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Mugabe: Power, Plunder, and the Struggle for Zimbabwe's Future Paperback – 25 Sep 2007
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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 -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
"...the best argued and best written indictment yet of the man Nelson Mandela mockingly calls Comrade Bob." The Economist "This book is highly readable, clear and fast-moving. It is excellent on Mugabe's early life and the way he became drawn into the struggle of Zimbabwe." Financial Times "As a well-written chronicle of Zimbabwe's degradation, this book is of great value." Sunday Telegraph "Martin Meredith's account of the pursuit of power and plunder is especially good on the early years of Mugabe..." Daily Telegraph "Martin Meredith's book is not so much a biography as a brief gallop through the unfolding moral fable of independent Zimbabwe to the present day. As such it is a useful short guide..." Sunday Times"See all Product description
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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")
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). But, Mugabe's priorities were perverse and only based on keeping his power which meant he instead castigated the whites at any opportunity, blaming them for every single one of Zimbabwe's problems in an effort to deflect any criticism aimed at him. And of course, anyone who disagreed was in cahoots with the nasty post-colonials and hence a traitor.
Every page has a plethora of facts - almost too much. If you don't know too much about Zimbabwe, it's quite easy to get confused. I found myself
cross-checking with Google and wikipedia several times. In fact one of book's major shortcoming is that, despite the author's obvious erudite and sapient knowledge of Zimbabwe there are no references for all the facts. Surprising.
In addition, beyond all the information, there isn't much critical insight, value add or arguments from the author. Some of it is very interesting, particularly South African coverts operations to destabilise the Zanu-PF government but it would be nice if the book had some arguments that weren't obvious or even if it posed some thought provoking questions particular in the role of Western World in relation to Zimbabwe.
My only other criticism as most people wouldn't be au fait with Zimbabwe's democracy (if you could call it that) I think clearer distinctions should have been made between the various types of elections (again if you could call them that) in Zimbabwe, namely: parliamentary, senate, presidential elections and of course the referendums. The crucial points of course pertaining to Zimbabwean elections are Mugabe's rigging of elections, his intimidation of voters and political opponents, but it would help to put things in perspective if the book explained what way Zimbabwe's democracy is supposed to work and not just that it was been subverting by a lunatic. I think this would aid the reader's understanding of Zimbabwe, particular the times when elections have been close to each other for example, in the year 2000 when Mugabe lost a referendum but won parliamentary elections the same year.
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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