Tag Archives: Zimbabwe

The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Rogers

  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.

 The Last Resort introduces us to a lot of characters – people who have stayed in Zimbabwe for a variety of reasons & who are doing everything in their power to survive in a country that has a government hell-bent on destroying the country it presides over. It is a powerful look into the Zimbabwe of today – the Zimbabwe we don’t get to see & I would highly recommend that anyone with any interest in the world at all should read this book. Trust me – you will have a new-found respect for your own country & how good you have it & you will develop a powerful empathy for the people of Zimbabwe (both black and white) & an intense disgust for Mugabe & those who support him (directly or indirectly). Maybe if enough of us take umbrage with what is happening something will get done to change Zimbabwe for the better. I sure hope for the sake of all those left in Zimbabwe that it happens soon!

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Eating my words…

“I don’t have an e-reader & would never (although they do say never say “never”) buy one.” – oh how I knew that those words would come back to haunt me! Technically the above is still partially true – I do now have an e-reader, but I didn’t buy it. Does that count? My main Christmas present this year was a Kindle.

Thor – My Kindle

So now it is time to eat my words! Don’t get me wrong, I am not thrilled with the idea of having the Kindle (which is why I’ve given it the name Thor) – I suspect I am going to have a very volatile relationship with my Kindle, so a strong name like Thor is fitting(for those of you who may not know, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning & storms – aka: volatile things).

I’ve now had Thor in my life for 6 days & I have only bought one book – but haven’t started reading it yet (partly because I am in the middle of a really good paperback about Zimbabwe & partly because I feel like a bit of a fraud).  Need to get over that though, because the reason I needed the Kindle was so that I could continue to read review books. I love the idea of being able to read books & review them here on my blog – books that authors have sent me, or books through the various other possible sources (librarything early reviewers, Netgalley, Smashwords, Nurture Book Tourz, etc), but they are all e-books these days. Not having an e-reader meant that I had to read the books off of my laptop, which I just could not do. This has meant that I now have a massive backlog of books waiting to be read, with no chance of them being read any time soon.

So, now I have bitten the bullet & am the owner of a Kindle (but I’m going to dig my heals in & refuse to like it for a little while longer! 🙂 )

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Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 198) Zimbabwe

an-elegy-for-easterly1I started this post over a month ago – it never takes me a month to read a book & certainly not a book of only 274 pages…….unless I am not enjoying said book. An Elegy for Easterly was a book I received from LibraryThing Early Reviewers & it is a good(ish) book, but just not for me. The some of the stories seemed unfinished & totally abstract (unfortunately abstract & Ceinwenn do not make happy bed/book/art/whatever-mates). I like concrete, structured finished stories & this collection of short stories isn’t that.

Take for instance the story called “An Elegy for Easterly” – It’s about a kind of shanty-town where there is a very insane woman called Martha Mupengo who is pregnant but nobody knows where Martha came from or who is the father of her unborn baby. Enter some woman named Josephat, who is desperate to have a baby but can’t, who steals Martha’s baby then leaves her for dead. It turns “out that the baby is probably Josephat’s husbands. Not long after the baby is born the government bulldozes the compound & Martha’s body is found. In a nutshell that is the story – without the African-ness & without the abstractness of the story. While the story made sense, it was wrapped a little too much in abstract for me to enjoy.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book more because I had really been looking forward to it. I loved the cultural elements of the book, but the abstract I could have done without. I have no regrets in reading this book though, as it’s not something I would normally have read & that’s exactly why I originally embarked on this Global reading  journey!

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