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Andrew Thompson & Lucy Bailey

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Andrew Thompson & Lucy Bailey film still

Although co-directors Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson have an impressive track record in making films in some of the most difficult countries in the world, they didn’t make their lives any easier with their first feature length documentary. Filmed in what is considered one of the most dangerous countries, Zimbabwe, they have produced a highly personal and effecting documentary that gives us a glimpse into a country under media lockdown and a journey into the lives of Mike Campbell and Ben Freeth, two white Zimbabwean’s taking on their government in the hope of keeping their family farm in the face of President Mugabe's controversial land-reform act.

Thompson and Bailey spoke to LWLies recently about the challenges of filming Mugabe and the White African in such a hostile environment.

LWLies: How did you come across this particular story?

Bailey: We’ve spent a lot of time filming in Africa over the last few years and we’ve been doing a lot for Comic Relief. We were interested in the situation in Zimbabwe and we knew that there was a story to be told but obviously that it was going to be impossible. We then heard about this court case, about this guy who was going to be taking on Mugabe and we looked at each other and thought, maybe that’s it, maybe that’s the way in and the way we can tell the story. We initially met the family in Namibia and shot a recce tape and saw that they were amazing characters that could carry this story and that they wanted to do this as well. Ben said to us early on that ‘publicity is the soul of justice’, and I think that they knew that they were putting their lives at risk. They felt that if they could get the story told then at least that was something, at least it would be out there. It’s a very intimate story of a human family, but through their story and the case you hopefully get the bigger picture and a sense of what is going on inside Zimbabwe.

You can’t help but be daunted by the idea of the logistics behind filming this, how did you even approach it in the beginning?

Bailey: It was kind of 'God okay we’ve reached a point where we’re going to have to film inside Zimbabwe’, but this is a country we can’t film in and then there’s the court case itself so you think ‘are we actually going to get access to film inside an international court?’ because that never gets done either. So we really set ourselves a difficult task.

Thompson: In the film we’ve largely turned a blind eye to how difficult and how dangerous it was to be inside Zimbabwe. I’m a DoP in normal life and it was always very important to us and me in particular that the film had a cinematic quality about it. We always hoped that this would be a film, that it would be able to play on TV, but that the film could also be shown theatrically. It was always very important to me that it looked the best it could possibly look. Yes it's difficult to film inside Zimbabwe, but I didn’t want to go in with a small camera and film 50 hours of home video.

How did you approach planning to shoot in such a difficult situation?

Bailey: We were very Africa savvy but we were lucky that we had a good network of fixers across southern Africa who did a lot of work in the countries around Zimbabwe to get us and the equipment in and out, and we both have had hostile environment training. Andy’s done a lot of work in Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza so we had that experience to bring to the table.

Thompson: Getting in we just had to be smart, and although we had to break the rules a couple of times, we would always travel separately from the camera equipment, we would always use border crossings and we would use different drivers, and different vehicles. We would create fake itineraries and there were a few ‘safari’ companies that I’d be travelling with. As much as possible we would always have a cover story, we would travel under different guises. Once we got to the farm we would only shoot in short sharp bursts and we would always sleep in different safe houses at night and try and keep one step ahead of the authorities. There was always someone behind us, always a knock on the door on either Ben or Mike’s farmhouse after we had left saying ‘there’s a film crew here isn’t there?’ So we managed to make sure it never got out that we were there. I’ve been to lots of places now, I just got back from Israel and Gaza a few weeks ago but I have never been anywhere like it. Ben describes it as ‘ a cloud of fear that hangs over Zimbabwe’, and he’s right. It’s a very intimidating, scary place and there’s a deep mistrust amongst people, no one's quite sure who’s an informer, who’s a friend, and who’s a foe. You had to have good fixers, good cover stories and hold your nerve to get through it all.

The family took great risks filming as well. How did you get theirs, and your own, footage out?

Thompson: We welded film stock and camera gear into jerry cans, we hid them in boats, we hid them in buoys of boats, and we hid them in the back of car seats, in door panels, in roof panels. Everything was smuggled in and everything was smuggled out.

