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'mad bob' laid bare

By unknown | Feb 26, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Book: Mugabe - Power, Plunder and the Struggle for Zimbabwe

Book: Mugabe - Power, Plunder and the Struggle for Zimbabwe

Author: Martim Meredith

Publisher: Jonathan Ball

Reviewer: Don Makatile

Mad Old Bob across the Limpopo hasn't been strictly bad news, after all.

The megalomaniacal Robert Mugabe has been a boon for the literary world, especially for those writers with an interest in Zimbabwe, such as Andrew Meldrum and Martin Meredith.

The antics of the 84-year-old Mugabe have been as much fodder for these writers and their ilk as the indiscretions of Jacob Zuma have been material for cartoonists here.

All Meredith has had to do was to sit and watch - and Mad Bob hasn't disappointed.

Meredith wrote the first edition in 2002, then updated it the following year. Thanks to Mugabe's senility and belligerence, this copy, the latest, has had three chapters added - A Stolen Election (Chapter 14), Murambatsvina (Chapter 15) and How Long The Night (Chapter 16).

You can bet your bottom dollar (preferably not the Zim currency) that if Bob stays on much longer - he's already joked that he'll be in control until he's a century old - Meredith, writing out of Oxford in England, will fatten his Mugabe - Power, Plunder and the Struggle for Zimbabwe a lot further!

This is basically the story of a bookworm who, having qualified as a teacher, left home for a vacancy in Ghana, where he'd meet his future wife, Sally, the only living person who'd ever be able to tame his behavioural excesses.

What he sees in Kwame Nkrumah's land is paradise; it tells him the status quo at home must not persist. He comes back to the then Rhodesia to take up arms with the objective of setting up a Zimbabwe free from colonialism.

After 11 solid years in Ian Smith's jail, he emerges - unlike the conciliatory Nelson Mandela down south, bitter, more determined to ensure that those "with their pink noses do not meddle in our affairs".

Hailed as a hero, he inherits what the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere would describe as a jewel.

Some years down the line, the man who gallantly fought white rule alongside Joshua Nkomo, of Zapu, would morph into a lunatic, turning a once-thriving economy into a sorry basket case with, at a mad 100000 percent, the world's highest inflation rate.

The land issue, the central theme of the volatile situation in Zimbabwe, is handled satisfactorily here. The beauty of Meredith's writing is that he tries - yes, he tries - to present both sides of the (land) story.

During the scramble for Africa, Britons came to Rhodesia to force the likes of Chief Tangwena off their land, and now, in the 21st century, they want the world to know that an injustice is being visited upon them - Mugabe wants to take their land!

Meredith tries to camouflage the seriousness of the matter by choosing to quote a comical Sabina Mugabe, the president's sister, saying indigenous Zimbabweans will not pay a cent for white farms because the whites stole the land in the first place.

Mugabe's viciousness on opponents is scary and spine-chilling. The people of Matabeleland, victims of the notorious Five Brigade, know Mugabe's wrath better.

So does the MDC.

This is the same Mugabe, the educated freedom fighter who, with several university degrees to his name, has been such a truculent sort that he bragged in 2000 that he had a degree in violence!

This is all information in the public domain, but Meredith's titbits of research make the book all the more worthy of attention.


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