A mukiwa is a fig that is the same color as white people Peter Godwin wrote a memoir about being a mukiwa in the changing African country of Rhodesia Zimbabwe In a quick read, Godwin writes about 1 his pleasant childhood growing up in the African wilderness, 2 being a disillusioned police officer during the Rhodesian Bush War, and 3 investigating, as a lawyer and journalist, Zimbabwe war crimes I don t mean to be jaded, but at times African war destruction tales can get rather uniform when capturing the rape, torture, child soldiers, destitute conditions see What is the What Sudan A Long Way Gone Sierra Leone We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families Rwanda.BUT I enjoyed this book because the focal point was unique, which was the effect such political turmoil had on the life of a whitey in a country that was fed up with white colonials BRIEF HISTORY LESSON for context The memoir was during the time colonial Rhodesia became independent Zimbabwe in the Rhodesian Bush War, a conflict that included 3 different players the Rhodesian government under white Ian Smith, the rebel Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army under Robert Mugabe ZANU , and the rebel Zimbabwe People s Revolutionary Army under Joshua Nkomo ZAPU As colonial rule was ending all over Africa, the white Rhodesian gov issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence UDI from the UK stating they refused to become a multi racial democracy and white rule would continue to govern Economic sanctions by the UN the war ensued After 15 years of fighting amongst the 3 players, Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe became leader.Godwin led an idyllic childhood before the announcement of the UDI by Ian Smith It was simple and pleasant reading about his fabricated perspective of himself as a child I particularly liked when he lectured importantly to Portuguese soldiers about the dangers of African wildlife decided Africans died of rare diseases like leprosy or from magic spells, while white settlers rarely never died and discussed talking to his dying great aunt, but being uninterested because he had just seen snow for the first time and wasn t in much of a mood for old people with bony hands and parchment skin As a trained police officer for the Rhodesian government during the war, it was interesting to see that police corruption is ever present When Godwin was being trained, department made it known that legally, an officer had to shout stop three times before shooting a fleeing perp Accordingly, officers were taught how to speed shout, I mpliceoffcer Stostostop so that one could shoot legally in less than two seconds Also interesting how irrelevant this slight infraction became when police began following suit of guerrilla forces and destroying abusing exploiting citizens Aside from a gradual slippery slope of soldiers beginning to abuse citizens in war just like guerrillas , this might also be blamed on the justification by Rhodesian soldiers that civilians were scared of guerrillas than of the government, and would obey the unit that frightens them into submission.Once Zimbabwe was born, Godwin returned from his education in Europe to document destruction I wished there was detail on his travails being a lawyer in an effective dictatorship This was the shortest part of the memoir, and we disappointingly only saw a couple pages dedicated to his firm s representation of 7 commanders accused of plotting a coup against the government After 28 days of trial, all were found innocent of treason, but were nonetheless returned to indefinite custody under Emergency Regulations that allow a gov to detain people the gov maintains may be threatening Law in dictatorships is not legal.Initially, the title a white boy in Africa annoyed me then I realized it was apropos as titles usually are after reading , and the annoyance may have just been that I felt even whiter than normal reading this on a train in the Pilsen neighborhood I ll be really interested to read When A Crocodile Eats the Sun, which is the sequel to this book it covers Godwin s post war life during the reign of Robert Mugabe, who liberated his country from white oppression and then began to ethnically cleanse the country That will be good. This is book 1 of 4 that were loaned to me by a good couple near where I reside As a continuous student of history I came into this book with no knowledge of the former nation of Rhodesia and came away with an understanding and appreciation of the nation of Zimbabwe The road one travels within this memoir is reflective, educational, spiritual, and factual to the point of existence for this author, his childhood, family, teen years and young adult life This book deserves a written review that is both honorable to its core and principled to the value to which the author knowingly provided information to multitudes of people across the globe There are many like me who have no compass bearing of historical significance to this location on our earth I have come away with the most elementary knowledge of words and phrases in the Shona