Monday, February 07, 2011

Mugabe and the White African

Photo © 2009, Robin Hammond.
I have, over the years, kept a reasonably close eye on political proceedings in Zimbabwe. It was this interest that drew the film Mugabe and the White African to my attention - the film had seemingly passed me by upon its release.

The film focuses upon Mike Campbell and Ben Freeth, his son in law, and their fight for survival as white farmers living under the constant threat of eviction at the hands of Robert Mugabe's government. We follow Campbell and Freeth as they take their case, challenging the Zimbabwean government's controversial 'land reform' policies which exclusively target white farmers, to an SADC Tribunal in Windhoek, Namibia.

Campbell, having bought his land after independence, and having received the proper permissions and allowances from the government at the time, is told twenty years down the line that he has to leave the farm. This order doesn't come about as a result of any injury he has caused the country, or to his workers, but rather because he is a white man who owns land in what Mugabe sees as being a 'black country'.

In spite of an injunction preventing the Zimbabwean government from 'invading' their property and taking possession of it, we see the deterioration of the justice. Eventually the situation becomes increasingly hostile and results in beatings of farm workers and Campbell's family at the hands of the 'war veterans'.

Despite winning their case, the Campbells still lose. Not long after the SADC Tribunal gives its verdict, the Zimbabwean government refuse to acknowledge it and 'war veterans' burn the farm buildings down.

Photo © 2009, Robin Hammond.
Throughout the film the land reform system, designed to help poor, landless black citizens, is shown to be a flawed system. It is no surprise that the land has predominantly gone towards benefitting Mugabe's rich allies, high court judges and Zanu-PF ministers' families and this is highlighted wonderfully by a Zanu-PF Minister's son who comes to claim the farm for himself - whilst driving a brand new four-wheel drive SUV. Hardly poor and, with a nice house in Harare, hardly landless.

This film is an emotional watch, of that there is little doubt. The Guardian argue that the film is too narrow and doesn't take into account the fact that 1979 Lancaster Agreement is perhaps the reason why Mugabe went about pursuing the white-owned land in such an extreme manner, but I would argue that this isn't the point of the film. 

I confess, and others will surely tell me, that I am no authority on what has, is and will happen in Zimbabwe, but, to me, this film succeeds in showing the very human impact of Mugabe's inhumanity.

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