02 Oct Book review: Where we have hope
Chinja Maitiro – Change the way things are in ZIMBABWE.
I would love to be able to record my activities and experiences as I go along life as well as Andrew Meldrum recorded his life, experiences and eventual expulsion from Zimbabwe in his book, where we have hope. The book simply resonated with me so closely because of the work that I have been doing consistently but not regularly of researching independent Kenya’s darkest period – the 1970s and 1980s – specifically the torture and autocratic crack down of Mwakenya “dissidents”.
I read the book and realized that Zim is going through what Kenya went through only at a much larger, more horrific scale. In a bid to hold on to power Zimbabwe’s president has come up with the policies that brought the country to its knees. I am thinking that as analysts in Kenya said that Kenya’s economy was on its knees in the nineties, with double digit inflation rates, what would they call today’s Zimbabwe – that saw the 1000% inflation point rather months ago?
With a well woven mix of classic reporting and real life anecdotes, Andy draws a picture of a Zimbabwe that is crying for Comrade Bob to leave. He started by throwing the white settlers who chose to remain in Zimbabwe out of their land and gave that land to his friends. He set the police and intelligence organization on the people – and here Andy outdid himself in telling stories of towns like Mataga, where people are routinely beaten, shops burnt. It was especially gut wrenching when he told the story of James Zhou. I am transcribing it word for word below:
“Eventually we were taken to see James Zhou. We were met by the horrific sight of a severely injured man lying face down on the bed. His injuries were among the most appalling I have ever seen. His Backless hospital gown revealed two gaping bloody craters where his buttocks should have been. He had burns, cuts and bruises everywhere on his body but his backside had been completely flayed off.
“[James said that]… he was repeatedly beaten on his buttocks and burned by flaming plastic bags dripped onto his body. He was beaten with an iron bar over and over again. He told us in excrutiating detail how his brother, [Finos Zhou, who was a candidate for the Movement for Democratic Change opposition party] was tortured and then died.
“… the photos were so shocking that they were never used by the Guardian or the Observer, but I was able to give them to the lawyers for the trial of Zhou’s torturers.”
But the book had its ironic or satiric moments… like when during a press conference conducted by the then Secretary General of the commonwealth, the affable former minister for foreign affairs in New Zealand, Don McKinnon and Stan Mudenge, the then minister for foreign affairs who in trying to strenuously deny that there was any violence in Zimbabwe during the 2002 elections, were presented with evidence of the violence.
In an attempt to calm the already volatile situation, Mr. McKinnon said that President Mugabe had told him that he would have liked to see the violence decrease and that he, Mugabe, assured him that violence would be kept “to an acceptable level for the rest of the campaign”.
The interview ended before Andrew Meldrum could ask: what is the acceptable amount of killings in a democratic election?
For anyone who cares about the sanity of Africa and the progress of Africans towards a successful more content continent, I say that reading Where we have hope by Andrew Meldrum (ISBN 0 7195 6643 6) is a must read. Certainly for future generations who will wonder what the turn of the century was like in Zimbabwe as I do of the 1970s and 1980s, will have good information.
This blog stands behind the Zimbabwe people and calls for change there. Chinja Maitiro! If your blog is with this, then have an entry that says Chinja Maitiro! and ask other to do the same.
More Andrew Meldrum links: