The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
Peter Godwin returns to Zimbabwe, his homeland, to bear witness to the crimes of the Mugabe regime.
The most troubling thing about Zimbabwe’s ban on foreign journalists is how devastatingly effective it has turned out to be. In the daily competition for global attention, Zimbabwe is more often than not the sorry loser. Buffered by a politically supportive South Africa and the near absence of coverage in Western publications, President Robert Mugabe has been allowed to preside over economic chaos of the most destructive brand since steering the country to independence in 1980. Zimbabwe, once the so-called breadbasket of Africa, is now plagued by dire food shortages. There is simply nothing to stock on grocery store shelves.Skip to next paragraph
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Not that there would be a way to buy it anyway. Zimbabwe has brought hyper-inflation to a whole new standard. Before abandoning its own currency in 2009 in favor of the US dollar and South African rand, its residents required a suitcase of cash to buy something as simple as a cup of coffee. Any money they had would halve in value each night.
This Zimbabwe is the unlikely muse for writer Peter Godwin, whose previous two books, “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun” and “Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa,” sketch the country’s steep decline through the personal lens of Godwin’s life and family. There are his parents, an engineer and a doctor, who refuse to leave the country they made home after emigrating from post-World War II England, despite what has become the near impossibility of aging gracefully there. There’s his boyhood, the boarding schools, his service in the military, and the death of his sister Jain, just weeks before her wedding in 1978, when she and her fiancé ran into an army ambush preparing to attack guerrillas. Godwin is the kind of writer who finds beauty in adversity, and so there is much that is lovely in these books.
The third and newest book in this trilogy is The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe. Godwin travels back to the country of his birth from New York, where he now lives, following Zimbabwe’s spring 2008 elections, which have had a most startling result – Robert Mugabe has lost. Or at least he hasn’t won outright, and for a leader who has habitually and successfully rigged his elections, this is shocking indeed. The country is jolted from its resigned acceptance of the status quo and, for the first time in decades, a post-Mugabe existence seems possible. Godwin and his compatriots start to do the most dangerous thing for a people long oppressed – hope.