Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa is the story of a man and a nation. It recounts their respective transitions – from innocent childhood to terrifying adult knowledge for the man, from colonial administration via minority white independent rule to black governance for the country. Loss of innocence, questions of identity and unbelievable turmoil define both stories.
Mukiwa is split into three books, which chart the major stages in the life of Peter Godwin and in the history of Zimbabwe, formerly Southern Rhodesia:
Book 1 describes a young boy growing up in a magical landscape, cocooned to a degree by a kindly black entourage and by parents who - although often seen from a distance - bestow a liberal and fair-minded upbringing. The theme is introduced of giving back to a country that has given so much – a theme that will take on greater prominence in Book 2. The young Peter learns local languages, makes friends with local people, and accompanies his mother, a medical examiner, as she goes about her duties.
Yet the threat of violence is ever present. Peter bears witness to the murder of a white neighbour. And as white minority leader Ian Smith makes a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, and the young men of Rhodesia are called to arms, the reality he will soon face begins to take hold.
Cut to Book 2: the young boy is now a young man with a gun, a long way from home. Dreams of studying at Cambridge are shelved as conscription forces Peter to fight in a brutal civil war he has little belief in, against people with whom he holds a certain sympathy. Anger, fear and horrendous atrocities take their toll. Peter loses sight of his own identity, while white Rhodesia becomes a pariah state shunned by the outside world.
Book 3 sees Peter return to the new state of Zimbabwe, after completing his studies in England, to join a law firm defending former terrorists. A chance encounter takes him on a mission to Matabeleland to investigate reports of genocide and acts of terror perpetrated by Robert Mugabe’s ferocious North Korean–trained Fifth Brigade. His reports are made public and, under fear for his life, he flees his homeland once again. The book ends with majority black rule in place but with only fragile hope for a better future.