Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa by Peter Godwin
Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa is the story of Peter Godwin’s experiences growing up in Rhodesia. He recounts the story of that country’s violent transformation into Zimbabwe, as well as his own personal metamorphoses from privileged boy to reluctant soldier to investigative journalist.
Godwin’s story begins, “I think I first realized something was wrong when our next door neighbor, Oom Piet Oberholzer, was murdered. I must have been about five then. It was still five years before the real war would start.” The Godwins enjoyed a typical genteel existence in 1960 rural Rhodesia, their household including a “garden boy,” a “cook boy,” and a nanny. Peter’s father managed a wood- and sugarcane-processing plant. His mother, a rural government doctor, was often called to pronounce deaths or conduct autopsies, for which she brought along her “assistant,” five-year-old Peter, who was responsible for shooing away the flies.
Godwin’s plans for attending college were squashed when he was drafted into the Rhodesian army and assigned to the “Anti-Terrorist Unit,” which proved to be an important experience in his life. When he later looked at himself, he saw a man “coursed through with anger and despair. It was the face of someone who would kill an unarmed civilian for withholding information.” Disturbed by what he had become, Godwin left Rhodesia after he got out of the army, only to return in 1981 as a journalist. Rhodesia was now Zimbabwe, and the “terrorists” he had reluctantly fought against were now the country’s rulers.
Godwin reported on theutterbrutalities in Zimbabwe and the fate of Matabeleland, a black minority region in Zimbabwe. He described the army style of interrogation, in which “before they even began to question you, they would break one wrist,” and wrote about the old mines where bodies of the dead were buried. When Godwin’s writings received worldwide attention, the Zimbabwean government tried to discredit him, and he received numerous death threats, escaping the country just hours before the police came looking for him.
Mukiwa is not only a memoir but also a compelling adventure story that tells a personal saga that needs to be heard.
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