Travel Alert Status
Level 3: Reconsider Travel
Safety and Security:
The political, social, economic, and security situations in Zimbabwe are unpredictable and could deteriorate quickly without warning. While the country has been relatively stable since the establishment of the current unity government in early 2009, demonstrations and intimidation of civil society groups and other civilians may become more common leading up to and the period immediately following any elections. Political rallies in Zimbabwe may result in clashes between opposing parties or may be violently dispersed by security forces. U.S. citizens traveling to Zimbabwe should avoid all crowds, public demonstrations, and protests.
You should carefully evaluate travel around Zimbabwe by road, particularly at night (please see the “ Traffic Safety and Road Conditions” section below). If traveling by road, you should make sure you have working communication devices, evidence of your citizenship, and a valid visa. Such evidence should include photocopies of the face page of your passport and your Zimbabwe visa approval stamp. You should also notify a trusted friend or family member of your itinerary, including expected departure and arrival times.
Communications infrastructure in Zimbabwe is unreliable. Telephone and cell phone outages are common and cell phone service coverage is patchy and predominantly restricted to urban areas.
Resident and visiting U.S. citizens have been arrested, detained, and threatened with expulsion for activities that would not be considered crimes in the United States, including the administration of humanitarian aid and the expression of opinions regarding the current political regime in Zimbabwe. Criticism of the president is a crime in Zimbabwe. The streets around State House, the official residence of the president, and the Botanical Gardens are particularly sensitive,and drivers and pedestrians in that area should exercise caution. President Mugabe and other senior government officials travel around Harare accompanied by 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 enough. U.S. citizens are advised to be aware of police vehicles and police motorcycles flashing lights and sirens, and should move quickly off the road if overtaken by a motorcade.
U.S. citizen visitors have been detained under suspicion of operating as journalists without accreditation for photographing cultural sites and areas that may not immediately appear to be sensitive. Tourists may also be subject to harassment or arrest for photographing police, roadblocks, occupied commercial farms, and government buildings or military installations, official residences or embassies, including the president’s palace. Get prior written permission from the appropriate government office before taking such photographs. It is not always immediately apparent what the police deem sensitive. Police have detained U.S. citizens for photographing any subject they view as sensitive no matter how innocuous it may seem to the photographer. You should be very aware of your surroundings and seriously consider the risks of taking any pictures outside game parks and known tourist areas.
The government frequently uses marked and unmarked (ad hoc) road blocks to enforce order and collect fines, particularly in urban centers and on major roads. Even though these road blocks are manned by uniformed police officers, be cautious when approaching them, particularly at night. When instructed by police or other security officials to stop at a roadblock, comply with these instructions. If possible, carry a mobile phone or other means of communication. Other ongoing security conditions that could affect the safety of tourists in Zimbabwe include crime (see below) and the occupation of commercial farms.
We urge you to take responsibility for your own personal security while traveling overseas. While in Zimbabwe, you should closely monitor the current situation, keep your travel documents up to date, and make your own contingency plans in the event of disturbances. You should make or update complete inventories of your household/personal effects and maintain an adequate supply of food, water and necessary medications with you.