Author: Andrew Meldrum
Living in a country ruled by a “ruthless and power-hungry dictator” is something that some of us wouldn’t even think tice to imagine. Arriving in the newly independent Zimbabwe as “a young journalist with dreams of becoming a foreign journalist,” Andrew Meldrum did not expect his stay in this country would turn his life into one where he constantly had to hide from dangerous government officials and CIO agents who answer to the “power-hungry dictator” Robert Mugabe. After arriving in the country only months after it gained independence, Mr Meldrum found a country still finding its feet, trying to shake off its back the racism and divisions left behind by its bloody past.
Overcome by a feeling that he ‘had a mission to report about this new spirit, this new nascent multi-racial experiment of Zimbabwe that was going to lead the way for South Africa to eradicate apartheid and show the world that an African democracy could succeed’, and an almost ignorant and typically Western-esque eagerness ‘to experience more African culture’, Mr Meldrum took the effort to integrate with the local people and learn more about this country he was now prepared to call home.
“Where We Have Hope: A Memoir of Zimbabwe” is a chronological documentation of Andrew Meldrum’s journey as a journalist in Zimbabwe from his arrival into the country only months after it had gained its liberation from England, to the day he was forcefully evicted for being too critical of its newly elected government. He chronicles his eventful career as a journalist and describes some of his encounters with both ordinary citizens who come from some of the most remote areas in Zimbabwe to prominent members of government – including the President himself – in their well-furnished offices.
He writes that for his first year in Zimbabwe the events he covered ‘were all in much the same vein.’ They were stories of Zimbabwen’s working together to build new lives in their home country. But all things changed in January 1982. This was the time when President Mugabe announced that he was taking steps to establish a one-party state and Joshua Nkomo, who was the leader of the mai opposition party – Zapu, declared ‘he will not allow it’. The situation in the country deteriorated and violent raids and killings of White people by the anti-Mugabe dissidents were occurring with continuity in Matebeleland. This obviously affected Meldrum’s optimistic view of the future of Zimbabwe and he writes:
“The nature of my own experience in Zimbabwe was changing. No longer was I reporting on situations where past wrongs perpetrated by the Rhodasian regime were being righted. Instead I was confronted with post-independence problems created by Mugabe. I was wrestling, in my writing, to present these complex difficulties in the proper context, which was fair and balanced and yet which told what was going on.”
In a chapter titled “Zimbabwe versus Apartheid” Mr Meldrum brings to light the role that the Apartheid government played in the deterioration of the situation in Zimbabwe. With the Apartheid government continuing with its unjust treatment of African people in South Africa, many found refuge in Zimbabwe. But because of the close proximity in which Zimbabwe is to South Africa, it was very easy for the Apartheid government to send people to hunt and kill those it deemed as terrorists, and this ended with many Zimbabwens becoming collateral to this war.
In the book the author chronicles the deteriorating state of affairs in Zimbabwe and their cause, the brutal murders of anyone who opposed the Zanu-PF lead government, the occupation of farms by “war veterans”, the killing and torture of citizens who were believed to be members of MDC (which is the main opposition party), the use of government resources and employees to carry-out those brutal killings and tortures, and many other incidents that turned Zimbabwe into one of the most blood wrenched countries on the African continent.
Despite all the supposed violence perpetuated by the government and its supporters, the author writes about the many ordinary citizens who wanted nothing but piece to rain over Zimbabwe and her people. The beginning of Chapter 13 of this book – Give Peace a Chance – serves as evidence for this rhetoric. In this chapter, the author penned the events of a peace march that was organized by a coalition of different peace organizations and ordinary citizens on the 1st of April 2000. The organisers planned to have a peaceful march through central Harare declaring their desire for a more peaceful Zimbabwe. And even though the march ended with war veterans violently disrupting the march and injuring the marchers, this chapter shows that persevering spirit of the Zimbabwen people through the difficult times caused by a government that was believed to be the one to bring peace to the land.
The book is a recount of the author’s journey as a journalist in the newly independent Zimbabwe. It is about the persevering spirit of the Zimbabwen people in the face of danger, hunger, and lawlessness. It is a book detailing the desire of the Zimbabwen people for a better life for them and their families, their desire to live in a democratic state and the stubbornness of one man and his followers to make sure that doesn’t happen. It is a must read for anyone who is looking for a different perspective on the situation in Zimbabwe and seeing to find out more about the country. Once you start reading you won’t know how to stop.