A survey of antibiotic prescribing by nurses in primary care clinics was carried out in Harare, Zimbabwe. Of 1000 patients surveyed 543 were treated with antibiotics. Respiratory and soft tissue infections were the commonest reasons for prescribing an antibiotic. Procaine penicillin was the commonest antibiotic used. Because of the design of the survey audit of antibiotic use was difficult but antibiotic use was deemed inappropriate in 12.3% of patients. Viral upper respiratory tract infections accounted for the largest single source of error. The large (23.1%) assessor disagreement illustrates the difficulties encountered when applying accepted guidelines for antibiotic use to developing countries. The disagreements were consistent and highlight areas for local research and debate. The overall standard of antibiotic prescribing by ancillary medical staff is good. Clearly outlined policies, continuing education and permanent staff contribute to this.