Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives

Hope Deferred might be the most important publication to have come out Zimbabwe in the past thirty years.”

- Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, in Harper’s Magazine


Edited by Peter Orner and Annie Holmes
With a foreword by Brian Chikwava

Click here for information on our book tour!

The fifth volume in the Voice of Witness series presents the narratives of Zimbabweans whose lives have been affected by the country’s political, economic and human rights crises. This book asks the question: How did a country with so much promise- a stellar education system, a growing middle class of professionals, a sophisticated economic infrastructure, a liberal constitution and an independent judiciary- go so wrong?

We ask the people who know this complicated story best—the Zimbabwean people who have endured (and hoped) across the decades to tell their side of this story. In their own words, they recount their experiences of losing their homes, land, livelihoods and families as a direct result of political violence. They describe being tortured in detention, firebombed at home or beaten up or raped to ‘punish’ votes for the opposition. Those living abroad in exile or forced to flee to neighboring countries recount their escapes, of cutting through fences, swimming across crocodile-infested rivers and entrusting themselves to human smugglers. This book includes Zimbabweans of every age, class and political conviction, from farm laborers to academics, from artists and opposition leaders to ordinary Zimbabweans: men and women simply trying to survive as a once thriving nation heads for collapse.

Read an excerpt here.

What can you do for Zimbabwe?

The life stories inside Hope Deferred are powerful and moving. After reading them, many people ask us what they can do to help the people of Zimbabwe. To answer that question, we asked our editors to help us come up with a list of  10 Things You Can Do for Zimbabwe. We hope this list will help you continue to learn about and engage with human rights issues in Zimbabwe and around the world!


Peter Orner is the author Love and Shame and Love, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, and Esther Stories. Orner is also a lawyer and the editor of Underground America, an oral history of undocumented people living in the U.S. published by Voice of Witness. A 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, Orner is an associate professor at San Francisco State University.

Born in Zambia and raised in Zimbabwe, Annie Holmes is a documentary filmmaker who has worked in television and film for many years. She has also published short fiction, both in the U.S. and Africa, as well as a memoir about Zimbabwean independence entitled Good Red. Holmes worked as an associate editor of Underground America and currently directs communications for a London-based research consortium.


Brian Chikwava is a London-based Zimbabwean writer and author of the novel Harare North, which won the Outstanding First Creative Published Work category in Zimbabwe’s National Arts Merit Awards and was also longed listed for the George Orwell Prize. He is a previous winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing and a former Charles Pick Fellow at the University of East Anglia. Chikwava is currently working on his second novel.


“Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives reading at 826 Valencia” (Demotix, 12/8/2010)