Zimbabwean author Peter Godwin's third book, The Fear, details the deadly violence that swept over the country during its June 2008 presidential run-off election.
The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe captures in graphic detail the violence that claimed the lives of hundreds of President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party opponents between the first and second election rounds.
The Economist calls the book "the most powerful indictment of Robert Mugabe's regime yet written,” describing Godwin as “one of the sharpest observers of modern Africa.”
Conducting interviews across Zimbabwe, the author collected horrific accounts from a broad range of witnesses to the brutal campaign of political terror including opposition members, rural residents, church leaders, diplomats and others.
Godwin portrays Mr. Mugabe as a politically astute and cunning despot who has used violence and intimidation tactics since independence to vanquish his opponents.
His interviewees included Harare Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of now-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Chiroto’s wife, Abigail, was abducted and murdered, allegedly by militants loyal to Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF party. The attackers set Chiroto's house on fire and abducted his four-year-old son, who was later recovered.
Launching his book in Washington at the Busboys & Poets book store, Godwin said that in writing The Fear he wanted to expose Mr. Mugabe to the world. "I had set out to do some journalistic work, but was moved by the scale of atrocities that I saw."
He worries that political violence will recur on an even larger scale in the next elections, which Mr. Mugabe insists should be held later this year.
Godwin rejected the widely-held notion that the eventual death of Mugabe, 87, will mark the end of Zimbabwe’s long-running political crisis. He says no one really knows how the political dynamics will play out when the Mugabe era comes to an end.
He said Zimbabwe must implement political and electoral reforms to ensure the next vote does not produce another disputed outcome as in 2008, especially a new constitution.
Born in what was then called Salisbury – today Harare - Godwin worked in Zimbabwe as a lawyer, policeman and journalist. He has published two other personal memoirs; Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa and When the Crocodile Eats the Sun.
Now based in New York, Godwin says his book will no doubt displease Mr. Mugabe and his supporters, meaning he may not be able to visit the country so long as Mr. Mugabe remains president and ZANU-PF continues to substantially hold power.