Book Review: The Trial of Robert Mugabe by Chielo Zona Eze

Author: Chielo Zona Eze
Title: The Trial of Robert Mugabe
Publication Info: Okri Books Inc (2009)
ISBN: 0615278116


Nigerian author Chielo Zona Eze pulls no punches in this fictional account of the brutal Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.  Set in heaven, Mugabe is put before a jury of pan-African luminaries and victims of his oppression and terror come forth to tell his tales.  There stories vary from Zimbabweans forced to find work in South Africa where they are killed for being outsiders, women raped, tortured and killed in prison camps, and even a soldier who dies of AIDS from participating in these rapes and torture.  The testimonies are graphic and yet there are also acknowledgments of gratitude for Mugabe himself suffering imprisonment under the British and eventually liberating Zimbabwe from colonial rule.  The horror is all the greater that Mugabe recreates the terror he lived through on his subjects.

This book is a definite tribute to human rights and those who persevere in protecting them.  Authors Yvonne Vera and Dambudzo Marechera are specifically singled out but there are also more subtle allusions to Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  This novel is not going to cheer you up but it offers important insight into the state of the world.

Favorite Passages:

Guku is born of the spirit of ressentiment, in which case a person develops a gukunized personality.  The logic of a gukunized personality runs thus:  I am a victim, therefore I can’t be blamed for any wrong, therefore I am right.  A gukunized mindset finds nothing wrong in killing or harming other people because he already justifies this on the grounds of his having been harmed earlier. – p. 33.

Should I tell you that retribution, sir, is antithetical to civilization; that it has no place in civil society?  Should I tell you, sir, that the greatness of a leader is no measure on the degree of his anger toward other people, it is not based on what he hated and destroyed, but on what he has built?  It is based on how fare he has enhanced the lives of his people. – p. 150

Recommended books: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga,  Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Snakepit by Moses Isegawa, The Stone Virgins by Yvonne Vera, and House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera.

Book Review: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Nervous Conditions (1989) by Tsitsi Dangarembga represents Zimbabwe for Around the World for a Good Book.  This book is the coming of age story of a girl named Tambu living in the 1960’s & 70’s under British Colonial rule in Rhodesia.  After her brother dies, Tambu is able to go away to a mission school and live with her wealthy, cosmopolitain uncle and his family.  This means sharing a room with her cousin Nyasha.

The girls form a friendship and share an outsider status.  Nyasha spent many years living in England with her parents and thus lost touch with the African ways.  Tambu is drawn to the lifestyle of her cousin’s family and the mission and increasingly disgusted with her own family’s backward ways.The novel contains a lot of the tropes of the coming-of-age story: rebellion, burgeoning sexuality, shame in one’s family, and seeking one’s own identity.  For much of the book it appears that Tambu is more of a spectator to Nyasha’s outlandish ways.  Later in the novel the narrative shifts to Tambu’s choices and family commitments.

There is also a layer of the novel that subtly shows the effects of colonialism with the castes in society where the more African people live near poverty and the more English live life more abundantly.  The most chillng passages are when Tambu describes the white people at the mission as near-deities, a status she seems to accept without question.Another strong element of the novel is the role of women in society.  In addition to Nyasha and Tambu there is Tambu’s highly-educated yet underemployed aunt, her mother, and other family members each of whom are expected to live according to certain rules set for women.

I didn’t find this to be the best-written or most-engaging novel, but it does subtly cover many issues without resorting to didactic means.

Nervous conditions : a novel / Tsitsi Dangarembga ; foreword by Kwame Anthony Appiah.
Publisher: Emeryville, Calif. : Seal Press, c2004.
ISBN: 1580051340 (pbk.)
Description: viii, 204 p. ; 21 cm.