Zimbabwe ended the hopes of two other COSAFA countries – Botswana and Zambia – to qualify for a third successive Africa Cup of Nations finals appearance.
They join the Comoros Islands in the finals in Cameroon next year after their 1-0 away win in Francistown on Thursday.
Perfect Chikwende scored on debut as he followed up a 15th minute shot from captain Knowledge Musona to ensure the away success over Botswana’s Zebras.
But Zimbabwe had to wait two hours before receiving confirmation of their progress.
Zambia needed to beat already-qualified Algeria to stay alive and set up a decisive derby with Zimbabwe in Harare on Monday, but quickly went two goals behind before fighting back to 2-2 just after half-time.
Algeria then re-established their advantage by Zambia fought back for a credible 3-3 draw.
But the 2012 Cup of Nations winners miss out on the tournament, with Zimbabwe accompanying defending champions Algeria from Group H.
Zimbabwe were missing several stars due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and injuries and had to endure a delay to the start of the game over more novel coronavirus confusion.
But they got an early goal and then held off their determined hosts. Zimbabwe did have the ball in the back of the net again, right at the end of the game but Evans Rusike was ruled out for offside.
Zambia miss out for a third successive tournament despite a heroic fightback.
They were two goals down in the first 25 minutes and it could have been worse as Rafik Ghezzal and Islam Slimani netted for the visistors.
But they pulled one back in the 33rd minute, as Rodrick Kabwe whipped in a cross for Patson Daka, who was fouled but picked himself up to convert the resultant spotkick
Clatous Chama got the slightest of touches to the ball to guide it into the net for a 52nd minute equaliser but parity lasted only three minutes before a defensive error was pounced upon by Slimani.
Substitute Moses Phiri won a late penalty for Zambia after he was pushed in the box and Daka again stepped up to convert in the 80th minute.