Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Battle for Zimbabwe: The Final Countdown

Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Battle for Zimbabwe: The Final Countdown

Article excerpt

Geoff Hill. The Battle for Zimbabwe: The Final Countdown. Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2003. xii + 308 pp. Distributed in Africa by Struik Publishers, P.O. Box 1144, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa. Distributed in the United States by International Publishers Marketing, 22841 Quicksilver Dr., Dulles, Va. 20166. Photographs. Notes. Select Bibliography. Index. $27.40. Cloth.

For the journalist Geoff Hill, the battle for Zimbabwe is "an undeclared civil war" that opposes the ruling party, ZANU PF, and its leader, President Mugabe, to the chief opposition party, the MDC, and its president, Morgan Tsvangirai. The ruling party controls coercive state institutions and paramilitary forces-the war veterans and youth militia-and commits most of the abuses. Despite this uneven battle, Hill forecast Mugabe's political demise as imminent in 2003, and a peaceful transition-ideally, regime change-under the MDC.

Hill chronicles key events in postindependence Zimbabwe. In its first decade of rule, ZANU PF was challenged by dissidents whom it alleged were supported by its chief political opponent, ZAPU. After killing ten thousand to twenty thousand innocent Ndebele civilians, ZANU PF absorbed ZAPU in 1987. Constitutional changes then created a powerful executive presidency. Neither the mass atrocities nor the excessive presidential powers received much criticism, domestically or internationally.

The voice of dissent against "fortress ZANU" came first from die marginalized war veterans who won pensions and gratuities in 1997. Led by Morgan Tsvangirai, the workers then organized general strikes to protect dieir eroding standard of living. In 1999 the workers' movement decided to form a political party, the MDC, to contest the upcoming parliamentary election in 2000.

Despite the MDC's popularity and widespread discontent with the regime, ZANU PF prevailed in the 2000 parliamentary elections and the 2002 presidential elections. Its weapons included violence, repression, patronage (food aid and confiscated land), and electoral manipulation and rigging. Without hope of change, Zimbabwe's youth went in growing numbers into exile, mainly to South Africa but also the U.K. Hill's interviews with exiles are the most compelling and original part of the book. …

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