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Mugabe: Power, Plunder, and the Struggle for Zimbabwe's Future [Kindle Edition]

Martin Meredith
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Robert Mugabe came to power in Zimbabwe in 1980 after a long civil war in Rhodesia. The white minority government had become an international outcast in refusing to give in to the inevitability of black majority rule. Finally the defiant white prime minister Ian Smith was forced to step down and Mugabe was elected president. Initially he promised reconciliation between white and blacks, encouraged Zimbabwe's economic and social development, and was admired throughout the world as one of the leaders of the emerging nations and as a model for a transition from colonial leadership. But as Martin Meredith shows in this history of Mugabe's rule, Mugabe from the beginning was sacrificing his purported ideals—and Zimbabwe's potential—to the goal of extending and cementing his autocratic leadership. Over time, Mugabe has become ever more dictatorial, and seemingly less and less interested in the welfare of his people, treating Zimbabwe's wealth and resources as spoils of war for his inner circle. In recent years he has unleashed a reign of terror and corruption in his country. Like the Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Zimbabwe has been on a steady slide to disaster. Now for the first time the whole story is told in detail by an expert. It is a riveting and tragic political story, a morality tale, and an essential text for understanding today's Africa.

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Amazon.co.uk Review

Martin Meredith's new book on Robert Mugabe, Mugabe: Power and Plunder in Zimbabwe comes as a welcome antidote to the current one-dimensional portrayals of the president as an "evil monster" that narrow our understanding of the man. Meredith has spent most of his career reporting on Zimbabwe and South Africa, first as a foreign correspondent and latterly as an academic, so his credentials are impeccable. He does not shirk from condemning Mugabe for his single-minded obsession with power that has left Zimbabwe's roads flowing with blood and its economy bankrupt, but Meredith reminds us that in his earlier days Mugabe was a much more considered political radical. Mugabe spent his early years under the tutelage of the Jesuits, and only abandoned religion in favour of Marxism after he won a scholarship to study at university in South Africa where he quickly became a highly politicised member of the African National Congress. He came to Western attention in the late 1970s when the apartheid regime in Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was then known, creaked to its inevitable demise and Britain set about establishing an independent African regime in its former colony. Britain did its best to rig the results in favour of its preferred candidate the moderate and easily controlled Bishop Muzorewa, but much to the surprise of the Thatcher government--but to no-one in Zimbabwe--Mugabe's ZANU party romped home as landslide victors. Britain held its breath for the backlash and... nothing happened. In fact, Mugabe showed himself to be surprisingly conciliatory and Christopher Soames, the British governor-general who had been appointed to supervise the elections reported that he "ended up not only implicitly trusting him but also fondly loving him as well".

So where did it all go wrong? It is tempting to suggest that his father's desertion and the death of his young son were key factors in Mugabe's subsequent emotional detachment, but Meredith resists drawing such a linear psychological equation. Instead he catalogues the landmark events, such as the scandal of the war veteran pensions, that led Mugabe to compromise both his morality and his country and one is left with the impression that Zimbabwe's fate was inevitable given that Mugabe's only guiding motivation was to hang on to power whatever the cost. Mugabe: Power and Plunder in Zimbabwe is the first book of a brand new non-fiction imprint, PublicAffairs Ltd, that is dedicated to following the standards of IF Stone and Benjamin Bradlee: both would be more than happy to be associated with Meredith's volume. --John Crace

Amazon Review

Martin Meredith's new book on Robert Mugabe, Mugabe: Power and Plunder in Zimbabwe comes as a welcome antidote to the current one-dimensional portrayals of the president as an "evil monster" that narrow our understanding of the man. Meredith has spent most of his career reporting on Zimbabwe and South Africa, first as a foreign correspondent and latterly as an academic, so his credentials are impeccable. He does not shirk from condemning Mugabe for his single-minded obsession with power that has left Zimbabwe's roads flowing with blood and its economy bankrupt, but Meredith reminds us that in his earlier days Mugabe was a much more considered political radical. Mugabe spent his early years under the tutelage of the Jesuits, and only abandoned religion in favour of Marxism after he won a scholarship to study at university in South Africa where he quickly became a highly politicised member of the African National Congress. He came to Western attention in the late 1970s when the apartheid regime in Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was then known, creaked to its inevitable demise and Britain set about establishing an independent African regime in its former colony. Britain did its best to rig the results in favour of its preferred candidate the moderate and easily controlled Bishop Muzorewa, but much to the surprise of the Thatcher government--but to no-one in Zimbabwe--Mugabe's ZANU party romped home as landslide victors. Britain held its breath for the backlash and... nothing happened. In fact, Mugabe showed himself to be surprisingly conciliatory and Christopher Soames, the British governor-general who had been appointed to supervise the elections reported that he "ended up not only implicitly trusting him but also fondly loving him as well".

