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Republic of Zimbabwe / Nyika yeZimbabwe / Ilizwe leZimbabwe

Last modified: 2019-01-01 by bruce berry
Keywords: zimbabwe | rhodesia | stone bird |
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 [Variant] 1:2 image by Željko Heimer, 30 Nov 2003
Flag adopted 18 April 1980
Other Zimbabwean pages:

Symbolism of the flag

The green represents Country's vegetation and land resources. The yellow represents the country's mineral wealth. The red represents the blood spilt during the liberation struggle. Black represents the black majority. The Zimbabwe Bird is the National Emblem of Zimbabwe. The white triangle stands for peace and the "way forward". The Red Star stands for internationalism (and reflects the ruling party's socialist credentials).
Željko Heimer, 19 Nov 1995 and Bruce Berry, 20 Nov 1995

A leaflet from the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications, Causeway, Zimbabwe (Printed by the Government Printer, Harare) in July 1983 gives the following explanation for the colours and symbols of the Zimbabwean flag:

Page 1 shows the flag (with irregular star!) and page 2 provides a graphical explanation of the various elements of the flag:
black stripe - for the black majority.
red stripe - blood spilled during the armed struggle.
yellow stripe - the country's mineral wealth.
green stripe - the vegetation and agriculture.
white triangle - peace.
red star - the nation's aspirations.
yellow bird - the national emblem.
Željko Heimer, 02 May 2004

The colours of the flag of Zimbabwe are based on those of the flag of the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front ) (ZANU(PF). The party flag has a central panel of black. This was bordered outwards to the edge by rings of red, yellow and green. If you look at the order of the stripes on the Zimbabwe flag, you will see that they follow this same sequence.

The white triangle is for peace. The red star is for socialism. The Zimbabwe Bird is the national emblem.
Michael Faul, 24 Apr 2008

Designer of the flag

Great website! I am Zimbabwean and always wanted to know who designed our flag.
Mahendra Keshav, 23 Apr 2008

The Flag Bulletin (XX:1) states that the design of the new Zimbabwe flag "was submitted by a government independence celebrations committee headed by Mr Richard Hove, the Minister of Public Works".  According to a letter sent to the Flag Research Center by Flight Lieutenant Cederic Herbert of the then Rhodesian Air Force (and a member of the Rhodesian Heraldry & Genealogy Society), the initial design did not include the Zimbabwe Bird, and that this "was added [to the design] after I had pointed out its uniqueness and history".  So while Mr Herbert influenced the final design, it cannot be said that he is the actual designer has been previously mentioned.

The same Flag Bulletin article reported that on 25 March 1980, the then Prime Minister-elect (later President), Robert Mugabe saw and approved the final design which was made public the following
Bruce Berry, 25 Apr 2008

Zimbabwe Flag Act

Presidential Order No. 16 of 1980 subsequently enacted as the Flag of Zimbabwe Act  (Act 22/1985) is as follows:

An Act to provide for the design of the Flag of Zimbabwe and for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing. [Date of commencement: 18th April, 1980.]

1 Short title
This Act may be cited as the Flag of Zimbabwe Act [Chapter 10:10].

2 Interpretation
In this Act -
"Flag" means the Flag of Zimbabwe referred to in section three;
"Minister" means the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs or any other Minister to whom the President may, from time to time, assign the administration of the Act.

3 Design of Flag of Zimbabwe 
The Flag of Zimbabwe shall be as depicted and described in the Schedule.

4 Deposit of Flag in National Archives
The Minister shall cause a copy of the Flag to be prepared and deposited in the National Archives established in terms of the National Archives of Zimbabwe Act [Chapter 25:06].

5 Regulations
(1) The President may make such regulations as he considers necessary or convenient for the purpose of protecting the Flag from any use or application which, in his opinion, is improper.
(2) Regulations made in terms of subsection (1) may provide regulation, control, restriction or prohibition of -
(a) the importation, manufacture, sale, loan, use, possession, wearing or display of the Flag or any reproduction or likeness thereof;
(b) the application to, or use on, any matter or thing whatsoever of the Flag or any reproduction or likeness thereof.
(3) Regulations made in terms of subsection (1) may provide penalties for any contravention thereof, including the forfeiture of any matter or thing in respect of which or in connection with which the contravention occurred:
Providing that no such penalty, excluding such forfeiture, shall exceed a fine of two thousand dollars or imprisonment for a period of two years or both such fine and such imprisonment.

