- Zimbabwe through Multiple Personal Perspectives
Given contemporary events, these four books represent a fascinating collective testimony, from diverse perspectives, on the postcolonial trajectory of Zimbabwe's political fortunes. Three of these books were written by different kinds of "insiders." Peter Godwin and Judith Todd are white Zimbabweans who had different political histories before becoming disaffected with postindependence politics in Zimbabwe. Godwin fought in the war on the Rhodesian side while Todd, the daughter of former Prime Minister Garfield Todd (1953–58), was detained with her father in 1972 by the Smith regime and spent the war years in London working to provision the refugee camps of the liberation movements. Edgar Tekere, by contrast, was a leading ZANU nationalist who became the first internal critic of the postindependence ZANU-PF leadership. Christina Lamb's book is different: as a British journalist who covered the invasions and occupations of white-owned farms, she writes from the point of view of an outsider.
In House of Stone, Christina Lamb traces how the disparate lives of a rich white man and a poor black woman were affected by major historical events in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe from 1961, their respective birth years, until 2005. The lives of Nigel Hough and Aqui—Lamb does not give her a surname—intersected when Aqui went to work as a live-in nanny on his farm in Marondera district in 2000, just as the state-sponsored land invasions began. Lamb met Hough on his farm in 2002. He expected the farm to be seized even though he described himself as a "model white farmer" and the farm had not been officially listed for compulsory confiscation. One week later the anticipated event took place. Among the leaders of the farm takeover was [End Page 159] Aqui, shouting in his presence: "Death to the whites." Hough was devastated by her betrayal. But it transpires that Aqui had joined the invaders mainly to protect herself from being perceived as a "sell-out;" she had used her leadership role to protect as much of "her" family's property as possible. After the Houghs lost their farm they moved to a small house on the grounds of the school in Marondera where Nigel's wife was a teacher. Aqui continued to work for them but returned to live in her own tiny home, and over time their relationship—rather surprisingly—became one of friendship.
To Lamb this tale of interracial bonding demonstrates that the state-sponsored invasions of white farms were "never really a racial issue" and that "the real victims were the hundreds of thousands of farm workers like Aqui who lost their homes and jobs" (xxi–xxii). Lamb attributes "the descent into madness" to the lust for power of "one violent man" (i.e., Robert Mugabe) and his efforts "to save his skin even if he destroys the whole country in the process" (xxvii).
Lamb is right to emphasize Mugabe's determination to hold on to power and his manipulation of racial rhetoric, but she might have drawn out the salience of race by listening more closely to her own characters. Aqui believes that all the land should revert to blacks, but curiously, only to the Shona. Hough knows Mugabe will never accept him as an indigenous African, and though he is a fundraiser for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, he draws freely on racial stereotypes to express his disenchantment with the MDC. "I thought they were vision-less and lazy...