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Last Updated: 06/09/2003The Lost Jewel
President Robert Mugabe shows no sign of retiring or surrendering power to the growing opposition party in Zimbabwe. Martin Meredith's Our Votes Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe published by Public Affairs, June 2003, provides the background to one of this week's crises in Africa.
The late Samora Machel, President of Mozambique and close ally of Robert Mugabe, said when Mugabe won power in Southern Rhodesia: “You have a jewel. Take good care of it.” Zimbabwe at this moment has lost its precious qualities. To Martin Meredith, the main culprit is Mugabe. In “Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe”, Meredith wants the reader to know that despite being able to lay blame at the door of the former colonial powers, of apartheid South Africa, of the intransigent white Rhodesian regime, and successive British governments, the current president has steadily ruined the economy and destroyed hopes for democracy in Zimbabwe.
This readable book, now re-issued in paperback and updated since its original publication in 2000, tells a tale of extraordinary brave men and women and of extraordinarily corrupt ones, too. On balance the bravery is dwarfed by the lust for power and wealth. It is a story, too, of the new African politics, of the universals of power in its most corrupt form (exercised both by whites and blacks alike) of human frailty and tragedy, as the title suggests. The careful detail in the book demonstrates how regimes are built from initial compromises that lead increasingly to intimidation, fear and distribution of favours and opportunities to acquire wealth.
Looking for explanations, causes, and key elements in the process of losing the jewel, the following stand out from the narrative:
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of a varied coalition, accused of plotting to assassinate Mugabe, waits to hear his fate in prison. The MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) promises more strikes and mass action. The 79 year old President plays for time. Martin Meredith has supplied the narrative. History will supply the ending. At the moment, it does not look like a happy one.