6 Protection of the Flag
Any person who burns, mutilates or otherwise insults the Flag or a flag which resembles or is intended to resemble the Flag or any reproduction thereof, in circumstances which are calculated or likely to show disrespect, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.

SCHEDULE (Section 3)
[[picture of the flag]]

Description of the Flag:
Vert, on a fess gules, fimbriated by two bars to form a bar sable, issuant from dexter a pile argent fimbriated sable charged with a Molet of five points gules debruised by a representation of the Great Zimbabwe Bird.

The Zimbabwe National Flag is thus a seven striped flag of equal horizontal stripes of green-yellow-red-
black-red-yellow-green with a black fimbriated white triangle at hoist containing a red five-pointed star and the yellow Great Zimbabwe bird in proportions or 1:2.  
Željko Heimer, 30 Nov 2003

Construction details and specifications

  image by Željko Heimer, 30 Nov 2003

Attached to the Act I have received from Christopher Southworth is a coloured drawing of the flag (larger then the one in the actual Schedule), with construction lines dawn into it, but with no figures. I believe that this is not a part of the official document, but somebody's (possibly William Crampton's?) study of the flag. Anyway, from this Chris got the construction details which I have interpreted as follows: 

Seven equal horizontal stripes 18 units each in 1:2 flag, i.e. 126 x 252 units.
The white triangle is isosceles with base at hoist and height of 84 units. It is fimbriated outside this toward fly with black stripe with a width of 3 units. This fimbriation merges with the central black stripe. The Great Zimbabwe Bird emblem is 40 units long and 46 units high. The distance from hoist to the emblem is 16 units, from top 36 units (and then from bottom is 44 units). The star is constructed with a center in a point 34 units from hoist on the horizontal median. 

The star is constructed with the help of four imaginary concentric circles (with center in the point described above) with radii of 32, 27.5, 16 and 13 units. If one numbers the points (including the "inner points") with number 1 though 10, where 1 is the topmost point and proceeding clockwise (well, the orientation is of no matter there since the star is vertically symmetrical) then the points are on the radii as follows 1:32, 2:16, 3:32, 4:13, 5:27.5, 6:13, 7:27.5, 8:13, 9:32, 10:16, each being 36 degrees from the other. While there is the black fimbriation on the bird, there is no black lines outlining the red star.

The most important thing to note here is that the red star is not a regular one, but has rays of various length, as shall be seen from the construction sheet.
Željko Heimer, 30 Nov 2003

  image by Željko Heimer, 30 Nov 2003

The copy of the Zimbabwe Flag Act sent to Željko was taken from the Flag Institute files, but the colour picture was obtained later. I'm afraid that the scribbles on it are mine and not William Crampton's, so any errors drawn from them are down to me.
Christopher Southworth, 30 Nov 2003

 sent by Jaume Olle, 30 Nov 2003

The photo of the flag in the picture with President Mugabe shows the star and Bird with different specifications to that in the construction sheet (outlined above).
Jaume Olle, 30 Nov 2003

Checking the Shipmate flag chart made under the auspices of the Flag Research Centre, it seems to me that it also has the irregular star. On the other hand, Graham Bartram's site shows the regular star. 
Željko Heimer, 01 Dec 2003

This leads us into the de facto versus de jure nature of flags, flag design and specifications. This question over the official star design could probably be answered best by a flag manufacturer in Harare. I do know that at least two, if not three, major US manufacturers use flags with the star design shown in Jaume's photo.
Paige Herring, 02 Dec 2003

I don't think that it can be any secret that I'm firmly on the side of de jure when it comes to specifying flags, but that aside, I'm afraid that I must disagree quite strongly with Paige over the above suggestion.

