Byline: Annabel Hughes, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
For those who know little of Zimbabwe's history - particularly the last four years, a period which has seen the country's descent into what President George W. Bush has called "an outpost of oppression" - Geoff Hill's "The Battle for Zimbabwe: The Final Countdown" is a well-researched and recommended reference book.
Its author is a journalist who grew up in Zimbabwe and learned Shona, the language of President Robert Mugabe and his dominant northern-based tribe of the same name. Mr. Hill's fluency in the language resulted in him gaining unique access to Zimbabweans from all walks of life, including ruling party officials. The result is evenhanded and absorbing.
Parts of "The Battle for Zimbabwe" recount Mr. Hill's personal experience with the lawlessness and fear pervading the country today, both as a journalist and as an ordinary Zimbabwean citizen. When he was commissioned to write and publish this book in the middle of 2002, he left Zimbabwe for his own safety. He currently lives in South Africa.
Mr. Hill draws our attention to how one man, Robert Mugabe, and his fawning coterie have carelessly induced the demise of Zimbabwe through greed and paranoia, destroying the economy and the country's many respected institutions in the process. How, in pursuit of absolute power, his regime has viciously turned against its people and stolen all their basic freedoms.
The author does this by placing the current crisis into historical context, illustrating how the Ndebele nation, the British and finally the white Rhodesians handed Mr. Mugabe a how-to instruction book on subjugating his people.
What Mr. Hill does not illustrate is how Mr. Mugabe adapted these strategies to suit his own ideologies. As a committed Marxist-Leninist, and a strident critic of the free world, Comrade Mugabe (as he is called) has long looked east for advice - to the teachings of Mao Tse-Tung, Kim Il Sung, Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin.
Torture tactics and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Mugabe regime today were taught to state security agents by the North Koreans soon after independence in 1980.
When, in February 2000, Mr. Mugabe called a national referendum to extend his presidential powers and his people returned an overwhelming "no" vote, he responded by desecrating property rights and violently neutralizing all opposition to his rule. …