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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Meredith’s Mugabe Puts a Despot Under Scrutiny

MugabeRobert Mugabe was once hailed around the world as a revolutionary hero. After a fierce civil war against white minority rule in Rhodesia, he emerged as the new leader of Zimbabwe, embracing the cause of reconciliation and racial harmony. Hopes were high that Mugabe had the intelligence, political savvy and idealistic vision to overcome the legacy of war and forge ahead with economic and social development. As Western governments lined up with promises of aid, Zimbabwe at independence in 1980 seemed destined for an era of peace and prosperity.

What happened? In Martin Meredith’s Mugabe: Power, Plunder and the Struggle for Zimbabwe, the author pieces together the riveting and tragic story of the leader who once represented one of the world’s best hopes for a democratic Africa. It is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the politics of the continent today.

The book has been revised and updated, to cover the period between Zimbabwe’s last elections in 2002 – when Mugabe was first published – and those coming up this March. Press coverage of the new edition is starting to roll in:

Robert & Sally MugabeRobert Mugabe started life as the bookish son of a village carpenter. His metamorphosis into a dictator with an insatiable appetite for power is the subject of a new book, MUGABE: Power, Plunder and the Struggle for Zimbabwe. Piet van Niekerk reports

IN 1980 Robert Mugabe fooled the world into thinking he was a responsible revolutionary hero who would lead Zimbabwe into an era of great promise.

It was Mugabe’s appearance on Rhodesian television on the evening of March 5, 1980, that did the trick.

The previous morning – after elections in a post-war Rhodesia – Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) won 63 percent of a democratic vote and sent shock waves among whites who feared a black Marxist government.

More about the book

Mugabe’s post-independence honeymoon did not last long. Determined to gain total power through a one-party system, Mugabe unleashed a campaign of mass murder and terror against his political opponents in Matabeleland. Year by year, he aquired huge personal power, ruling the country through a vast system of patronage, favouring loyal aids and cronies with government positions and contracts and feeding the spreading blight of corruption. One by one, state corporations and funding organisations were plundered. It was as if Mugabe and his inner circle had come to regard Zimbabwe as merely a prize of war.

Today Zimbabwe is a country beset by violence and lawlessness, regarded by the international community as a pariah state. Its economy is in tatters. Determined to stay in power, Mugabe has used armed gangs to crush political opposition, subverted the rule of law, undermined the judiciary, harassed the independent press and vilified the small white community.

“[Martin Meredith’s] books on post-war Africa . . . have become essential guides to anyone seeking a closer understanding of [its] complexities.”
– London Sunday Times

About the author

Martin Meredith has spent much of his life writing about Africa: first as a foreign correspondent for the London Observer and Sunday Times, then as a research fellow at St Anthony’s College, Oxford, and now as an independent author and commentator.

His account of the last decade of white rule in Rhodesia, The Past is Another Country, was highly praised. His most recent books, The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence and Diamonds, Gold and War: the Making of Modern South Africa, have received widespread interest and enthusiastic reviews across three continents.

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