Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Atay Maghrebi: The Slow Train to Tangier

Marrakech station is an architecturally magnificent mixture of older Moroccan motifs combined with modern palatial glass windows. It shimmers in Marrakshi tones of gold and umber even in the half-light of dawn, slowly waking up as weary passengers emerge from taxis in all directions.

The first time I had taken the train from Marrakech, it was on the earliest departure of the day, shortly after 6am. I was shocked at how dark the place had been. A few low lights were on in the building, but the railway carriages had sat in perfect darkness.
Being on a tighter budget, on my first journey northwards in 2016 I had booked a standard class ticket and hadn’t bothered to check the length of the journey. Ten hours later, having run out of cash, my back had been aching and I was massively dehydrated. I wouldn’t be making the same mistake again.
This time I’d opted for a departure during daylight, albeit still early enough to accommodate the massive journey time, and I had treated myself to an…

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called

Iconic Places: Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

On the train to Galway, I had the suspicion that something was going on. I had been talking about almost every topic under the sun with two men from Athenry for the majority of the journey out of Dublin Heuston station: Brexit, health, whiskey, the Irish border and brands of tea.
All around us, there were young Irish guys and girls, drinking vociferously and listening to music out of Bluetooth speakers. No one seemed to notice. Other passengers seemed to just ignore it. I was beginning to think that Ionród Éireann (Irish Rail) might be some strange mobile party company. After all, it was only a Tuesday afternoon.
Arriving at Galway Ceannt station, the train unleashed a herd of youngsters onto the platform resembling a migratory stampede of wildebeest. What was going on? 
In the intermittent rain, I walked towards Salthill, a small resort on the outskirts of Galway City and into the Nest Boutique Hostel.
“Ah,” the receptionist said, “it’s Donegal Tuesday.”
“But we’re in Galway,” I res…