommended. Residential crime incidents reported to the RSO indicate that suspects often flee in a majority of the cases when an alarm sounds and/or other robust security devices are encountered. Several U.S. Embassy homes experienced attempted burglaries and trespassing incidents in 2016; criminals were successful when security measures were not used.

Cybersecurity Issues

Harare has experienced a higher number of reports of ATM skimming. Only utilize ATMs at reputable banks, many of which employ uniformed guards to protect their devices.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

The greatest danger to a person’s physical well-being 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. Large potholes are found in the cities and frequently on the highways (causing drivers to swerve at high speeds). At highway speeds, the potholes can be very dangerous (and not seen due to poorly illuminated roadways). Nighttime travel outside of the major cities is substantially more dangerous and should be avoided if possible. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

With little maintenance and frequent power outages, traffic lights are often either non-functional or only one light works per intersection. It is customary for local drivers to use hazard lights when entering intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights. Due care should be used in crossing any intersection that is not clearly marked by the lights. The absence of street lights make driving hazardous after dark. Always wear seatbelts and drive defensively.

Travelers are routinely stopped at high-profile police roadblocks and are often told that they have committed a traffic infraction. The Zimbabwe Republic Police are mostly funded by fines collected at roadblocks, leading to an increase in traffic/vehicle citations. Police officers may levy a “spot-fine” and demand cash. Although this practice is technically legal with a maximum spot fine of U.S.$20 per infraction, the practice is often used to extort higher amounts from unwitting motorists. Speed traps using radar and other moving violations are strictly enforced. The increased enforcement of traffic violations has been publicly announced and is allegedly due to the high number of traffic deaths as a result of speed, poor driving, unsafe vehicles, and aggressive driving.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation is dominated by second-hand Japanese mini-vans (“Kombis”). These vans are not regulated and are frequently in disrepair, and the drivers rarely follow the regulations of the road. They are almost always filled to over-capacity, often compounding all of the other deficiencies. Kombis are either directly involved in or a contributing factor in the majority of vehicle accidents involving U.S. Embassy personnel.

There are few marked taxis in Harare. If you are staying at a reputable hotel, the front desk likely will have company taxis available or associations of known drivers they can refer to a guest.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare has not experienced any prominent accidents in the recent past.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HARARE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The government of Zimbabwe attempts to exercise strong control within its borders and over its population; as a result, 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 there is a growing number of nefarious individuals transiting or residing in Zimbabwe. There are also multiple crossing points and a lack of overhead monitoring. 

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

There is anti-American, and to a certain extent, anti-Western sentiment in Zimbabwe.  

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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.

Civil Unrest

Civil unrest is a growing possibility due to the combination of economic hardship, drought, and political instability as the 2018 presidential elections loom. The Zimbabwean government restricts large gatherings of people and generally issues permits for demonstrations only if the demonstration is clearly in favor of the government or is a cause that the government supports. If a demonstration is supported by the government, but considered possibly inflammatory, the demonstrators will be accompanied by a considerable number of riot police. 

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Although there are historic rivalries between the Shona majority and Ndebele minority, religious or ethnic violence is rare. Harare is dominated by the Shona, while Bulawayo is dominated by the Ndebele.

Post-specific Concerns

Critical Infrastructure

Zimbabwe has old, inadequate infrastructure in place. There are concerns related to water availability/safety/delivery and sewage disposal, the supply of consistent and adequate power to both businesses and residents, and the upkeep of transportation systems to include highways and trains.

Economic Concerns

There is little economic espionage attributed to the government of Zimbabwe. Intellectual property theft centers on the piracy of music, movies, and computer software. 

Privacy Concerns

Due to the low level of automation and the inaccessibility of private information, concerns related to privacy are low. However, the IT capabilities are being developed and are growing in capacity, including wireless hot spots, bandwidth, and digital access.

Drug-related Crimes

While drug-related crimes do occur (primarily marijuana), they are not an overwhelming problem.

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Comply with the instructions from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). At the first opportunity, inform the consular section of your respective country’s embassy of a detention. For U.S. citizens the telephone number is +263-(0)4-250-593.

Crime Victim Assistance

Contact the local police for assistance with any crime. After doing so, contact the consular section of your respective country’s embassy. For U.S. citizens the telephone number is +263-(0)4-250-593.

Police/Security Agencies

The ZRP are underfunded and poorly trained. They may find it difficult to respond to a call for mobile assistance. Often, they require a complainant to go to the nearest police station and pick up an officer to assist. The level of competence varies. For vehicle accidents, it may take an extended period for police to arrive at the scene of the accident.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Avenues Clinic
Address: Corner Baines & Mazoe Avenues
Phone: +263-(0)4 251 144

Borrowdale Trauma
Address: 1 Borrowdale Lane
Phone: 886921

AMI
Address: 15 Lanark Road; Belgravia
Phone: 700666

Available Air Ambulance Services:

Ace Ambulance Company
Phone: 0782-999-901; 04-302141

Emergency Medical Rescue Ambulance Service (EMRAS)
Address: 81 Baines Avenue, Avenues
Phone: +263 (0)4 250-011
Cell: +263 (0) 772 141610

Medical Air Rescue Service (MARS)
Address: 9 Phillips Avenue, Belgravia
Phone: +263 (0)4 790391
Cell: +263 (0) 772 219476

Insurance Guidance

Employer-provided health insurance is accepted at some health care providers in Harare. However, hospitals often require advance payment for services. This would require pre-prepared access to cash and then making a claim for reimbursement from your insurance company. The U.S. Embassy also highly recommends that all travelers obtain traveler’s insurance. For travelers going to Victoria Falls, many hotels have pre-established arrangements with specific ambulance service providers. Some of the ambulance service providers provide ambulance specific insurance for travelers who are staying at a hotel without pre-arranged ambulance coverage. 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Zimbabwe.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Harare Country Council currently meets twice a year and has approximately 35 members. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions or to join.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Harare
172 Herbert Chitepo
Harare, Zimbabwe

Hours of Operation: 0800-1700

Embassy Contact Numbers

+263-(0)4 250-593

Embassy Guidance
 

The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens traveling to Zimbabwe register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Additional Resources

Zimbabwe Country Information Sheet