Bailey: We also left a small A1 camera behind with the family and that was invaluable because obviously we couldn’t be there all the time and with a tiny camera they could get stuff. They couldn’t go in with a big camera, but we could and I think that helped give it a filmic look. We always set out to make a film, we didn’t want to make something that looked like an undercover news story so our ambitions were always high. So we were going to take big lenses in and we were going to make life difficult for ourselves. But having that small camera with the family was invaluable because it got those extra moments, moments we just couldn’t have gotten with a bigger camera. So when they are talking in front of the house, Ben filmed that, and when they’re being chased, Ben filmed that, and Mike picked up the camera when the MDC came to the farm for help when they’d been shot at.

There are some really interesting strands that run through the film, one of them being racism towards white people, which is very difficult. How did you decide to handle that?

Bailey: We were aware that it’s something that doesn’t really get talked about, this whole notion of being white and African. There’s a question posed in the film, ‘can you be white and American, can you be white and Australian?’ and of course the answer is yes, but can you be white and African? Well lots of people think no and that’s wrong, we believe that’s wrong and we were aware that it could be deemed as slightly controversial but not really if you care about human rights. If you care about human rights for everyone no matter what colour your skin. So yes we were aware but it’s so right that I think if anyone wants to criticise then they can do, but it’s right, it’s obvious, isn’t it obvious? The farmers in Zimbabwe are white and African and they’re not colonialists. It's weird, people blame people for what happened 300 years ago. I think people need to put this black/white thing to bed. The sooner the better, then Africa can start to move on.

How do the family feel about the film?

Bailey: Well in many ways I think the family feel that the film is all they’ve got. It’s their record of the past and their hope for the future because everything they’re fighting for was wrapped up in the farm and so I think it’s very important to them.

View 61 comments

Christian Allard

3 years ago
“Mugabe and the White African” is certainly not about two white Zimbabwean, they clearly are not.
I doubt very much if your readers would still sympathise with this family, Mike Campbell and his son-in-law, Ben Freeth after watching them online.
Mike Campbell and Ben Freeth show they real colours in their own series on youtube particularly the “interview” of Mike Campbell where he tells it like he sees it “if they want to eat they need to have white farmers”:
Zimbabwe White farmers (Pt 4&5) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbfhrr2NyH4

Christian Allard

3 years ago
The land was grabbed by Mike Campbell, a South African army captain, who came to Zimbabwe from South Africa in 1974, in the middle of the guerrilla war against the black majority, just four years before the infamous white supremacist Ian Smith unilaterally yielded to international pressure to end white minority rule. Original Rhodesian white farmers have now all left or have complied with the land reform, Mike Campbell won’t.
Ben Freeth portrays himself as a victim of racial attacks but do not say where he and his family really comes from. Ben Freeth is the son of a British Empire military officer, both are men from the past, from another century, when people like Ben and his father came straight from the British establishment to rule the world.
Did the two directors Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey knew they were being directed by Ben Freeth and Mike Campbell, I can’t believe they are that naive.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Untrue. As the documentary makes clear, the land was not 'grabbed' by Mike Campbell as you suggest, but was purchased by him on the open market after Zimbabwe's independence, and with the then approval of Mugabe's own government. Freeth and Campbell were not just victims of racial attacks (well documented, on camera, in the film), but also of serious physical attacks (also documented, and beyond dispute). You seem to imply that all this wassomehow justifiable. The Mugabe government's conduct towards the family and its property has been established as illegal, in an African court to whose authority the regime at least in theory subscribes. Your attempts to skew the film into being some sort of colonialist apologia ignore the fact that the film is in fact concerned with post-colonial issues of law. In claiming that the film elides "where [Freeth] and his family really come from" (as though this is somehow relevant), aren't you ust reenacting the kind of casual 'inverted' racism which the film demonstrates is so prevalent in Mugabe's government? Or are not all men and women born equal under Zimbabwean law?

Adam

3 years ago
Clearly there is some agenda on your part, Christian, to slant readers perspective by throwing up irrelevant scraps of information painted as fact or some kind of back story (of which the film provides plenty of, both in the case of the Campbell's, Ben Freeth and the legislation in question).

I would suggest asking readers who have seen the film to weigh in with their responses to these statements. Although I imagine you would quickly find yourself clinging to a minority view if you did indeed attempt to open up the floor.

tomseymour

3 years ago
It is a polemical film though. All docs, almost all news, have an agenda that exists on the promise of a dialectic. The issue of colonialism is still deeply felt in Zimbabwe, and you could argue for justified reasons (British businesses, for example, are still very very active in Zimbabwe). I don't agree that the film is colonialist apoligia, but it would be folly for white, Western viewers to ignore such a deeply felt sense of injustice.