tongue among other languages indigenous to the area Just when I thought the book would lull into some pace of normalcy it picks up almost immediately and one heads down a path of exceptional experience Most of the reading felt like riding a Land Rover through parts of sub Saharan Africa in much the same way one rides through the desert in Lower Egypt This book is that sort of book, if you are looking for adventure and truth then your committed challenge is to read this book This review is an honest attempt to avoid the particulars within this work.Peter Godwin is born to parents in Rhodesia who are from the UK His mother is a Doctor and his father is an Engineer of everything to put it mildly Mr Godwin is born in 1957 and it is on 11 November 1965 where the adult reflects upon life later whereby he discovered that everything changed on that date for Rhodesia As a boy for the time being life would continue and his Doctor Mum would take him on what could be viewed as Medical Expeditions or rather an early version of Doctors Without Borders to vast local regions to help prevent diseases curable at that time frame for masses of people however these same people have little to no access He would assist his mother in providing sugar cubed measles prevention medicine to children and ensure that each had swallowed their medicine by asking each child to open his her mouth and stick out their tongues This brought an honest smile to my face as I crossed these pages as in my own mind it was the good heart of a child helping children to stay healthy It was also a point for endearment to the author as he became older On one later escapade during the after effects of the Civil War this act of kindness would also save his life and keep him from prison by a War Lord A truly wonderful discovery for me in this book was the fact that Mr Godwin informs the reader that he was 14 years of age and still had not watched any form of television He kills a Cape Eagle Owl and you will have to read as to what occurs following that event Mukiwa is described however, I will not allude to the author s delivery of meaning I will say I was quite taken and fully appreciate in terms the meaning It made me chuckle a bit.The change that does come to former Rhodesia by way of Civil War is filled with all the political intrigues and border issues that occur to any nation that has been impacted by war I couldn t help but think of the American Southwest in current day frame of mind, open borders and the illegitimate loss of order would reign down this sort of activity that one reads as described by Mr Godwin One begins to see the devastation both locally and personal to Mr Godwin and his family His way out becomes an acceptance to Cambridge University and though he never returns to Rhodesia, he does return to his beloved Zimbabwe Beloved in that Mr Godwin loves his country but does not love what is happening to some of its most innocent victims both white and black alike It is in choices along the way the Mr Godwin never takes the path of least resistance, he continually makes the best choices based on his love of family and country there are times he questions the intent of the political framework both previous to and after the Civil War The mess apparently continues forward with his next book When A Crocodile Eats the Sun. This book is a wonderful journey you will come away knowledgeable than before if you like me have little historical reference to Rhodesia Zimbabwe and the sub Saharan continent in general. Growing Up In Rhodesia In The S, Peter Godwin Inhabited A Magical And Frightening World Of Leopard Hunting, Lepers, Witch Doctors, Snakes And Forest Fires As An Adolescent, A Conscript Caught In The Middle Of A Vicioud Civil War, And Then As An Adult Who Returned To Zimbabwe As A Journalist To Cover The Bloody Transition To Majority Rule, He Discovered A Land Stalked By Death And Danger Peter Godwin certainly has a story to tell It s a story of an idyllic, if unusual childhood, a disrupted but eventually immensely successful education, military service and then two careers, one in law, planned but aborted, and then one in journalism, discovered almost by default Listed like this these elements might sound just a bit mundane, perhaps not the subject of memoir When one adds, however, the location, Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe, the result is a deeply moving, in places deeply sad, as well as quite disturbing account of a life lived thus far Mukiwa, by the way, is Shona for white man.The setting for Peter Godwin s early years was a middle class, professional and, crucially, liberal family living in eastern Rhodesia, close to the Mozambique border I had relatives in that same area, near Umtali and Melsetter, and they used to do exactly what the Godwins did regularly which was to visit the Indian Ocean beaches near Beira We used to get postcards from there every year, usually in the middle of our north of England winter Envy wasn t the word Peter Godwin s mother was a doctor and this meant that his childhood was unusual in two respects Not many youngsters in