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Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe Hardcover – March, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st edition (March 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481282
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586481285
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #763,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on November 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Martin Meredith's "Our Votes, Our Guns" is a particlarly depressing work of jouralism covering the descent of post-Rhodesia Zimbabwe into a barbarous authoritarian kleptocracy thoroughly dominated by a corrupt leader who turned his back on ever principle he supposedly had before obtaining power. The world's attention (such as it is) has been focussed on the forcible removal of white farmers from their land with the explict support of the government. But as Meredith demonstrates, President Mugabe's racist policies toward whites is just one of many evils he has perpetrated on his country.
Meredith starts out by setting the historical stage, including telling about the horrific brutality of white rule in what was then Rhodesia before the 1979 "revolution" that brought Mugabe to power. Certainly, Zimbabwe's violent release from colonialism has a lot to do with the country's current situation.
Meredith then goes on to show the early promise that Mugabe showed as president, so willing for reconcilliation that he met with the last white Prime Minister, Ian Smith on numerous occasions to ask adbvice in the early years. Meredith then shows how as Mugabe became increasingly paranoid and obsessed with power his cronys became more and more corrupt. Anyone who believes that third world debts ought to be forgiven should read this book. Zimbabwe is in a state of financial collapse because its president and his associates bled the country dry, not because of IMF or World Bank financial imperialism. If anything, Western aid has helped serve as an enabler for Mugabe's destruction of Zimbabwe.
The book's main drawback is a lack of first hand reporting by Meredith. There is no indication in the narrative that the author has ever visited Zimbabwe and he seems to have relied mostly on second had accounts. Nevertheless, he is an excellent researcherr, and despite this flaw this is still a compelling read for those with an interest in current events beyond the headlines.
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Format: Hardcover
So said Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Robert Mugabe. This is coming from a church leader about someone who often publicly boasts about being a devout christian. If the Archbishop's criticism doesn't bother Mugabe then maybe Nelson Mandela's dissmissive epithet - calling the man "Comrade Bob" hits more to home. Mandela throws cold water on Mugabe's previously illustrious reputation as a freedom fighter and liberator of his people.
Mentioning Mandela is an appropriate starting point for discussing OUR VOTES,OUR GUNS because the author - Martin Meredith - is best known for his authoritative biography of Mandela. Here he applies his writing skills and powers of observation with the same results - a thorough analysis with keen insights into the personality. So who is Robert Mugabe and how is it that from a position of world acclaim as a hero at Zimbabwe's independence in April, 1980 - inhereting "a jewel" as Meredith quotes another African leader as telling him - he has sunk to such a low position today? Meredith says that a lot of this can be explained by over optimism and excessive expectations. In the 1970's he was the guerilla leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union/Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) which wrested control of Rhodesia from the minority, white-ruled government of Ian Smith. Following independence Mugabe emerged as a statesman. He was committed to reconciliation with whites and Meredith refers to Mugabe's speech on Independence day. He promised to "draw a line through the past" and said "if yesterday I fought you as an enemy, today you have become a friend and ally with the same national interest..." Meredith argues however that the hope in Mugabe as a model of the new African leader was badly misplaced.
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By A Customer on January 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a super-readable book about the career of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whose corruption, brutality, and paranoia have wrecked Zimbabwe's democratic institutions and have brought the country to the brink of economic ruin. The book is refreshingly free of cant, and the author has a sharp eye for political grotesqueries, which have abounded in post-independence Zimbabwe. My only complaint (and hence the rating of 4 stars) is the lack of footnotes or any real analysis of the social or economic currents underlying Zimbabwean politics. Instead, journalist Meredith is content to chronicle events newspaper-style.
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Format: Hardcover
Two decades can ultimately change the course and path of a country's ruler, from ambitious construction to utter and complete despotism; no one has demonstrated this more in recent years than Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the one president that Zimbabwe ever had since its official independence from the UK in April 1980. When first elected, he promised hope and harmony between all people of Zimbabwe, as one of his speeches outlined: "Racism, whether practiced by whites or blacks, is anathema to the humanitarian philosophy of Zanu [Mugabe's political party]. It is as primitive a dogma as tribalism or regionalism. Zimbabwe cannot just be a country of blacks. It is and should remain our country, all of us together" (pp. 9-10). That speech was in the beginning. Consider what another speech looked like, just twenty years after independence, by the same "humanitarian" president: "Our present state of mind is that you are now are [sic] enemies because you really have behaved as enemies of Zimbabwe. We are full of anger. Our entire community is angry and that is why we now have the war veterans seizing land" (p. 175). To this, Mugabe was referring to the controversial and unlawful land reform program that he had unleashed full-force beginning in February 2000. Such change in the course and path of Zimbabwe is the subject of Martin Meredith's most recent book on contemporary African issues.
Like Philip Gourevitch, who broke the silence over the genocide and post-1994 experiences of Rwanda in his magnificent book, Meredith offers the same eulogy to a country that has become a pariah state on the verge of complete anarchy.
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