Joshua Hammer has an article in the November 2011 issue of the New York Review of Books about the mysterious recent death of General Solomon Mujuru (aka Rex Nhongo) in Zimbabwe. The article presents an account of Mujuru’s death, an account about which most of us can only speculate.
However, the article has a couple of minor errors, which may not add to a reader’s confidence in the article’s authority:
- “When I visited the renovated Victoria Falls Hotel, built by the British colonial government in 1904 at the site of a railway bridge over the Zambezi River . . .” Except for a brief period of four months in 1979-80, Zimbabwe never had a British colonial government. Between the first settlement by Europeans in 1890 and the award of self-government (on a restricted franchise) in 1923, the region now called Zimbabwe was governed as a concession by the British South Africa Company (BSAC), advised from 1898 by a partially-elected council. This might seem a very minor point, but the fact that the modern nation was founded by a brutal, unelected, profit-oriented corporation strikes me as germane to its present sad state under a brutal, unelected, profit-oriented oligarchy. The violence and brutality of the white occupation is only just beyond living memory, and is certainly within the memories of the children of those affected. In particular, the fact that white settlers and the BSAC stole farm land from the black inhabitants, and often did so violently, has been used to justify the often-violent and illegal occupation of commercial farms by agents of the Mugabe regime a century later. While Minerva’s owl is taking flight at dusk, her chickens are busy coming home to roost.
- “I headed to a leafy northern suburb and entered the gated estate of Ibbo Mandaza, a liberation war veteran who served for ten years in Mugabe’s cabinet until his ouster in 1990.” Well, actually, the good Dr Mandaza was never a member of the Cabinet, as far as I am aware, but only a civil servant. In any case, the word “ousted” implies some sort of estrangement. In fact, well after 1990 Dr Mandaza was still working actively for ZANU-PF victories in national elections.
- On the other hand, the author could have noted that almost all the residences in the northern (formerly whites-only) suburbs of Harare are gated, so no inference should be drawn from Dr Mandaza’s residence being gated (unlike the situation were his residence to be gated and in the USA).