The remarkable odyssey of a reporter’s attempt to cover the news and stay alive during a country’s descent into ruin.
American journalist Meldrum arrived in Zimbabwe in 1980 as a reporter for the British newspaper The Guardian, enthused with the assignment of reporting from the newly independent nation that had only recently emerged from years of white domination as Rhodesia. He left in 2003, physically expelled by the government of Robert Mugabe, in defiance of its own judiciary. At the time of his expulsion, he was the last foreign journalist reporting from a country that had suffered from two decades of Mugabe’s tyranny and corruption. Meldrum’s memoir of his Zimbabwe years is a harrowing and deeply disturbing record of that country’s downward spiral as the basic tenets of civilized society were ripped asunder: the repression of Zimbabwe’s once-free press, violent attacks against political opposition, the destruction of the national economy amid blatant mismanagement, the rise of a thuggish military elite to maintain dictatorial order, and divide-and-conquer policies that fostered racial and tribal animosity, with horrific results. Meldrum’s ability to stay alive and focused during this period is a tribute to his indefatigable spirit, and his crisp narrative is remarkably free of rancor toward those who wreaked havoc around him. Even more amazing were the many courageous opponents of the Mugabe regime who faced harassment, police assault, and imprisonment for daring voice their disgust with the deterioration of Zimbabwe. Their voices, while censored at home, speak loud and clear through Meldrum’s reporting, though their criticism meets only the virtual silence and inaction of the United Nations, various American and European governments and neighboring African nations. For his expulsion, Meldrum emerged from imprisonment and trial and was charged with being a threat to national security. That he left Zimbabwe alive is itself something of a miracle.
A compelling and, ultimately, heartbreaking story that demands to be read by anyone concerned about contemporary Africa.