Zimbabwe, a country in shackles of its own making, is guilty of “politicide”, as we learn in Peter Godwin’s account of the last Zimbabwean elections, The Fear, which tracks the near-wiping out of an opposition movement.
The persecution hasn’t stopped. With fresh elections mooted – possibly – for this year, four of Zimbabwe’s opposition members of parliament are in custody on bogus corruption charges. A reporter in Zimbabwe talks about the anxiety that once again seizes the nation:
So the culture of fear sets in, and the people are cowed into resistance, discussing their fate in hushed tones and only with people they trust to share the same sentiments. And the fear rots us from the core, eats at us until the day they herd us to the ballot box and we speak in overwhelming numbers … again.
And the US Embassy in Harare tweets, today, that the arrests continue:
Susan Gilman of NPR reviewed Godwin’s The Fear and featured an excerpt from the book. Says Gilman, “In the hands of a less talented writer, The Fear could have become simply too painful to read. But while Godwin spares us nothing, he writes with such compassion, poetry and ironic humor that you cannot put his book down”:
When I teach writing, I remind students that real villains aren’t like cartoons: They don’t cackle, “When my evil plan succeeds, the world will be mine!”
But after reading Peter Godwin’s harrowing book, The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe, I’m not so sure.
Godwin grew up in what had been Rhodesia. He witnessed the war of liberation and Mugabe’s rise to power. He saw Zimbabwe flourish — then curdle.
Here’s the excerpt from the book:
Deep into the night, in pursuit of the westward escaping sun, we fly into a fogbank, where the cold Atlantic breakers curdle upon the warm West African shore below. Consoled, somehow, to have reached the continent of my birth, I lay down my book and fall uncomfortably asleep, my head wedged against the buzzing fuselage.
I am on my way home to Zimbabwe, to dance on Robert Mugabe’s political grave. The crooked elections he has just held have spun out of his control, and after twenty-eight years the world’s oldest leader is about to be toppled. When I arrive the next evening in Harare, the capital, his portrait is everywhere still, staring balefully down at us. From the walls of the airport, as the immigration officer harvests my U.S. dollars, sweeping them across his worn wooden counter, and softly thumping a smudged blue visa into my passport. From the campaign placards pasted to the posts of the broken street lights, during our feral packs of hollow-chested dogs, he raises his fist into the sultry dome of night, as though blaming the fates for his mutinous subjects.