So where did it all go wrong? It is tempting to suggest that his father's desertion and the death of his young son were key factors in Mugabe's subsequent emotional detachment, but Meredith resists drawing such a linear psychological equation. Instead he catalogues the landmark events, such as the scandal of the war veteran pensions, that led Mugabe to compromise both his morality and his country and one is left with the impression that Zimbabwe's fate was inevitable given that Mugabe's only guiding motivation was to hang on to power whatever the cost. Mugabe: Power and Plunder in Zimbabwe is the first book of a brand new non-fiction imprint, PublicAffairs Ltd, that is dedicated to following the standards of IF Stone and Benjamin Bradlee: both would be more than happy to be associated with Meredith's volume. --John Crace


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More About the Author

Martin Meredith is the author of many acclaimed books on Africa including lives of Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela and, most recently, The State of Africa (Free Press, 2005). He lives near Oxford.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating portrayal 16 Jan. 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Meredith has produced another excellent book on Africa and if you want to investigate why that continent has had such a troubled time since the ending of European colonisation then you need look no further. Here Zimbabwe, or more accurately it's infamous leader Robert Mugabe is put under the spotlight and the tale is a sorry one indeed.

In a highly readable way Meredith brings us through Mugabe's early years and influences and explains the divisions that were present in the freedom movement.The scene of Smith declaring UDI and the international political response is well set without going overboard on details. The desperate decline from Mugabe's accession to office in 1980 to his paranoia and the way he and his followers stooped to any means to hold onto power makes for very sad reading. I found it particularly interesting to see how long the judiciary tried to oppose his policies (presidential decrees were constantly used to ignore their censures) but how the police were almost totally complicit with almost all forms of law - breaking.

Chapter by chapter the story unfolds about the increasing targeting of white farmers and of black political opponents and while it doesn't make for happy reading and doesn't as yet have a happy ending one can only hope that the apparent present power-sharing is easing the lot of the Zimbabwean people.This is a very informative study of one of the world's most ruthless rulers. (NOTE : this review refers to the 2002 edition of "Power and Plunder")
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good. 17 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a detailed chronicle of Mr. Mugabe. From his early childhood, where his father's desertion and the death of his child seemed to have had a profound effect on him right up until his preparations for the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections.

All the critical events in the life of Mugabe are covered:
- His Jesuit education and his beginnings as a radical rebel, influenced by Marxism.
- His imprisonment and his attainment of various educational degrees
- The surprising brief period of hope and stability when he first took power in 1980.
- The mass exodus of Zimbabweans throughout his rule.
- His links with North Korea and the creation of the 5 Brigade (the Gukurahundi)
- His instigation of a new elite, his political henchmen and his deals with war vets.
- His castigating of former colonial powers, the entire western world and rampaging of white farmers culminating in the third chimurenga.
- His pyschotic and systematic bull dosing of people out of their own homes (Operation Muramatsvine)

What's clear from this book is that Zimbabwe was never really a stable democracy. It was an apartheid styled state which created many Mugabe's. Then almost immediately as Mugabe's Zanu-PF took control, the media and populace at large where intimidated, cowed and eventually beaten by a state that had no shame committing all sorts of human rights abuses.

