In This Review

Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe
Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe
By Martin Meredith
PublicAffairs, 2002, 243 pp

This unvarnished account of Mugabe's political career explains why there was no way to unseat him by electoral means in March 2002, when Zimbabwe held its presidential election. Meredith, a veteran Africa observer, retraces the dictator's record from his entry into liberation politics through his creation of a one-party state in the late 1980s and his campaign of violent land seizures in the 1990s. Sheltered behind a haze of socialist rhetoric and oblivious to the price of lost opportunities for national development, Mugabe's constant aim, says Meredith, was to accrue unfettered personal power. Mugabe discovered early on that violence paid and that critics could be bought off, intimidated, or ignored. Control over jobs, land, and spoils from Zimbabwe's alliance with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under Laurent Kabila enabled him to construct a patronage machine binding elite cronies, rural voters, and the security forces to his regime. Once the DRC connection provided sufficient cash flow, he was free to ignore external sanctions threats and engage in brazen malfeasance to secure re-election. Not the last word on this tyrant, but an accessible introduction.