white households had liberal minded parents and even fewer helped their mothers conduct post mortems Unlike most mukiwa, Peter Godwin had black friends He learned the local language and got to know the bush He also grew up close to death and then lived alongside it during the years of the war of independence He describes how the war simply took over everything and labels himself as a technician in its machinations It s a telling phrase, admitting that he did not himself want to fight anyone Like everyone else, he was caught up in the struggle, required to actively perpetrate the violence and that is what he did.His education was disrupted His family life was effectively destroyed And how he managed to keep his sanity during the period I have no idea He served most of the period in Matebeleland alongside other members of the Rhodesian armed forces and police who were not, to say the least, as liberal as he was So in some ways he was already doubly a foreigner in that he was working in an area where he could not speak the language and was accompanied by fellow countrymen with whom he shared no beliefs or ideals And yet he had to fight.I have never served in a war and hope I never will But my relatives from the same area as Peter Godwin were also called up into national service and also fought the war I had not seen them for fifteen years or so when we met after they, along with many thousands of others, as recorded by Peter Godwin, had already fled south But for them also memories of war were deep and resented scars It was a bloody and dirty war where, if you were lucky, you could at most trust your closest colleagues It was a vicious conflict at times and left everyone angry No one won Everyone suffered.Having eventually achieved the education he sought, Peter Godwin attempted to launch a legal career But then, almost by default, he became a reporter After independence, he learned of atrocities perpetrated by the Zambabwean army in the area where he had served during the war He investigated He reported And then, on advice, he fled.But he did eventually return to all of the areas he knew and the last part of the book is a moving and deeply sad account of how little he recognised in the places he loved as a child But within this, there is a moment of hope as he meets a former freedom fighter and, with humour and new friendship, the two of them realise that they had not only been enemies, but had actually been two commanders trying to kill one another on opposite sides of the same skirmish.But in the end, Peter Godwin is changed man, and his home and homeland, at least as he had experienced them, were no War had changed everything and everyone No one won. This book was written in three parts 1 A description of his African childhood I don t think it was the author s intention, but I felt very sorry for this lonely little boy I had to remind myself that this was a different time, and that children were raised with much less fuss 2 His time fighting in the Rhodesion war Imagine figting a war that you don t believe in Putting your life on the line for a war you know can t be won 3 His time as a lawyer and investigative reporter in Zimbabwe This is the part of the book that really got to me I thought his actions here, so much braver than figting a war only because you were told to This is probably because he now believed in what he was doing It must be amazing knowing that you made a difference in people s lifes Overall, I thought it very sad that this story reminds me so much of my own country South Africa. This book is divided into three sections The first is about the author s upbringing in what was then Rhodesia the relationship to his parents and sister, schooling the normal kind of stuff except with a Rhodesian angle There is a slowly escalating violence, but white Rhodesians continue to believe in the bubble they inhabit unable to view life outside of this paradigm.The writing throughout is matter of fact and reads well, almost like a novel The second section concerns his recruitment for the police, but this is really like a paramilitary group The author comes to realize and the moral quandary he finds both within himself and the country he was born in All is on a slow fuse and we sense his futility in trying to maintain a status quo that is insupportable and is perpetuating needless violence.The third part is about his return to what is now Zimbabwe and was the most interesting part of the autobiography He is now both lawyer and journalist His observations and explorations of his new country are poignant.In general I found the first two parts somewhat filled with too many details like the schooling both public education and police instruction One is left with the feeling throughout of seeing a lot of trees in the forest, but not getting a general overview of what the forest is like.My favourite quote in the book page 127 of my edition The axe forgets, but not the tree. What a fantastic memoir Peter Godwin grew up in Rhodesia as the country was beginning to shake off colonial rule His father a factory manager, and his mother a doctor, young