[boo-luh-wey-yoh, -wah-]
Bulawayo, city (1992 est. pop. 621,742), SW Zimbabwe. It is the second largest city of Zimbabwe and an important industrial, commercial, and railroad center. Among its manufactures are textiles, motor vehicles, tires, metal products, and cement. Founded by the British in 1893, it was the scene (1896) of a Ndebele (Matabele) revolt. Nearby are the 18th-century precolonial ruins of Khami. After Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, Bulawayo was beset with violence between the Shona and Ndebele peoples until 1988 when an accord was reached.

Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe, after the capital Harare, with a population of 676,000 (UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Zimbabwe, 2005), now estimated as 707,000. It is located in Matabeleland, 439km south-west of Harare and is now treated as a separate provincial area from Matabeleland. The capital of Matabeleland North is now Lupane, as Bulawayo is a stand-alone province.

General information

The name "Bulawayo" comes from the Ndebele word kwaBulawayo meaning 'place of the persecuted one' or 'place of slaughter'. It is also known as the 'City of Kings', 'Skies' or 'Bluez' or 'Bulliesberg'. It is a welcoming multicultural city with residents able to speak at least three languages (including English, Ndebele, Zulu, Xhosa, Kalanga, Sotho and SeSwati). Bulawayo has long been regarded as the business capital of Zimbabwe and is home to the National Railways of Zimbabwe because of its strategic position near Botswana and South Africa. It is the nearest large city to Hwange National Park, Matopo National Park and Victoria Falls.

The majority of the population of Bulawayo belong to the Ndebele ethnic and language group, who descend from a 19th century Zulu migration and are a minority in Zimbabwe.


The city is on the site of the kraal of Lobengula, king of the Ndebele, who founded the settlement in 1871, about 15km south-east of the present city centre, over the site formerly known as Gibixhegu. In 1881, the king moved the royal settlement further north, to an area roughly corresponding with Bulawayo's modern northern suburbs near modern day Northlea High School. During the 1893 Matabele War the invasion of British South Africa Company troops led the king to flee from his burning capital and head north, BSAC troops and white settlers occupied the town. On 4 November 1893, Leander Starr Jameson declared Bulawayo a settlement under the rule of the British South Africa Company and Cecil John Rhodes ordered that the new settlement be built on the ruins of Lobengula's royal town, which is where the State House stands today. In 1897, the new town of Bulawayo acquired the status of municipality, Col. Harry White became the first mayor, and in 1943, Bulawayo became a city.


Right at the outbreak of the Second Matabele War, in March 1896, Bulawayo was besieged by Ndebele forces and a laager was established there for defensive purposes. The Ndebele had experienced the brutal effectiveness of the British Maxim guns in the First Matabele War, so they never mounted a significant attack against Bulawayo even though over 10,000 Ndebele warriors could be seen near the town. But rather than wait passively the settlers immediately mounted patrols, called the Bulawayo Field Force, under legendary figures such as Selous and Frederick Russell Burnham who rode out to rescue any surviving settlers in the countryside and went on attack against the Ndebele. Within the first week of fighting, 20 men of the Bulawayo Field Force were killed and another 50 wounded.

During the siege, conditions inside Bulawayo quickly deteriorated. By day, settlers could go to homes and buildings within the town, but at night they were forced to seek shelter in the much smaller laager. Nearly 1,000 women and children were crowded into the small area and false alarms of attacks were common. The Ndebele made a critical error during the siege in neglecting to cut the telegraph lines connecting Bulawayo to Mafeking. This gave both the besieged Bulawayo Field Force and the British relief forces, coming from Harare (formerly Salisbury) and Masvingo (formerly Fort Victoria) 300 miles to the North, and from Kimberley and Mafeking 600 miles to the South, far more information than they would otherwise have had. Once the relief forces arrived in late May 1896, the siege was broken and an estimated 50,000 Ndebele retreated into their stronghold of the Matobo Hills near Bulawayo. Not until October 1896 would the Ndebele finally lay down their arms.

Modern city

In recent years, Bulawayo has experienced a sharp fall in living standards coiniciding with the severe economic crisis affecting the country. Today it is home to the strongest opposition to the government of Robert Mugabe. The main problems include poor investment and widespread unemployment. Water shortages due to lack of expansion in facilities and supplies have become steadily more acute since 1992.

Geography and climate

The city sits on a plain that marks the Highveld of Zimbabwe and is close to the watershed between the Zambezi and Limpopo drainage basins. The land slopes gently downwards to the north and north west. The southern side is hillier and the land becomes more broken in the direction of the Matobo Hills to the south.

Due to its relatively high altitude, the city has a subtropical climate despite lying within the tropics. The mean annual temperature is 19.16°C, similar to Pretoria at a similar altitude but 700km further south. As with much of southern and eastern Zimbabwe, Bulawayo is cooled by a prevailing south-easterly airflow most of the year, and experiences three broad seasons: a dry, cool winter season from May to August; a hot dry period in early summer from late August to early November; and a warm wet period in the rest of the summer, early November to April. The hottest month is October, which is usually the height of the dry season. The average maximum temperature ranges from 21°C in July to 30°C in October. During the rainy season, daytime maxima are around 26°C. Nights are always cool, ranging from 8°C in July to 16°C in January. The city's average annual rainfall is 588mm, which support a natural vegetation of open woodland, dominated by Combretum and Terminalia trees among others. Most rain falls in the December to February period, while June to August is usually rainless. Being close to the Kalahari Desert, Bulawayo is vulnerable to droughts and rainfall tends to vary sharply from one year to another. In 1915, 748mm of rain fell in the three months up to February (December 1914 is the wettest month on record) while in the three months ending February 1983, only 84mm fell.


Before the collapse of Zimbabwe's rail infrastructure, Bulawayo was an important transport hub, providing rail links between Botswana, South Africa and Zambia and promoting the city's development as a major industrial centre. The city still contains much of what remains of Zimbabwe's heavy industry and food processing capability. The city is served by Bulawayo Airport.


Bulawayo is home to the Queens Sports Club and Bulawayo Athletic Club, two of the three grounds in Zimbabwe where test match cricket has been played. It is also home to Hartsfield Rugby grounds where many international Test matches have been played. Hartsfield was developed by Reg Hart, after whom the grounds were named, and on which field many of southern Africa's greatest rugby players have competed. It is home to two large football teams, Highlanders and Zimbabwe Saints.

Notable landmarks and institutions

Sister Cities

Famous residents

Former Team Rosters:

* Sarah English
* Maureen George
* Ann Grant
* Susan Huggett
* Patricia McKillop
* Brenda Phillips
* Christine Prinsloo
* Sonia Robertson
* Anthea Stewart
* Helen Volk
* Linda Watson
* Elizabeth Chase
* Sandra Chick
* Gillian Cowley
* Patricia Davies


Suburbs and neighbourhoods


In Bulawayo, there are 128 primary and 48 secondary schools.

Accommodation, Hotels and Lodges


External links

Search another word or see bulawayoon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature