I was given this book by my boss, a Zim expat who has been in the UK for over 20 years. It was his Mother’s book & he says he hasn’t read it – but I am going to suggest to him that he should. The Last Resort is the story of Lyn & Ros Rogers, owners of Drifters, the backpackers lodge. Douglas is their son & is a travel writer. Through his visits to Zimbabwe to see his parents (& to chronicle the 2000 elections) Douglas decides to make a record of what is happening in Zimbabwe – not just to the white farmers, but also to the blacks.
The book begins with Douglas in the UK, where he is a fledgling travel reporter. He sees a report on the news about a white farmer being murdered by the “veterans” who had come to take over his farm & he begins to fear the worst for his parents. He makes the decision to return to Zimbabwe to visit his parents & to cover the upcoming elections. Over the course of many years & many visits Douglas chronicles what is happening in Zimbabwe, through covering what is happening to his family.
His father, a successful lawyer turned farmer, turned game farm & hostel owner, Lyn & his mother, Ros face constant terror – living with the knowledge that white farmers are being killed, that white-owned farms are being repossessed & given to people who have no knowledge of farming & they live in constant fear that they are next. But, they don’t let their fear stop them – quite the opposite, really. They do everything in their power to make sure that they hang onto their game-farm (even after their fences have been cut down & the wires used to poach their animals). Once the animals (and the tourists) are gone it’s a fight for survival in a country of increasing brutality. A country where inflation is astronomical & the government are printing money like it’s going out of style (resulting in Million dollar notes & the necessity to carry backpacks full of bricks of notes to buy even the basics).
Lyn & Ros do everything in their power to succeed – including renting out their once famous & beloved backpackers to a guy who turns the cottages into a brothel (then experiment with growing pot, and eventually they become a watering hole for the illegal diamond traders). Rogers gives a real in site into the Zimbabwe we don’t get to see on the news & a scary Zimbabwe it is! The country is in turmoil, the majority of the white farmers have left the country, heading for Mozambique where they and their farming skills are being welcomed with open arms, taking with them centuries of skills & bringing the collapse of the countries’ farming sector.
Rogers shows us both sides of the coin – speaking to the displaced white farmers (like Piet De Klerk whose sons were early vocal supporters of the MDC – Movement for Democratic Change) and to the “Veterans” who took over the farm.
An example of the insanity propagated by the Mugabe government is Kondozi, one of the most viable commercial farms in the country (formerly owned by the de Klerks). Kondozi is the biggest employer of black labour in the region, with around 6,000 working directly for the de Klerks, and thousands more drawing salaries from jobs that grew to exist because of the farm (ie: teachers in nearby schools attended by the workers’ children, merchants, tradesmen, etc).
But the de Klerks don’t own Kondozi any more & havn’t since 2004, after war veterans drove everybody out. The governor of Manicaland now owns it — because he unilaterally seized it — when he was the Mugabe regime’s transport minister. Kondozi now lies mostly fallow and is a metaphor for the economic ruin of Zimbabwe.The de Klerks now live in a cottage on the back of Drifters, & there Douglas gets to know them – and others. Drifters has become a refuge for whites who have lost everything they worked so hard for over the decades.
Rogers also gets the opportunity to speak to Morgan Tsvangurai, after a political rally. Tsvangurai represents the change that could be in Zimbabwe, but can not presently be. Tsvangurai has high hopes for the country, but can his party oust Zanu-PF in the (then) upcoming elections? Only time will tell.