No disrespect to flag manufacturers whatsoever, but it seems to me that they quite often rely on the committed and experienced vexillologist to provide them with information (which is as it should be), rather than the other way around? On the other hand, I would suggest that one question which could quite properly be asked of the flag manufacturers in Harare is - 'do you have any official information which post-dates that in our possession', but I would also suggest that this is a question which is far better directed to the Government department concerned?

Again with no disrespect intended to either flag manufacturers (or indeed to Paige), but I would think that the majority of equally reputable British flag manufacturers also show the flag of Zimbabwe with an even star (I am
only certain of one), but this still makes it incorrect according to the only official information we have.
Christopher Southworth, 03 Dec 2003

I have a Zimbabwe flag made in the 1980s by William Smith & Gourock, a Harare flag maker which supplied flags to the government. The star on that flag is the more standard shape (as used on US flags), not the broad star shown in Željko's schematic.
Devereaux Cannon,  03 Dec 2003

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual, London, 2012 [bib-lna.html]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each National Olympic Committee was sent an image of their flag, including the PMS shades, by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) for their approval. Once this was obtained, the LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specifications may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the National Olympic Committee believed their flag to be.

For Zimbabwe : PMS 355 green, 102 yellow, 032 red and black. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 Oct 2012

 Zimbabwe Bird emblem

  image by Martin Grieve, 03 June 2005

Following the recent discussion on how the Great Zimbabwe Bird should be displayed on the flags of Zimbabwe and on that of it's immediate predecessor, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, I now submit an enlarged detail of this emblem as it is *actually* portrayed on flags made in Zimbabwe. (An image of the flag with this design of the Zimbabwe Bird is shown here). It must be noted here however, that the style shown here is contradictory to the version shown on the official specifications. The origins of the graphical style illustrated here and used on the flags made in Zimbabwe can be traced back to the Coat of Arms of Rhodesia, which were set upon the white stripe of the vertical tricolour of green-white-green, the Bird being in-chief.

It is too easy to duplicate errors in flag graphics (as we learn time and time again on Flags of the World), and my own personal feeling on this matter is that when the official specifications were drawn up, the bird was incorrectly depicted and therefore the mistake has repeated by several vexillologists through the years. Flag manufacturers seldom look into the accurate detailing that the flag-fanatic notices and are quite happy to "go-along" with what the *official* specification sheets at their disposal show. Thus flags made outside of Zimbabwe, and shown in a great many flag books, shown the version of the Bird as found on the specification sheet.

Legend amongst Zimbabwe's black population has it that there were originally seven Soapstone Birds at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, all of which had mysteriously been taken out of the country.  Only four have since been returned. It is said that peace will never return to Zimbabwe until all seven of these artifacts have been returned to their rightful place.
Martin Grieve, 03 June 2005

The Great Zimbabwe Bird is the national emblem of Zimbabwe.  It is found on the country's coat of arms, banknotes and coins.  It  is used by the national sports teams and is part of numerous badges and logos of various institutions and organisations. As Martin points out, the design of the Bird is not always exactly the same as seen from the flag specifications, the version on the currency and on the coat of arms etc.  An example of a variation in the design is that used as the fin flash for the Air Force of Zimbabwe as shown below.

  image by Željko Heimer, 01 Dec 2003

The origin of the emblem are a number of soapstone carvings found at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  The  ruins are an Iron Age site 27km south-east of the town of Masvingo in the centre of the country and is the remains of a town built between 1200 and 1450 AD. The word 'zimbabwe' is derived from the Shona words dzimba dza mabwe and means "house of stone". Archaeologists and historians believe that from the 13th to 15th centuries Great Zimbabwe was the capital of a large area in southern Africa.  Throughout the area there are a number of smaller but similar ruins.
Bruce Berry, 04 June 2005

Great Zimbabwe National monument was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, with the following notice.

The ruins of Great Zimbabwe the capital of the Queen of Sheba, according to an age-old legend are a unique testimony to the Bantu civilization of the Shona between the 11th and 15th centuries. The city, which covers an area of nearly 80 ha, was an important trading centre and was renowned from the Middle Ages onwards.

