In This Review

Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits
Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits
By Prof. Stephen Chan
Yale University Press, 2011, 304 pp.

The main subject of this sometimes rambling but always readable account of the recent history of southern Africa is the close relationships between the region’s political leaders. Although Botswana and Zambia make occasional appearances, Chan focuses on South Africa and Zimbabwe and emphasizes the many links between them, from the attempts by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the current president, Jacob Zuma, to broker a peace deal in their northern neighbor to the three million or so Zimbabwean refugees currently living in South Africa. Chan, a longtime observer of African politics, considers how the shared worldviews of such leaders as Mbeki and Zimbabwe’s autocrat, Robert Mugabe, stem from their similar educations and experiences in the long anticolonial struggle. Chan is fascinated by the personal foibles of the region’s long-standing leaders and has an eye for telling details, such as Mbeki asking whether he needs to wear “ridiculous shirts” like Nelson Mandela in order to enjoy the former leader’s levels of popularity and the $65,000 wristwatch worn by the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, even as the country’s currency disintegrated.