The Borrowdale Country Club, a once-elegant retreat in the northern suburbs of Harare, is a good place to measure the state of Zimbabwe's beleaguered white population. Founded in the mid-1950s, when Zimbabwe was the British-administered colony known as Rhodesia, the club served as the sports and social center for two generations of ranchers, farmers, traders, administrators, and other members of the country's once-coddled white minority. Above its polished mahogany bar, rows of plaques commemorate the winners of club tennis tournaments dating back fifty years; the wide veranda looks out over a lawn fringed by blooming jacarandas and frangipanis--and, beyond, a fecund valley and hills covered with handsome estates, many of them now owned by generals and top officials in the regime of President Robert Mugabe.
But a closer look reveals signs of decay: threadbare carpets, peeling paint, a rutted tennis court, and a weed-choked, potholed access road. The club is nearly deserted, most of its members having fled to Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa, or other countries in Africa that offer more stability and security. Since the defeat of Ian Smith's white-minority government and the onset of black-majority rule in 1980, the club has opened its doors to all Zimbabweans, black and white. At the bar on a weekday afternoon, the only members I encountered were three elderly whites--I'll call them Pat, Pete, and Nigel--who were chain-smoking and ordering gin and tonics at an alarming rate. I fell into conversation with them while waiting for the opposition member of parliament with whom I was to have lunch and talk about human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
"We're among the last," said Pat, a gray-haired, sallow-skinned woman in her sixties, exhaling a cloud of cigarette smoke. The club, she said, was down to a couple of dozen white members. "Those of us who can afford to are making plans to leave," she told me. "The ones who can't are finding it harder and harder to get by." She said she was staying in Zimbabwe, but only because she had nowhere else to go. During the past decade she had watched her savings and her pension evaporate as a result of Zimbabwe's staggering hyperinflation. (Figures from November 2008 showed the annual inflation rate at 89.7 sextillion percent.) Several white farmers she'd known had been murdered by gangs of so-called War Veterans, the shock troops of Mugabe's violent land redistribution plan, and hundreds more had had their properties confiscated without compensation. The 2008 election campaign, during which Mugabe's party thugs tortured and murdered hundreds of supporters of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, was, for Pat, incontrovertible evidence that the country of her birth was beyond repair.
Now, having been stripped of her savings, her peace of mind, and her dignity, Pat stood to lose her passport as well. A bill passed by Zimbabwe's parliament had made it illegal to have dual citizenship, obliging her to officially renounce her ties to Ireland and Great Britain--the birthplaces of...
This is a preview. Get the full text through your school or public library.