This book does what it says on the tin. It paints the now-familiar picture of Mugabe as a power-crazy despot whose cronies have embezzled at the country’s expense. Even before the recent elections there was no getting away from the fact that Mugabe’s rule has descended into a thuggish intimidation of the opposition, including detention without trial and the use of torture. The Government has contempt for the courts and a demonstrable tendency towards corruption and self-enrichment. Nevertheless there are curious omissions in Meredith’s highly readable narrative. No credit is given for the great post-independence advances in healthcare and education. There is no criticism of Britain’s role in determining the slow pace of land reform that has led to the current crisis. Mugabe’s brutal assault on Matabeleland dissidents in the early 1980s is rightly treated in depth but Meredith virtually dismisses Super-Zapu as a figment of Mugabe’s imagination when it was in fact an active paramilitary unit created by apartheid South Africa to foment unrest in the new Zimbabwe.
Meredith reports criticisms of Mugabe’s military support of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, without saying that this support is invited — unlike the Ugandan and Rwandan rebel players.
Nor is there any analysis of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change — financed as it is by Western governments and business interests, in favour of privatization as part of an IMF-friendly economic programme, and with an unclear policy on land.
Clearly the full story has yet to be written.Phil England