Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mugabe's Zimbabwe & Sabatini's The Boy Next Door

From the Bloomberg article "Mugabe Paves Way for Zimbabwe Election With Referendum:"
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country for more than three decades, set March 16 as the date for a referendum on a new constitution, paving the way for elections needed to end a four-year impasse. Mugabe, 88, made the announcement in the Government Gazette today. Last month he agreed on a draft of the constitution with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his main political rival. An agreement brokered by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community in 2009 led to a coalition government between Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. Under that pact a referendum on a new constitution must be held before elections can be called. “I do, by this proclamation, appoint Saturday March 16, 2013 as the day on which the referendum will be held,” Mugabe said. Negotiations on the constitution stalled over issues including dual citizenship, reform of the security forces and land rights.
Which brings us to the novel The Boy Next Door, written by Zimbabwean Irene Sabatini:
Sabatini debuts with a love story set against the backdrop of Mugabe's Zimbabwe, from its independence in the 1980s to the decline of democracy in the 1990s. Lindiwe Bishop is 14 when her neighbor, 17-year-old Ian McKenzie, is charged with killing his mother. Lindiwe's shy, at the top of her class and from the first black family that settled in Bulawayo after integration. Ian is boisterous, a dropout and from the last white family remaining in the neighborhood. They only meet briefly before he is jailed, and when he's released a year and a half later they strike up a secret friendship...
If you'd like to delve further back into Zimbabwe's past, there's Doris Lessing's novel The Grass is Singing, which is set in 1940s Rhodesia/Zimbabwe:
Set in South Africa under white rule, Doris Lessing's first novel is both a riveting chronicle of human disintegration and a beautifully understated social critique. Mary Turner is a self-confident, independent young woman who becomes the depressed, frustrated wife of an ineffectual, unsuccessful farmer. Little by little the ennui of years on the farm work their slow poison, and Mary's despair progresses until the fateful arrival of an enigmatic and virile black servant, Moses. Locked in anguish, Mary and Moses--master and slave--are trapped in a web of mounting attraction and repulsion.
I don't usually include memoirs in these posts, but the following memoirs by (white) Zimbabweans are very popular:  Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin.

Godwin has also written an acclaimed non-fiction work on Zimbabwe, The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe:
Godwin arrived as Robert Mugabe, the country's dictator for 30 years, has finally lost an election. Mugabe's tenure has left Zimbabwe with the world's highest rate of inflation and the shortest life span. Instead of conceding power, Mugabe launched a brutal campaign of terror against his own citizens. With foreign correspondents banned, and he himself there illegally, Godwin was one of the few observers to bear witness to this period the locals call The Fear. He saw torture bases and the burning villages but was most awed as an observer of not only simple acts of kindness but also churchmen and diplomats putting their own lives on the line to try to stop the carnage.

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