There are some interesting post - colonial points. Even though one can make all the proverbial critisms of the colonialists, Mugabe should have worked with them. For example he should have kept them on their farms while the country worked through much needed reform (even several African leaders were advising he should do this).
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but incomplete 8 Mar. 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I have no connection to Zimbabwe, just a tourist who visited in the early 90s so had no particular bias pre-knowledge. I was looking forward to reading an informed book about the 'man' himself and gain an understanding of how he became what he is today. The book was interesting, contained selective information but did not give me any real understanding of Mugabe. The book was short-cut could have been much longer and really did not give a 'novice' on Mugabe any real insight into the man or Zimbabwe. Disappointed in the content, but even so the book was interesting and well written.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating over-view 10 Sept. 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having spent 3 years working in Zimbabwe, and lived through many of the most exciting recent developments, I found this book fascinating and highly informative. I met Mugabe himself during my time there, and Grace Mugabe on another occasion. Everyone spoke of him as having gone off the rails, but Mr Meredith's book demonstrates that Mugabe's recent conduct has been entirely consistent with his methods during the previous two decades - a real eye-opener.
The book is gripping and readable, particularly for one which inevitably is fairly dense with names and facts. I consider it an extremely useful over-view of the topic. The definitive story will only be written when Mugabe has gone, but, as a tool to help us understand history in the making, I think that this would be difficult to surpass.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good General Account of a Tyrant 3 Jun. 2013
By Nico
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Martin Meredith is a very fine writer on African history and politics and has produced a good general account of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Bottom line is that for over 30 years now Mugabe has masqueraded as a liberation hero yet he has been a real tyrant himself for much of this period. If you want to gain some insight into what the Mugabe regime is all about this is a pretty good book to start out with.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you live in the English-speaking world, you will recognise Robert Mugabe as the malevolent ogre that has ruined Zimbabwe, a country that was once the 'bread basket' of Africa. Mugabe has presided over a calamitous decline in living standards and has encouraged violence against his real and imagined enemies within Zimbabwe. This, at least, is the caricature of the man painted by the popular press (such as The Economist). Like all caricatures, this portrait is grotesquely malproportioned. I bought Martin Meredith's 'Mugabe' because I wanted a more balanced picture of Mugabe's Zimbabwe. I had read Meredith's excellent book 'The State of Africa' and was thoroughly impressed by Meredith's knowledge of post-colonial Africa. Therefore, I expected 'Mugabe' to add nuance to the popular caricature of the man. The book succeeds, but only just.

WHO IS ROBERT MUGABE?
Meredith attempts to uncover how a keenly intelligent, ostensibly idealist Marxist Mugabe transformed into the ogre of popular imagination. His thesis is simple: Mugabe was never quite a committed Marxist. Mugabe's only goal in leading Zimbabwe's black liberation movement was power. He would do anything, brook no opposition and murder anyone in order to retain power. Nothing surprising here.

Mugabe grew up in racially stratified colonial Rhodesia. According to Meredith, Mugabe resented the racial assumptions of the colonial caste system: blacks were inferior while whites - no matter their intellectual gifts or character - were considered superior to blacks. Yet, Mugabe grew up fearing - even admiring - 'The White Man' (Meredith's words).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
i like it
Published 1 month ago by victor chaungwe
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Well written which brings some understanding of the current plight of Zimbabwe
Published 9 months ago by S. J. Nyamupanda
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a deranged despot
This book outlines the career of an evil and utterly ruthless man who emerged from being a key figure in a guerrilla war fought against white minority rule, to engineering through... Read more
Published on 13 Oct. 2008 by Gary Selikow
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to Mugabe
This is a really detailed introduction to Mugabe. I knew very little about him before I read this book, but the book covers everything from his early days, to consolidation of... Read more
Published on 14 Aug. 2008 by Nathan
3.0 out of 5 stars An introduction surely, but not the be all and end all.
I picked up this book whilst browsing my local bookshop. I had never ever heard of Mugabe and therefore didn't have a clue as to what he or the book was all about. Read more
Published on 30 Jan. 2008 by A. Ogbaselase
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Book To Understand The Man and The Party
Matin Meridith gives a good grounding to those wishing to know more about the complexities of the man behind the present situation in Zimbabwe. Read more
Published on 23 Sept. 2003 by "geoffblackmore"
4.0 out of 5 stars A timely interesting and apparently fair account
This well written, well presented and timely book has reached the market almost simultaneously in the U.K. and the U.S.A. Read more
Published on 6 Mar. 2002
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