Press Release: The Fear

From the bestselling author of When A Crocodile Eats the Sun, a moving personal account of Zimbabwe under Mugabe's terror


The Last Days of Robert Mugabe


Published by Picador in hardback, 7th May 2010, priced £18.99

“As I shuttle between the torture victims, moving from bedside to bedside, long after Georgie has left, and on my return, to bedsides here and in other clinics, copiously noting down the details of their experiences, I feel helpless, frustrated and angry. I’m not sure what I can do to help. My role is unclear to me.

I seem to be part chaplain (like my grandfather before me, ministering to wounded sailors in World War I), part scribe, part journalist, part therapist. Part lawyer (as I once was) taking testimony. And as these shattered people recount their full experiences in a complete narrative, many for the first time, they sometimes break down. It is as if, until now, these brave men and women have concentrated on staying alive, by taking each minute, each hour and day, at a time, and only now, as they join it all together for a stranger, into a complete narrative, do they see the enormity of the whole thing, of what they have been through. And their stoicism can sometimes suddenly dissolve, surprising even themselves, as they get a view of the trajectory of their own suffering. But it seems cathartic too.

I wish there were a better word than ‘victims’ to describe what these people are. It seems so inert, so passive, and weak. And that is not what they are at all. There is dignity to their suffering. Even as they tell me how they have fled, how they have hidden, how they have been humiliated and mocked, there is little self-pity here. Survivors, I suppose, defines them better. Again, and again, as I play stenographer to their suffering, I offer to conceal their names or geographical districts to prevent them being identified. But again, and again, they volunteer their names, and make sure I spell them correctly. They are proud of their roles in all of this, at the significance of their sacrifice. And they want it recorded . . . And for the first time, in trying to work out why I am here, and whether it is constructive, doing what I am doing, I find myself settling on a phrase that I have always avoided, a description I had found pretentious, but that now seems oddly apt – bearing witness. I am bearing witness to what is happening here – to the sustained cruelty of it all. I have a responsibility to try to amplify this suffering, this sacrifice, so that it will not have happened in vain.”

In mid-2008, after thirty years of increasingly tyrannical rule, Robert Mugabe, the eighty-four-year-old ruler of Zimbabwe, met his politburo. He had just lost an election. But instead of conceding power, he was persuaded to launch a brutal campaign of terror to cower his citizens. Journalist and author Peter Godwin was one of the few observers to slip into the country and bear witness to the terrifying period that Zimbabweans call, simply, the Fear.

Following on from his compelling and moving memoirs, Mukiwa and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, this is a personal journey through the country Peter Godwin grew up in and knows so well – a landscape and a people, grotesquely altered, laid waste by a raging despot.

At considerable risk, he travels widely to see the torture bases, the burned villages, the death squads, the opposition leaders in hiding, the last white farmers, the churchmen and the diplomats putting their own lives on the line to stop the carnage.

Told with Godwin’s brilliant eye for character and natural story-telling gifts, this dark story of Africa’s corruption and violence is populated by extraordinary characters whose lives have been shaped by the Fear.

Peter Godwin is the author of Mukiwa and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, both published by Picador. He writes for various publications including the New York Times magazine, National Geographic, Time and Newsweek. He lives in Manhattan.

Peter Godwin is available for interview and to write features. For further information please contact Emma Bravo in the Picador Press Office on 020 7014 6184 or via email: [email protected]

“This a book by a brave man about people who are braver still. Peter Godwin brings us closer to the filth of the Mugabe tyranny than is bearable and portrays with subtlety, authority, and respect those who, against all odds and at the cost of unimaginable suffering, continue the resistance against it. Their courage is the stuff of myth, and in Godwin they have found their chronicler.”

- David Rieff

“At last, a chronicle of the mess that is Zimbabwe. 'The Fear' is an important book detailing the violent realities, the grotesque injustices, the hunger, the sadness, and a portrait of Mugabe, the tyrant who is the cause of it all. It is especially valuable because Godwin, born in Zimbabwe, is passionate and personal, as well as bold in his travel and scrupulous in his documentation.”

- Paul Theroux

“There is nothing on the subject of Robert Mugabe's terror state that comes even close to Peter Godwin's brilliant account. It took great courage to pursue this horror at close range, as Godwin did. This book will change utterly readers' perceptions of what is happening in this afflicted corner of Africa.”

- Norman Rush

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