In This Review

A Predictable Tragedy: Robert Mugabe and the Collapse of Zimbabwe
A Predictable Tragedy: Robert Mugabe and the Collapse of Zimbabwe
By Daniel Compagnon
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010, 368 pp

At Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the country’s future seemed rosy, with a vibrant agricultural export sector, sub-Saharan Africa’s highest literacy rate, and an impressive new president, Robert Mugabe, who seemed to genuinely desire reconciliation with the white minority he had fought as a Marxist guerrilla leader. When the present crisis began to unfold in the late 1990s, some observers wondered why Mugabe had changed. Compagnon’s devastating analysis of the regime argues that the country’s collapse was in fact the predictable outcome of the methods and approach Mugabe has always followed. Organized violence against political enemies has been part of the arsenal of his political party, ZANU-PF, since the early stages of the independence struggle. Likewise, Zimbabwe’s recent economic collapse was the inevitable result of three decades of crony capitalism and outright corruption. An excellent chapter on the land expropriations of white farmers carefully deconstructs the regime’s rhetoric and methods, arguing that the violent abuses in the process were never random but rather the result of Mugabe’s political calculations. In its detailed knowledge of the country and accumulated evidence, Compagnon’s book stands out as the best account of the crisis to date.