Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mugabe and the White African (2009)

There is a scene in Apocalypse Now that originally never made it off of the cutting room floor, but was included in Coppola's director's cut.  In the added scene, the crew briefly visits a French plantation deep in the jungles of Indochina during their journey towards Kurtz's compound.  Over a sumptuous dinner spread, France's protracted struggle to maintain a colonial influence in the region is heatedly discussed.  The intransigent landowner argues that his family has been providing jobs on that property for generations; essentially, that this tract of malarial earth is his family's singular livelihood and he is willing to be buried prematurely there, but not to be evicted... 

Leaping forward to contemporary Zimbabwe, the last remnants of Rhodesia are defiantly gasping for air as their farms are abruptly seized by the government.  Undoubtedly, a crepuscular and often pitch-black history loyally followed Colonialism in all of its guises and most of the developing world is still dealing with the aftereffects.  This salient point aside, it is difficult to find a country dealing with its checkered past more absurdly than Zimbabwe.  This deftly crafted documentary, a compelling indictment of Robert Mugabe's "land-redistribution" policy, will most likely leave your ruddy cheeks stained with salty rivulets.  It will probably also leave you quite angry.

Mugabe, a figure once lionized for his revolutionary contributions to post-colonial Africa, has undoubtedly slipped from the pedestal he once quixotically perched upon.  Attempts to find a contemporary hagiography from the international press will end in vain.  Over the past thirty years of his inexorable dictatorship, he has systematically murdered thousands of members of the political opposition (a bloody practice basely coined "Gukurahundi" - the rain that washes the chaff from the wheat), watched his once enviable, agriculturally-based economy slow to a trickle, and is now solely targeting white landowners for immediate eviction.

Source: The Daily Mail
Is ZANU-PF's current "land-redistribution" policy a catastrophic blow to human rights, a Draconian and inchoate method that might actually lead to complete "economic freedom" for Zimbabwe, or a sane, just practice?  After watching this film, most of us will probably lean towards the former.

For a concise, readable summary of Mugabe's continuing reign (and a smattering of other autocrats), I recommend Christopher Hope's Brothers Under the Skin.

New York Times Book Review: The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe

No comments: