Zimbabwe/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.9 Language laws

Zimbabwe does not have a language policy that is legally backed by the constitution. However article 13 (3) provides that, ‘any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed as soon as reasonably practicable, in a language that he understands…’


Article 82 (1) (b) (ii) provides that in order for someone to be eligible for appointment as a Judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court or for appointment to a tribunal, a legal practitioner must have been qualified for at least seven years and practicing, ‘in a country in which the common law is Roman-Dutch or English and English is the official language.’


According to Zimbabwe’s Education Act Chapter 25:04 Article 62:

  (1)  Subject to this section, the three main languages of Zimbabwe, namely, Shona, Ndebele and English, shall be taught in all primary schools from the first grade as follows—
            (a)        Shona and English in all areas where the mother tongue of the majority of the residents is Shona; or
            (b)        Ndebele and English in all areas where the mother tongue of the majority of the residents is Ndebele.
(2)  Prior to the fourth grade, either of the languages referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) may be used as the medium of instruction, depending upon which language is more commonly spoken and better understood by the pupils.
(3)  From the fourth grade, English shall be the medium of instruction:
Provided that Shona or Ndebele shall be taught as subjects on an equal-time-allocation basis as the English language.
(4)  In areas where minority languages exist, the Minister may authorize the teaching of such languages in primary schools in addition to those specified in subsections (1), (2) and (3).

Chapter published: 28-09-2011