Faf du Plessis‚ Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller were the only significant contributors to the home side’s total of 160/6 — South Africa’s lowest score with six wickets down.
But that proved 34 runs enough with Imran Tahir claiming a career-best 5/23 to send the Zimbabweans’ spiralling to a reply of 126.
Not a lot else was needed for South Afria to add the first T20 to their 3-0 whitewash in the one-day series.
Zimbabwe were spared complete embarrassment by a stand of 53 blitzed off 19 balls by PJ Moor and Brandon Mavuta that started after they had crashed to 70/7.
But that couldn’t save them from being dismissed for the ninth time in their 61 games in the format.
Du Plessis clubbed five fours and two sixes in his 20-ball 34‚ a bristling effort snuffed out by Tendai Chisoro’s stab of a diving catch at deep extra cover.
That put paid to a stand of 41 Du Plessis shared with debutant Van der Dussen‚ who stayed on to help David Miller to crack 87 runs for the fourth wicket.
Miller holed out to long-on for 39 but Van der Dussen’s flame burned longer: he faced 44 balls for his 56‚ then blipped a catch to mid-off.
Kyle Jarvis and Chris Mpofu kept their heads to share five wickets for the Zimbabweans.
But the star bowler on the night was Tahir‚ who shared the new ball — with Lungi Ngidi — was twice on a hattrick‚ and took all five of his wickets in the space of 15 deliveries.
Du Plessis described the 39-year-old leg spinner as “the oldest of the lions‚ exceptional” in a television interview.
“He’s got the knack of taking wickets and breaking partnerships as soon as possible‚” Du Plessis said.
“It’s something he hasn’t done in the past‚ but we’ve spoken about it.”
The Zimbos were close to clueless against Tahir‚ as they were in the ODIs‚ where Tahir did celebrate a hat-trick‚ and not much better facing most of the rest of South Africas attack.
Not so an unusually uncompetitive Tabraiz Shamsi who was smashed for 43 runs — 25 of them in his fourth over‚ when Moor drilled him for four successive sixes.
Zimbabwe are running out of opportunities to avoid their tour being a total write-off‚ what with the last T20s scheduled for Potchefstroom on Friday and Benoni on Sunday.