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The Trial of Robert Mugabe by Chielo Zona…

The Trial of Robert Mugabe (2009)

by Chielo Zona Eze

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Trial of Robert Mugabe is filled with rich story threads of violence and moral dilemmas. With two iconic Zimbabwean writers among the novel's characters, the role of artist in a repressive regime is explored in much the same way as many Communist-era writers from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union explored this question. The premise for this novel is that Robert Mugabe has died and now must face his victims in the afterlife. In spite of the horrifying tales of torture and degradation that are told, some by the victims themselves and some by writers speaking for the victims, Mugabe remains blind to the horrors his reign has let loose on his people. He is sentenced by his judges to hell, but hell is not quite what you'd expect it to be. For those like myself, who have little, if any, knowledge of Zimbabwe's troubles, this book will open your eyes and keep you on the lookout for more fiction from this neglected literary realm. ( )
  kvanuska | Dec 15, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is an elegantly simple story. However, don't let its simplicity hide its depth. It's a beautiful tale, but an ugly story. The tale is told in what seems to me to be an oral history tradition. It is a true story told fictionally. It has a rhythm to it and it creates a definite aura. It connects to both literature and history.

Robert Mugabe is a dictator, chosen by his people, but who then followed what he wanted despite what his people wanted. As a result, as often happens in such cases, whole peoples were nearly or completely wiped out. This is history. Mugabe still rules today, though still opposed.

Eze has found a way to try him for his crimes. He has found a voice for the dead and he has made them real, believable personalities. These are people we can care about rather than the unknown, voiceless, faceless victims of Mugabe's power. I cannot say who among the witnesses are actual people given voice by Eze and who are 'Everyman,' since my knowledge of African life is vague and mainly uninformed. However the writers he refers to, Yvonne Vera and Alexander Kanengoni, and their books, are real.

The Trial of Robert Mugabe is a cautionary tale -- specifically for Mugabe, himself, but I can also see it being read or told when Mugabe is buried so far in the past that people aren't sure if he was real or just a creation of Eze's to warn against blind dictatorship. It also serves to make the current reader aware of and care about what is happening in Zimbabwe. ( )
  Airycat | Nov 1, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Robert Mugabe has died and is on trial in heaven for the human rights abuses perpetrated under his regime. Chielo Zona Eze mixes history, literature, and postcolonial theory in this powerful novel. His stories are absolutely heartbreaking, a true talk back to power. It's naturally a very depressing read, and as a warning, could be very triggering for those who are victims of rape. But for anyone who can read it, it's a must. It's also very interesting from a postcolonial literature perspective; Eze accuses dictators like Mugabe as having been consumed by ressentiment, offering hybridity as the only alternative path to liberation. The novel is set up as a series of oral tales separated by literary footnotes, which I very much enjoyed. I'd suggest pairing the book with another Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe's "Arrows of God." [As an aside, my copy had several typos that occasionally hindered understanding. But I'm sure this will be fixed before the first printing.] ( )
  Ani_Na | Sep 30, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Nigerian author Chielo Zona Eze pulls no punches in this fictional account of the brutal Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. Set in heaven, Mugabe is put before a jury of pan-African luminaries and victims of his oppression and terror come forth to tell his tales. There stories vary from Zimbabweans forced to find work in South Africa where they are killed for being outsiders, women raped, tortured and killed in prison camps, and even a soldier who dies of AIDS from participating in these rapes and torture. The testimonies are graphic and yet there are also acknowledgments of gratitude for Mugabe himself suffering imprisonment under the British and eventually liberating Zimbabwe from colonial rule. The horror is all the greater that Mugabe recreates the terror he lived through on his subjects.

This book is a definite tribute to human rights and those who persevere in protecting them. Authors Yvonne Vera and Dambudzo Marechera are specifically singled out but there are also more subtle allusions to Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. This novel is not going to cheer you up but it offers important insight into the state of the world.

Favorite Passages:

Guku is born of the spirit of ressentiment, in which case a person develops a gukunized personality. The logic of a gukunized personality runs thus: I am a victim, therefore I can't be blamed for any wrong, therefore I am right. A gukunized mindset finds nothing wrong in killing or harming other people because he already justifies this on the grounds of his having been harmed earlier. - p. 33.

Should I tell you that retribution, sir, is antithetical to civilization; that it has no place in civil society? Should I tell you, sir, that the greatness of a leader is no measure on the degree of his anger toward other people, it is not based on what he hated and destroyed, but on what he has built? It is based on how fare he has enhanced the lives of his people. - p. 150 ( )
  Othemts | Sep 19, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Robert Mugabe, the current president of Zimbabwe wakes up and finds that he has died and is on trial in the afterlife for his misdeeds. While he is surprised to be dead, he is defiant and mocking when he learns that his trial is to be conducted and witnessed by victims of his various decisions while in power. Mugabe's life is detailed from his zenith as a hero to his people, fighting for freedom from colonial powers and providing succor to displaced anti apartheid fighters from South Africa, to his descent into dictatorship when he turns on his own people and brutalizes their bodies and spirits with his cruelty. Stories abound of the rape, murder, torture and starvation of men, women and children by Mugabe's well trained fifth brigade army. Captives would be made to dig their own graves and be promptly shot and thrown in or watch the bodies of others be disposed of just as unceremoniously. Mugabe also instituted the killing of his country men who were from a different tribe than himself as a way to suppress any dissent against his rule.

While I did like this book, I was not blown away by it. It was informative enough and detailed the horrors of the lives of political dissidents and anyone deemed to have gone afoul of the Mugabe regime. The fact that the stories are relayed by the actual people that the events happened to makes it even more powerful and heart wrenching. But while reading this book, I was struck by the fact that anyone without a knowledge of African history would be lost as to the significance of many of the cast of characters.

All in all it was informative read and would serve as a good introduction to Zimbabwe's history since independence. ( )
  TrishNYC | Sep 12, 2009 |
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Those who are picked for trial are sometimes just symbols of wider phenomena. - Ali Mazrui, The Trial of Christopher Okigbo
We would rather be ruined than change
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the Present
And let our illusions die.
- W.H. Auden, "Age of Anxiety"
To the memory of
Yvonne Vera and Dambudzo Marechera
And All Souls, Zimbabwe, 1980-2009
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Robert Mugabe, dressed in his quaint army uniform, sat between two brawny soldiers. Three other soldiers sat behind him; the palms of their hands were placed on their knees, their gazes stonily fixed to the front. He did not understand what was happening, but since the soldiers were his bodyguards, he saw no reason to panic. Not yet. But as soon as the other section of the court began to fill up, his calm gave way to misgivings. First to appear was Joshua Nkomo, followed by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole, and Joshua Gumede. Mugabe's face tightened in distress. He gnashed his teeth, scratched at his tiny Hitler mustache and leaned to his left. "What's going on here?" he asked the soldier on that side.
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