A Brooklyn travel writer returns to his South African homeland to rescue the family farm from imminent danger.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Rogers kept his eye on the tumultuous political situation in his native land from afar, as white farmers, a small fraction of Africa’s population, were routinely murdered or terrorized into surrendering their farm land. This posed a distressing situation for the author since his parents owned and operated Drifters, a backpacker tourist lodge attached to a farm. Rogers traveled from his London home in 2002 to pen an article on the upheaval, arriving in the midst of a presidential electoral scandal while the unrelenting land invasions continued to force thousands to flee. The stories recounted by his parents were horrific. Neighboring farms were being ambushed by “war veterans” violently reclaiming land under the auspices of President Robert Mugabe. By 2004, Rogers, now in his late 30s, had relocated to a middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood with his fiancée. But things continued to degrade for his incredibly resilient parents, who found themselves surrounded by prostituting “settlers,” illegal diamond dealers and a marijuana plantation, all while the secret meetings of the anti-Mugabe “Movement for Democratic Change” prospered. The author’s parents’ worst fears were confirmed when a family friend warned that a ruthless, powerful political commissar had moved in across the street—“an organizer, a militant, an idealogue, someone who might get the settlers riled up about more land and eyeing my parents’ own home”—set to wreak havoc on the family business. Fortunately, some clever negotiating mediated disaster, and a unification rally energized the camp of Mugabe rival Morgan Tsvangirai. But more trouble awaited the farm, along with lots of legal wrangling and a bittersweet, disquieting conclusion. Though the second half of the book meanders and diminishes in urgency, the Mozambique frontier of the author’s youth remains a deadly, perfidious place to behold, near or far.
Eye-opening memoir weaving violent Zimbabwean politics with the camaraderie and fearlessness of a family in crisis.