Peter Godwin, Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, Grove Press, 1996; 418 pp., $14.00.
Peter Godwin, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa, Little, Brown, and Co., 2007, 341 pp., $14.99.
Douglas Rogers, The Last Resort: A Memoir of Mischief and Mayhem on a Family Farm in Africa, Three Rivers Press, 2009, 317 pp., $14.00.
Taken together, these three memoirs written by two white Africans, both natives of the country now called Zimbabwe, provide a haunting picture of an Arcadian idyll destroyed by a band of thugs led by a tyrant named Robert Mugabe. They offer many lessons.
Both authors are émigrés who now live in New York City. They were born just ten years apart — Mr. Godwin in 1957, Mr. Rogers in 1968 — but grew up in very different eras. Mr. Godwin was a boy during the mostly peaceful 1960s; Mr. Rogers during the violent 1970s. Both were raised in the Eastern Highlands, a place Mr. Godwin calls one of the most beautiful in all of Africa. Mr. Godwin’s parents were English, and emigrated to Rhodesia after the Second World War. By contrast, Mr. Rogers’s parents had deep roots in Africa. Rhodesia was home to the parents of both men, and all four were determined to stay............
Although Mr. Mugabe promised to distribute “liberated” farms to the people, most went to high-ranking members of the ruling party: generals, judges, diplomats, even bishops, none of whom knew how to farm or wanted to learn. On a visit to such a farm, Mr. Godwin watched the new owner, a certain Major Kanouruka, sitting on his veranda, barbecuing meat and draining a bottle of Glen Fiddich. Mr. Godwin noted that:
The fifty acres of citrus trees are wilting and will soon die. The irrigation piping on which they depend has been dug up and sold by the major’s boys. The greenhouses are nothing now but torn skeins of plastic that flap in the stiff breeze against their exposed wooden ribs. . . . The swimming pool is dark with rotting leaves. The clay tennis court has sprouted a quiff of elephant grass. Goats nibble at the lawn, and the flower beds are rapidly returning to bush.The major also confiscated the farm’s bakery and meat business, sold off its flour and beef, leaving hundreds more black workers without jobs.......To Read More....