Two books on Mugabe’s fall and Mnangagwa’s rise


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Penguin Books has released two books by Zimbabwean journalists in time to celebrate the first anniversary of the coup that finally put Robert Mugabe’s ruinous reign to an end.

These are Ray Ndlovu’s In the Jaws of the Crocodile: Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Rise to Power in Zimbabwe and The Graceless Fall of Robert Mugabe: The End of a Dictator’s Reign by Geoffrey Nyarota.

The books, about the end of Mugabe’s nearly four decades of ruling Zimbabwe, arrive at a time when journalists have to constantly rush to beat tweets and Facebook posts.

This haste can work against their claim to be offering something closer to truth’s complexities than can be rendered in 280 characters.

At the time of the coup the international community, the long-suffering urban unemployed and rural peasants, and the business players itching to embrace the graces of a régime “open for business”, hoped that a long-delayed nirvana was just over the horizon.

That vista remains distant: if there was a rainbow – President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised Zimbabwean whites their place back in ZANU-PF’s good books – the pot of gold keeps receding.

The long lines of fuel-starved vehicles indicated more about the first birthday of Zimbabwe’s “Second Republic” than ZANU-PF’s comparatively muted celebrations.

‘Queuing after the coup’ seemed an alliteration appropriate to this review of the two books, neither of which does justice to the enormity both of events in Zimbabwe as well as the sheer scale of what’s required to rebuild the country.

‘Romancing the coup’ could also characterise such tales. Ndlovu’s chronicle of Mnangagwa’s adventures bears the hallmarks of a roller-coaster thriller.

In the Jaws excurses excitedly through “The Crocodile’s” firing from the vice-presidency, forced exile and escape, his Pretoria-based saviour, corrupt police (contrasted with brave soldier-saints), and his triumphant return to the treasures surely to follow his presidential inauguration.

Nyarota’s more sober historical take characterises former First Lady Grace Mugabe as someone whose treasure map bore little relation to the route she and her fellow plotters in “Generation-40” – the faction conniving to rid their party and country of “Lacoste” (a play on Mnangagwa’s nickname) group – took when they persuaded then President Mugabe to fire his longtime lackey.

Could military commander Constantino Chiwenga save the day and grab the treasure? Now a Vice-President, many credit Chiwenga with organising the “militarily assisted transition” allowing Mnangagwa to cross the river.

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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