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Jacket Notes: Stuart Doran on Kingdom, power, glory: Mugabe, Zanu and the quest for supremacy, 1960-1987

Published in the Sunday Times

Kingdom, power, glory: Mugabe, Zanu and the quest for supremacy, 1960-1987 (Sithata Media)
Stuart Doran

The publishing of this book, centred on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s orchestration of the Gukurahundi massacres, is the end of a long process. At one level, it began in 2003 when I discovered a treasure trove of documents.

But it actually began before that, in 1980, when I arrived in Zimbabwe as a boy, a few months after independence. My father had been commissioned by the World Bank and the Zimbabwean government to design the land resettlement programme for Matabeleland. In 1983, his field workers started bringing in stories about mass killings by the army.

So I’d had an interest in the story from that time. My interest was further fuelled by a 1997 report on the Gukurahundi written by David Coltart, a pioneering work based on witness accounts that provided a picture of the killings from a grassroots perspective. I decided to focus on the political and military angles – what the government did, and why.

The source material for such a study wasn’t going to come from Zimbabwe, but another way presented itself in 2003 when I was working as an historian for the Australian government. We were thinking of doing a piece on Australia’s role in Zimbabwe’s independence.

I read through the still-classified files from the Australian high commission in Harare and realised they were a goldmine. The extent to which Zanu-PF ministers leaked information to diplomats during the Gukurahundi was a revelation. They implicated each other in the killings and also pointed the finger directly at Mugabe, revealing that he not only knew about events in Matabeleland but was directing them.

The official piece never got off the ground, but I asked for permission to use the documents for a private research project. I also figured that there were secrets hidden in other foreign archives. I began trawling through those and found that the Australian material was just the tip of a large iceberg…

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