Story behind an African tyrant

Lindsay Jones YOU only have to pick up a newspaper or watch the news to see the horrifying situation in Zimbabwe - appalling poverty in a country blessed with natural resources, rigged elections and murder on an unbelievable scale. And it s all down to the president, a

Lindsay Jones

YOU only have to pick up a newspaper or watch the news to see the horrifying situation in Zimbabwe - appalling poverty in a country blessed with natural resources, rigged elections and murder on an unbelievable scale.

And it's all down to the president, a man once feted in Britain as the saviour of his country from apartheid.

So how did a man once seen to embody a continent's promise, becoming "Mad Bob" the deluded tyrant?


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Heidi Holland has been intrigued by the man since briefly giving him refuge when he was a young freedom-fighter.

The timely release of Dinner with Mugabe (�9.99, Penguin) in paperback looks at his life, tries to find out why he became the brutal leader he is and asks searching questions about Britain's and other African countries' complicity in Zimbabwe's tragedy.

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She even got an interview with the man himself, notoriously wary of white journalists, and she brings the story right up to last year's elections which Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai but refused to hand over power.

According to Holland, Mugabe's very religious mother was convinced that, as a child, he was chosen by God. When his two older brothers died and his father left home,

Robert became the man of the house, taking very seriously the responsibility of looking after his depressed mother and being teased by the other children.

Holland believes he did not develop self-confidence and is over-compensating, taking harsh action against imagined slights. But other governments could have done more to calm the situation.

This is a fascinating insight from someone who has seen the Zimbabwean tragedy at close hand. A must-read for anyone who wishes to understand more.

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