The Great Enclosure, which has the form of an ellipsis, is located to the south of the hills and dates to the 14th century. It was built of cut granite blocks, laid in regular courses, and contains a series of daga-hut living quarters, a community area, and a narrow passage leading to a high conical tower. The bricks (daga) were made from a mixture of granitic sand and clay. Huts were built within the stone enclosure walls; inside each community area other walls mark off each family's area, generally comprising a kitchen, two living huts and a court.
Ivan Sache, 08 Apr 2017

        sent by J. Patrick Fischer, 16 Dec 2005

I was in Zimbabwe in 1998 and was looking in Harare for a national flag. I found a big flag manufacturer and was lucky to find flags of good quality. As there has been a long discussion on what the Zimbabwean bird looks like, here is a photo of my Zimbabwean flag. I added a stone copy of the sculptures which were the origin of this national symbol.
J. Patrick Fischer, 16 Dec 2005

image by Željko Heimer, 18 Dec 2005

Thanks for the photos, the original stone bird does look interesting while the photo of the flag enables me to redraw the bird and the star.

According to my assessment from the photo and using the overall size of the flag as 126 x 252 as we have in our previous construction sheets for comparison, the star is inscribed in a circle with diameter about 60 units and its center slightly moved upwards (3 units). The bird dimensions are approximately 27x36 units, center of this square being about 3 units toward the fly from the center of the circle.
Željko Heimer, 18 Dec 2005

Flag with letters

On a recent visit by President Mugabe to Malaysia, I noticed a Zimbabwean flag with the word Zimbabwe written in yellow on the black stripe in the flag being used for a MOU signing ceremony. Is that the state flag?
Nagathisen Katahenggam, 8 Aug 2002

I must confess to never having seen a Zimbabwean national flag with writing on it. Seems it was a once off for that particular ceremony.
Bruce Berry, 21 Aug 2002

Coat of Arms

[CoA of Zimbabwe] image sent by Dov Gutterman, 26 Mar 1999; adopted: 21 September 1981

The green shield represents the fertility of our soil while the blue and white wavy lines symbolise the water which brings prosperity. The representation of Great Zimbabwe stands for the historical heritage of the nation. The rifle and hoe represent the transition from war to peace. The wreath is formed of twisted strips of gold and green silk, and represents the mining and agricultural enterprise which protects our national economy. This supports the crest in which the star is an ancient symbol of hope for the future, tinctured red to remind us of the suffering of all our peoples and the need to avoid any recurrence of that suffering. The star bears the Great Zimbabwe Bird which has become our distinctive national emblem. The kudu in their natural colours display a harmonious blend of black, white and brown which may be taken to symbolise the unity of purpose of the various ethnic groups which comprise the people of this country. The earthen mound bears the plants which give food and clothing to the people and the motto reminds us of our need to maintain a desire for national unity and the will to work, in order to preserve the freedom which we enjoy.
Dov Gutterman, 26 Mar 1999

There was no new Coat of Arms adopted during the Zimbabwe Rhodesia period (June 1979 to Dec 1979) or during interim period between Dec 1979 and Apr 1980 when the country returned to its former status as a British Colony. The Rhodesian Coat of Arms (found in the centre of the Rhodesian flag) continued to be used until 12 September 1981 when the new Zimbabwe Arms were adopted. The heraldic description of the blazon is as follows:
Arms: Vert, a representation of a portion of the Great Zimbabwe proper, on a chief argent seven pallets wavy Azure. behind the shield are placed in saltire an agricultural hoe, blade pointed Dexter and an AK 47 automatic rifle in bend sinister, foresight uppermost, all proper.
Crest: On a wreath Or and Vert a mullet Gules debruised by a representation of the Great Zimbabwe Bird Or.
Supporters: On either side a kudu proper upon an earthen mound adorned with stalks of wheat, a cotton boll and a head of maize, all proper.
Motto: Unity, Freedom, Work
Bruce Berry, 29 Mar 1999