The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe

January 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

One of the highest literacy rates in Africa. Excellent infrastructure and a claim to the title of  “rainbow nation” long before South Africa. How did Zimbabwe plummet from such heights to its current infamous reputation: a currency so hyperinflated that you require a wheelbarrow of cash in order to purchase a loaf of bread; cholera epidemics; food shortages; starvation; and rampant unemployment? Robert Mugabe. The world’s most infamous nonagenarian.

In The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean journalist Peter Godwin travelled back to the country of his birth to witness what he believed would be the downfall of Mugabe. The note of optimism that Godwin bore in his breast is a stark reminder of how desperately Zimbabweans have yearned to remove the yoke and break the shackles of tyranny. So much so that they believed that democratic means would remove an avaricious despot and his cronies. And this is something they continue to believe in: nonviolent resistance, which is replied in kind in the most savage fashion. Eight years on and nothing has changed. Following the dissolution of the power sharing deal (mediated by Thabo Mbeki in 2008/2009), Mugabe has once again consolidated power.

thefearGodwin makes it clear that this is the trajectory Zimbabwe was bound to follow once Mugabe came to power, i.e. Mugabe was a power-hungry tyrant from the start; there was no moment of transformation; there was no witches’ prophecy that turned his head. Every time ZANU-PF is challenged it responds with incredulity:”How can you vote against us? We fought for your independence.” Rather like the Cuban Revolution, the War of Liberation in Zimabawe is sacrosanct.

Why is there so little interest in the plight of Zimbabweans? Godwin is very clear on that too. Zimbabwe has no oil reserves; it does not export terrorism; and the issue is primarily a black on black issue. That is not call to cynicism; over the years conflicts involving multiple races have always grabbed headlines: apartheid, the murder of James Reeb in Selma, etc. Whilst those in which the ethnic/racial lines are blurred tend to befuddle us: Rwanda or the civil wars in the Middle East.

The descriptions of natural beauty, the acts of valour and kindness, and the resilience of the Zimbabweans all heighten the pathos of the situation. It is obvious that Godwin clearly loves his country and his people. The Fear is a poignant account of a struggle that we the rest of the world have long ignored, and forgotten.

The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe by Peter Godwin
published by Picador


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