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Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe Hardcover – March, 2002
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In 1980, Zimbabwe was the great hope of Africa, a place where blacks were supposed to realize their postcolonial destinies under the enlightened leadership of Robert Mugabe. But now the country formerly known as Rhodesia is an international basket case with a wrecked economy and a dim future. In this disturbing book by Martin Meredith, a British journalist with extensive experience in southern Africa, Mugabe transforms into a villain. "Year by year, he acquired ever greater power, ruling the country through a vast system of patronage, favoring loyal aides and cronies with government positions and contracts and ignoring the spreading blight of corruption," writes Meredith. "Power for Mugabe was not a means to an end, but the end itself." His reign has been so wretched, in fact, that some of the most sympathetic people in Our Votes, Our Guns are the white farmers who once supported apartheid-style rule but decided not to flee when Mugabe came to power. They were promised multiracial harmony; what they got instead was a racist dictator who thought nothing of using violence against them. Admirers of Philip Gourevitch--or, indeed, anyone with an interest in African politics--will appreciate Meredith's depressing but important story. --John Miller
"Fast paced and readable." -- The Nation, April 8, 2002
"Meredith's concise and lucid [book] gives some answers [regarding Zimbabwe], in the shape of Mr. Mugabe's career and character." -- Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2002.
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The saddest aspect is while matters started very promisingly with the country ripe for a muti racial experiment and very similar to South Africa, the early use of force to remove tribal opposition was then applied unremmitingly to the white minority with fatal long term effects on the country's economy.
That inequality existed and changes were needed on land distribution were clear - the redistribution when it occurred was done in such a manner that not only were the whites permanently alienated but the corruption and lack of planning as to what was to replace has had fatal consequences with mass poverty, unrest and a wealthy autocratic elite destroying the future prospects for the poorer native populace of the country.
The control of every facet by Mugabe's Zanu Party whenever challenged has been met with violence from local opposition using North Korean trained cadres to outright intimidation of the judiciary, one of the real heroes in this story.
A very well told and researched history.
It is ironic that Robert Mugabe initially achieved political power (and Western support) by appealing to the ideals of democracy, while under his reign Zimbabwe has gone from being a wealthy nation ruled by law to a virtual autocracy now on the brink of a debilitating famine.
The author does an excellent job of showing how personal depravity and public corruption have robbed the hope and future of a generation of wonderful people.
No one listened, and the situation is still getting worse. The book has aged well, but the tragedy continues.
I couple of comments about what some of the other reviewers said. Zimbabwe is no longer a democracy. Hitler took Weimar Germany and made it into a Fascist state. Ferdinand Marcos took the Philippines and turned it into a tin horn dictatorship. Just because a country has some trappings of democracy, it is not a democracy. Remember the Soviet Union had elections, and they were not free. Zimbabwe may have elections and a somewhat free judiciary, but it is not a democracy any more than Rhodesia was a democracy. Mugabe is showing traits of a Fascist or Communist Dictator (i.e. hero worship of the leader). Mugabe is also showing signs of his racist nature. He often berates the former white leader Ian Smith, but Mugabe's leadership (or dictatorship) is worse. At least Smith gave up power, Mugabe wants to retain power forever.
Another comment made by another reviewer is that the West should not show debt forgiveness to certain Third World countries. I quite agree, why subsidize Zimbabwe so we can enrich the kleptocrats of the ZANU-PF and Mugabe's family. The West should have learned its leason with Mobutu and Zaire. Don't give Zimbabwe a dime until ZANU-PF and Mugabe are gone.
This is a good book from a great author. I am reading his latest work about the Fate of Africa, and this is a nice companion read.