Aug. 1st, 2006

rfmcdonald: (Default)
While I'm not inclined to doubt the credibility of Zimbabwean journalist Geoff Hill's The Battle for Zimbabwe (Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2005), a gripping description of the economic collapse, general brutalization, and mass emigration suffered by Zimbabweans under the presidency of Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF political party, the gaps in his narrative are interesting. Hill only mentions the Shona chimurenga in relation to the popular music of Thomas Mapfumo; more importantly, he doesn't spend nearly as much time as he should analyzing the similarities between the Rhodesian state and its Zimbabwean successor. In many ways, Zimbabwe seems to have inherited the worst flaws of Rhodesia: the monopoly on broadcasting, the callous attitude adopted towards the politically excluded, the restrictive public security laws, even the rejection of British authority and criticism as fundamentally illegitimate (in Rhodesia's case because it was never directly exercised, in Zimbabwe's because it was colonialist). This lack of insight aside, Hill makes a persuasive argument, based on his extensive experience of the country, interviews with Zimbabweans and others, and documentary evidence, that the Zimbabwean meltdown is the product of the Zimbabwean leadership's capricious opportunism, aggravated by terribly short-term thinking. Historical disputes, like those between the Shona and the minority Ndebele which resulted in the Shona choosing to overlook the Gukurahundi massacres of the early 1980s, seem to serve only as pretexts. Hill ends The Battle for Zimbabwe on a relatively positive note, suggesting--as he does in his later What Happens After Mugabe? (Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2006)--that Zimbabwe's reconstruction could be achieved fairly readily on the basis of its existing resource and with international help. After reading Hill's description of Zimbabwe's paramilitary-aided descent into capricious dictatorship, though, I have to suspect him of being excessively optimistic since, by his own account, too damage has been done to be that easily built over.
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