Peter Godwin, author of The Fear, Robert Mugabe and the martyrdom of Zimbawe, is responsible for my sleep deprivation. Days of nail laden wooden planks, beaten buttocks and broken, irreparable limbs haunt me and I am in a fog. The truth of what he writes in his new memoir, a brilliant witness of the continued devastation in Zimbabwe by a man so evil that we question any remnants of humanity in his small frame. This truth could only come from someone with a deep understanding of Zimbabwe; Godwin does have that understanding, and makes my nightmares seem almost wimpy in comparison to the real events continuing to unfold in this Southern African country. Peter, a born and raised Zimbabwean, continues to lend us his gifted writing abilities and share through his eyes and ears the continued slaughter of a whole group of people and their once far better days.
At times poignant, oft suffocating in its description of the carnage, I vacillated between rage and fear and the rise of my own Post Traumatic Stress Disorder like bile in the ashes of my Zimbabwe experiences. So why do I care? It is a country and people that I have come to know and love. A place that even today, still beckons to me like a bewitching melody casting its spell. Part the people, the land; there is something so hauntingly seductive about this country. Perhaps it is the richness and beauty that beckon or the sunset that bleeds a cornucopia of colors into the sky as they stretch along the horizon.
My desire to revisit Zimbabwe is a palpable ache. I feel tremendous guilt that I have deserted these people. A visit to this country for me would mean imprisonment, and I have no desire to abandon my family. Knowing that I am not the only one who has abandoned Zimbabweans does not help -- it just makes the bruise ache more.
The people of Zimbabwe don't expect a lot from us. They are a determined people, with fortitude; a deep well of resilience that is sprinkled with their continued ability to sing and laugh while the largest predator hunts them down. This predator, the largest of Cats, has chosen to rip muscles from the bone, damage their human bodies slowly and painfully. Unfortunately the largest of predators is not the LION, not an animal, but a man, and that man is Robert Mugabe.
If you look in the dictionary under the word beast there are these words "any nonhuman animal, especially a large, four-footed mammal. The crude animal nature common to humans and the lower animals: Hunger brought out the beast in him." And this..."A cruel, coarse, filthy and otherwise beastlike person. "
And as I stumble to try and understand the man and his motivations, I am aware of the link between this man and beast. I am even more acutely aware that the four legged beast seems by now, more humane than Bob himself.
When one studies the largest cats, there are behaviors that are constant. The lions (sometimes more than one) that lead a pride, when feeding make the death of their prey, quick and efficient, mostly by strangulation or asphyxiation.
Mugabe on the other hand, is not so quick and efficient. He tends to kill slowly and allow for his enemies the time to regroup, so that he can beat them down again. At one point in Peter's book, one of Mugabe's henchmen criticizes his thugs for killing a man instead of beating him close to death. "You need to understand your own strength." He sighs. We cringe.
Peter's work is a call to arms. A call that continues to go unanswered by the world community. History will try to determine and dissect why the world allowed this man his own country as a personal torture chamber.
The stories of Zimbabwe and its rise and fall have been well-documented. The oft used expression of the once shining example, "the bread basket" of Africa, has now become cliché for a place that in littered with human carnage by a regime that thinks of humans as far beneath alligator waste. No matter how many horrid stories, how many fleeing humans, the true story lies in the world's utter silence. All human beings fail to respond to this continued extermination.
One can make an argument that the world's response to Hitler was to fight until he stopped, but we didn't stand by idly as he continued to kill. With Mugabe, we turn a deaf ear, the Catholic Pope invites him to pray with him, and many leaders of the African Continent still embrace him. His reputation as a freedom fighter is part of the enigma that clings to him, despite the damage he has inflicted on his country and his own people. Sometimes the devil needs to be destroyed.
In Mugabe's rule he did some remarkable things; effectively pushing up literacy rates, having model medical and education programs, all disintegrated now. Truly at one point under both well-established and effective education programs, Zimbabwe had a literacy rate of 91%. Last week in a recently released study over half of Detroiters are illiterate.
Mugabe himself holds a number of degrees, and is well read. In my mind, Robert Mugabe will be remembered as the top predator for his eradication of a country of people. People, who only desire to have food and shelter and dare to hope for a less violent world, remain at risk.
The problem is, that Mugabe has so systematically beaten down the human beings left stranded in this country, and taught new generations of his minions this behavior; I am almost hopeless for Zimbabwe's recovery.
What is most heartbreaking about Godwin's work is the sense of powerlessness that overcomes me as I continue to read his book. Each story in this work is more unbelievable and horrific than the last, but you are compelled to continue to read and acutely aware of your impotence to change the course of history.
One has to question where we are as a world, when a man can take an army of tractors and beat his people into the earth, so many bodies, and so much blood that it actually changes the color of the soil.
We read about the Middle East and the despots around the globe Mugabe will stand above them when we finally get down to counting the bodies- if we can ever truly get an accurate account. It may be years even centuries before we actually begin to unearth the bones, the howl's, the silent cries of those forever buried beneath his unquenchable thirst for power.
He will compare to Hitler in his systematic and focused eradication of those who oppose him. I tremble. Even after Hitler we have not learned. We continue to allow evil to decimate human populations.
Zimbabwe, rest in peace.