• Indigenous peoples in Zimbabwe

    Indigenous peoples in Zimbabwe

    There are two peoples that self-identify as in indigenous in Zimbabwe, the Tshawa and the Doma. However, the Government of Zimbabwe does not recognise any specific groups as indigenous to the country.
  • Peoples

    There are approximately 2,600 Tshwa and 1,050 Doma in Zimbabwe, making up 0.03% of the country’s population.
  • Recognition

    The Government of Zimbabwe does not identify any specific group as indigenous, arguing that all Zimbabweans are indigenous peoples.
  • Challenges

    Though somewhat improved in recent years, realization of core human rights in Zimbabwe continues to be challenging.


There are two peoples who identify themselves as indigenous in Zimbabwe, Tshawa and Doma. However, the Government of Zimbabwe does not recognize any specific group as indigenous to the country.

Zimbabwe is part of CERD, CRC, CEDAW, ICCPR and ICESCR. The reporting of these conventions is long overdue, but the government has made efforts in 2017 to comply with some of the requirements that have been established. Zimbabwe also voted in favour of adopting UNDRIP but has not ratified ILO Convention 169. In recent years, Zimbabwe also participated in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the UN Human Rights Council, whose most recent meeting was held in November 2016.

Indigenous peoples in Zimbabwe

Two peoples self-identify as indigenous in Zimbabwe. These are the Tshwa (Tjwa, Tsoa, Cuaa) San, found in western Zimbabwe, and the Doma (Vadema, Tebomvura) of the Mbire district in north-central Zimbabwe. It is estimated a population of 2,800 Tshwa and 1,300 Doma.

Most Tshwa and Doma live below the poverty line. Both Tshwa and Doma have feeding histories and continue to rely heavily on the resources of wild plants, animals and insects. Tshwa and Doma households have diversified economies, often working for members of other groups in agriculture, pastoralism, tourism and small-scale commercial enterprises.

The only San organization in Zimbabwe, the Tsoro-o-tso San Development Fund (TSDT) was active in 2017, especially in the dissemination of information among the Tshwa communities and the promotion of the Tjwao language.

Main challenges for the indigenous peoples of Zimbabwe

Doma and Tshwa San face continuous discrimination, social insecurity, low employment levels, limited political participation and lack of broad access to social services, land, development capital and natural resources.

Relations between the Tshwa and their Bantu-speaking neighbours, the Kalanga and the Ndebele and government officials are complex. For example, in 2017, Tshwa was blamed for his involvement in illegal activities related to wildlife, even though there was no evidence to support this.

Tensions between Tshwa in Tsholotsho district and staff members of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Department (ZDNPWLM) (Zimparks) increased in 2017.

The rights to Doming the resources were restricted by the imposition of new conservation areas and safari hunting areas in the Zambezi Valley. Their livelihoods were also affected by the fact that they now have to pay license fees as high as Z $ 800 ($ 800 USD) for the right to hunt or fish.

Indigenous World 2019: Zimbabwe

While the Government of Zimbabwe does not recognise any specific groups as indigenous to the country, two peoples self-identify as such: the Tshwa (Tjwa, Tsoa, Tshwao, Cuaa) San found in western Zimbabwe, and the Doma (Vadema, Tebomvura) of Mbire District in north-central Zimbabwe. Population estimates indicate that there are 2,800 Tshwa and 1,350 Doma in Zimbabwe, approximately 0.03% of the country’s population of 14,030,368 in 2018.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

Contact IWGIA

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DK 1422 Copenhagen
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
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