We love David and Goliath stories and this is one that is set in our lifetime in Zimbabwe.
Mike Campbell owned a farm in the Chegutu district of Zimbabwe. This was a farm he had legally bought from the Zimbabwe government. Then, in the name of supposed land reform, Mugabe demolished property rights and began confiscating land. Those benefiting were a chosen few in high office. Most Zimbabweans have been forced into poverty.
Freeth has written his book because, “It is time for Mugabe to answer for his crimes against humanity...” (12)
Ben Freeth recounts his growing up in (then) Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the unrest of the bush wars of the 60s and 70s. “People were just murdered and nobody counted the bodies.” (26) Mugabe wanted the white people out and by 1983 the white population was a third of what it had been a decade before. Mugabe said of the whites, “We will kill those snakes among us.” (29)
Ben married Mike Campbell's, Laura, in 1994. They spent some time in Zambia but returned to Zimbabwe in 1996. He worked for the Commercial Farmer's Union. They built a home on the corner of the Campbell farm.
In November of 1997 the farm was listed for acquisition by the government (along with 1,471 other farms). But it was delisted in 1998 and the family breathed a sigh of relief.
Mugabe pushed for a constitutional change that would allow farm land owned by whites to be taken without payment. The 2000 vote was “no.” While only twenty percent of the land was owned by white farmers, many lived on the farmland and relied on the white owners for their livelihood.
Mugabe incited unrest and men invaded farms. The police refused to protect the farmers. Farmers were beaten and later, killed. Many packed up and left. While high courts ruled the invasion illegal, nothing was done.
The Campbell's farm had its first of many invasions in 2000. In the years following, cattle were stolen, trees cut down, irrigation systems broken, the house burned... Both Ben and Mike were beaten when they tried to help protect other farmers. The laws protecting farm ownership were changed in 2002. Army personnel began evicting white farmers.
The Campbells decided to challenge Mugabe in the courts. Even when the decision at the Tribunal was in the farmers' favor, Mugabe ignored it. Mike, his wife, and Ben were kidnapped and beaten, again, then dumped at the side of the road. Thugs continued to invade their farm, eventually burning the house and outbuildings.
Now, they live in town. The 40,000 fruit trees are dead. No irrigation is working. No crops were planted.
The Zimbabwe government has been judged in contempt of court three times by the SADC Tribunal. Yet Ben has hope for justice.
Freeth notes, “According to Genocide Watch's 2010 statistics, more than twelve million people have died in genocides and politicides in Africa since 1945. This is double the number of Jews who died during the holocaust.” (126) He addresses why Africa has been known as the “Dark Continent.” He says the problem lies with the spiritual forces behind the individuals in Africa. (88) He believes “that with strong, godly leadership the fortunes of the country can be turned around.” (241)
Ben Freeth, MBE, is a British-born Zimbabwean farmer. He has lived in Zimbabwe most of his life and is raising his three young children there, together with his wife Laura. Ben's story has already been the subject of an award-winning documentary which won Best Documentary 2009 (British Independent Film Awards), was nominated for the BAFTA Outstanding Debut Film 2010, and shortlisted for an Oscar in 2010.
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There is also a very good documentary movie by the same name. You can see more about it here: http://bookwomanjoan.blogspot.com/2011/07/mugabe-and-white-african-tv-program.html and here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/mugabe .
Go to http://www.mugabeandthewhiteafrican.com/ to see the trailer and get more information.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.