Kwekwe (//KWEH-kweh), known until 1983 as Que Que, is a city in the Midlands province of central Zimbabwe. The city has an estimated population of about 120,000 residents live within the city limits as of 2019, making it the 6th-largest city in Zimbabwe and the second-most populous city in the Midlands, behind Gweru.
It is located in Kwekwe District, in the Midlands, in the center of the country, roughly equidistant from Harare to the northeast and Bulawayo to the southwest. It has witnessed robust population growth since the 1980s, growing from 47,607 in 1982, 75,425 in 1992 and the preliminary result of the 2002 census suggests a population of 88,000. In 2012, the city’s population was estimated at 100,900 people. It is a centre for steel and fertiliser production in the country.
Kwekwe and neighbouring Redcliff are the headquarters of Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO), the country’s largest steelworks. It also hosts the Zimbabwe Iron and Smelting Company (ZIMASCO), the largest ferrochrome producer, and one of the biggest power generating plants, ZESA-Munyati, in Munyati, a suburb of Kwekwe. Kwekwe is Zimbabwe’s richest city in terms of minerals.
Kwekwe town was founded in 1898 as a gold mining town, and hosts Zimbabwe’s National Mining Museum. Like much of the Midlands, KweKwe owes its prosperity to the Great Dyke and its mineral wealth which stretches down to Gwanda, some 500km southwest. The towns name originates from the large population of croaking frogs that populated the Kwekwe river in the early 1900s, hence its original name Que Que. The promise of wealth at the time attracted thousands of speculators from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. Though the amount of gold found was underwhelming, deposits of chrome, and the production of iron, steel, aluminum and glass, have kept the city growing since.
KweKwe remains an industrial centre of the country. The name stems from the Zulu word “isikwekwe”, which means “scurvy”, “mange” or “scab”. In recent years, the area has attempted to diversify its economic base to education, tourism, and services, attracting a growing campus of Midlands State University, though its tourism industry remains at infancy, compared to larger cities. Although Kwekwe has successfully diversified its economy and continues to grow, especially compared to de-industialising Bulawayo, the city continues to face the same economic challenges facing the rest of the country.