Two Weeks in November (2019) – Douglas Rogers

Title:Two Weeks in November
Author:Douglas Rogers
Publisher:Jonathan Ball Publishers
Date of publication:2019
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:Jonathan Ball Publishers kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“Don’t pursue big plans in November, my child; the ancestral spirits are restless, still deliberating which prayers to answer” Shona Proverb

Quite a few years ago I picked up Douglas Rogers’ first book, The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe, and this memoir turned out to be not just another account of land seized from white farmers, by a white Zimbabwean. Instead Roger’s book became a deeply emotional account of the Zimbabwean condition. It is a story of survival, and humour amidst the often-times shocking reality of living in modern day Zimbabwe under the tyranny of then President Robert Mugabe. The Last Resort is a book about Zimbabwe, about black and white Zimbabweans, and about hope.

In Two Weeks in November, described as ‘narrative non-fiction’ Rogers describes in thrilling detail the events that took place months before the so-called ‘coup that was not a coup’ in Harare, Zimbabwe on 18th November 2017. It begins with the forming of an alliance on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa, and involves white businessman Tom Ellis, who had a love for Zimbabwe, CIO Operatives Agent Kasper and Agent Magic deployed to assassinate Ellis, Gabriel Shumba, a human rights lawyer exiled from Zimbabwe, and Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, known also as ED or ‘the Crocodile’ and the former Vice President of a nation run for thirty-seven years by a man who became an infamous tyrant. Together these unlikely men formed a group called the Northgate Diaspora Group or the Core Group, and they planned to remove the man who once stood as a symbol of power and overcoming white colonial rule, and who eventually became one of the most deplorable dictators in history and led his country into ruin. In sport’s bars and through text messages they held secret meetings, and vowed that one day Zimbabwean people would have hope again.

Rogers’ account reads like a spy thriller, and it is necessary to remind oneself that you are not, in fact, reading a novel at all. While the story reaches epic plot points, one of the most terrific being a shoot-out at a Mozambican outpost, and the smuggling of people in the boots of cars, it also brings the reader intimately into the author’s own relationship with Zimbabwe. The reader walks the streets of a country with post-colonial street names and decaying architecture, and learns of the decadent lifestyle of Robert Mugabe and his much younger wife, Grace, who became a tyrant in her own right. Whilst the average Zimbabwean lived in fear, and were concerned only with survival, Grace Mugabe was travelling the world, shopping for expensive clothes and reigning terror down on anyone that spoke up against her and her legion of followers known as G40 (or Generation 40).

Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZanuPF was intricately divided into two opposing factions – the old guard who fought in the liberation war and referred to themselves as Lacoste, and the younger generation, G40, who had not fought in any war and were led by Grace Mugabe, who in recent years had begun to take over the bulk of the decision-making owing to her elderly husband’s regressions into old-age. After almost four decades of fear, torture and starvation, the world had grown tired of witnessing Zimbabwe’s destruction, and it’s inability to shake off Mugabe, and in Mugabe’s own refusal to step down. Those that had long since left the country of their birth had resigned themselves to the sad truth that nothing could ever change Zimbabwe’s fate.

In 2008 Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition party MDC (Movement for Democratic Change), won the presidential elections and it seemed that finally justice would prevail, but sadly that was not to be. It seemed even a democratic election was not enough to dispel the power of greed and control. Tsvangirai’s failure became another blight on the systematic oppression and terror that were just daily reminders for Zimbabweans that Mugabe’s control was impenetrable. In so many ways it was a reminder to the whole world that the once proud and liberated country was beyond help, and the international media through words and influence created their own heroes and villains and Zimbabwe became a caricature of itself. A warning to all African countries that they must never take the same route.

Of course if I’ve learned anything in reading countless accounts within the African diaspora, it is that African people are resilient – so resilient in fact, that they are capable of joining forces with their enemies if it will mean survival. Two Weeks in November is an amazing tale of survival, and ingenuity and faith. It begins with an assassination attempt and ends in one of the most peaceful protest marches in African history. With it’s crazy and shattering politics, Zimbabwe’s story has always been heartbreaking, but it has also been heart-warming and worth every word spent writing about its people and the love they have for their home.

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