Peter often rode along with his mother when she was called to attend to deaths many the result of violence This, among other dangers of Africa, left a huge impression on Godwin, causing fears no child should suffer Like most white African children, he was sent to boarding school at a young age, and then as a young man, required to serve in the army He shared his war stories first, as a reluctant soldier, and then later as a journalist returning to the newly formed Zimbabwe I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Africa or history. About growing up in Zimbabwe by Peter Godwin who grew up there the same time as Kit my husband but stayed there and fought in the war Brilliantly written, prize winning Would recommend to anyone How do people remember so much detail about their childhood OK, close enough to the end of 2017 for me to determine my favourite reads Mukiwa is my 2017 BEST BIOGRAPHY.This is a fantastically well written autobiography It really puts a human face to the white Zimbabwean s who are stereotyped as racist bigots, seen as on the wrong side of the black majority white minority history of Rhodesia Zimbabwe.Godwin s recollection of his childhood, and the writing style he employs for this section of the book is perfect He writes the way he felt, interpreted events, and experienced his childhood not a recent interpretation of those events It is very well done And not an innocent childhood it was a childhood you would consider harsh, and in some aspects, he grew up very quickly the murder of a local man, and experiences with his mother a doctor often called on to perform autopsies which as a child he attended There are some genuinely hilarious moments in the first half of this book.Unfortunately for Godwin, this all changes with the civil war, which starts out as terrorist attacks rebellions, and soon turns into war proper Godwin like all Rhodesians is drafted in to the military, and the second part of his book tells of his military service And a very capable soldier he turns out to be, but a soldier with a rare compassion and understanding of the problems Again the author writes incredibly well in articulating a complex situation he finds himself in.This book does well to explain in simple terms the Rhodesian rebellion civil war It was not as simple as a black rebellion against the white minority There were factions the ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo and the ZANU led by Robert Mugabe , who were are much fighting each other as the Rhodesian Security Forces whom Godwin fought for For years he petitioned to be released from military service to attend University, and finally he was permitted an exit visa A sad family event followed, for which Godwin returned, only to be told he must re inlist to complete his service.Finally he was again allowed to leave to complete his University, whereupon he embarked on a short career as a lawyer, then moved into journalism, where he was posted to various parts of the world which are given around a page in this book His return to southern Africa, as a journalist is described in the third part of the book More than a journalist, Godwin regularly puts himself at risk, and in danger to be able to report the atrocities in Zimbabwe as it was now know , the systematic campaign of murder and torture, striving to tell the truth and expose the propaganda and lies of the government Some of the stories he tells in this section are a terrible reflection of the way the human race can behave.What becomes obvious throughout this book, as the stories unfold and interweave where Godwin has some absolutely miraculous escapes, is that his past deeds and behaviour seem to come back to reward him with opportunities and good fortune His past relationships, his past actions, and some incredible luck mean he is alive to tell this story.I enjoyed this book a lot, despite is grizzly content, and I will seek out of his writing.5 stars. My boyfriend s Dad grew up in Zimbabwe about the same time as this author and gave this book to my boyfriend Pete as the closest example of how his life was growing up Pete gave it to me after watching me try to read a series of autobiographies on the same subject which just weren t that great.Godwin is a journalist and writes in the journalist style I can never decide if I like, but it s an interesting book and offers tons of info on Zim in the 70s.My Dad recently returned from South Africa and brought me Godwin s newest book, not knowing about this one It s focus is Zim in the last several years and, even though it is also written in that journalistic prose, I can t read it with dry eyes.
Peter Godwin was born and raised in Africa He studied law at Cambridge University, and international relations at Oxford He is an award winning foreign correspondent, author, documentary maker and screenwriter.After practicing human rights law in Zimbabwe, he became a foreign and war correspondent, and has reported from over 60 countries, including wars in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe
- 418 pages
- Peter Godwin
- 14 July 2019 Peter Godwin