Adam

3 years ago
All I will say is that regarding Christian's original comments, and having spoken to both Andrew and Lucy, I don't think this is the product of 'naive' filmmakers. The other side of the colonialism story deserves to be told, but this doc never sets itself up to tell it, as is the norm with documentary filmmaking.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Anton, I am telling you that Mike Campbell bought all his farms this one included in 1974. You might choose to believe the lie at the centre of this "documentary" or you might try to find out the truth. I'll be happy to help if you wish to side with the truth.
As for my interest, I happen to live near the very powerfull family of Ben Freeth, believe me those people are not the powerless and penniless farmers they want us to believe they are.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
The land was purchased in 1974 - but full title was vested in 1999, with Mugabe government approval. The ruling of the SADC Tribunal against the Republic of Zimbabwe for its subsequent dealings with Campbell and Freeth was unequivocal - and the Republic has been trying to undermine, or just plain ignore, the rulings and authority of the Tribunal ever since, much as it subverts the rulings of its own courts. For details, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Campbell_%28Pvt....

I do not recall the film in any way suggesting that the Campbells and the Freeths are in any way 'powerless and penniless' - rather what it documented was the way a state, in contravention of its own laws and of a human rights tribunal to which it is a signatory, was wilfully stripping the families of both their power and their property. This is an issue of law and its abuse - the question of the plaintiff's colour, or provenance, or family history, or wealth, or just how nice (or otherwise) they might be, should have no part to play in all this.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
The fact that Campbell bought the whole of the estate in 1974 is at the core of the issue, this is why Campbell and Freeth won't say in what they call a "documentary" when they purchased the large estate.
The reason why Campbell bought this particular farm from himself in 1999 is very clear, it was to get a certificate of non-interest from a judge. This certificate obtained by deception has no value whatsoever.
The tribunal has juridiction but its rulings, in this case of land redistribution, cannot be enforced in Zimbabwe.
Ben Freeth is taking his begging bowl all around the world hidding the fact that he is a full member of the British establishment, a soon to be Member of the British Empire thanks to his uncle, Sir Robert Hill Smith MP, third baronet Crowmalie, large landowner with farms and cottages he receives income from and with a portafolio of family shares in...Rio Tinto!

Christian Allard

3 years ago
My agenda is clear, if you ask me to watch a documentary, tell the truth, don't hide it!

I have an issue with Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson's film, it looks far too similar to all the clips Ben Freeth put on youtube. The story is the same, the way it is filmed the same, the script is very similar except that the youtube clips were filmed for locals, Rhodesian and white South Africans supporters. I see no input from Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson.

Please let me know where am I not factual?

Adam

3 years ago
And herein lies your agenda. Continued discussion is going to get us nowhere...

Christian Allard

3 years ago
To the truth may be on who really are Mike Campbell and Ben Freeth.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
That is one truth - but it is largely irrelevant in a law which respects equality. Another truth - the one that the film documents and addresses compellingly - is the summary and violent treatment of Campbell and Freeth by those who would like to 'grab' back their land.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
You would have a point Anton if Mike Campbell made it clear that he agrees with giving back peacefully the land he grabbed in 1974 but you can hear him on youtube clearly making the following threats:
"If anybody comes to take my farm away it is over my dead body"
"A part from me going into a coffin, a lot of you are going to go into a coffin as well".
I believe Mike Campbell is still alive today.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
I believe Mike Campbell, though still alive today, speaks as one who has been severely beaten by those who would 'peacefully' reclaim his land. I am interested as to whether you believe that the abductions and physical abuse visited upon him, his family and his staff are justifiable - and indeed whether you believe that he somehow 'deserved' to have his property burnt down.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Look Anton, I am not here to justify violence from anyone. I am just pointing out that Mike Campbell made it clear that he was not for sharing the land he grabbed in 1974 and if anyone disagree and came "peacefully", as you put it, to remove Mr Campbell from the land, people will die.
There are consequences to violent threats Anton, Mike Campbell should have understood this and I am delighted that nobody died.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
First of all, 'peacefully' was your word, which is why I presented it in ironising quotation marks. The recent (i.e. post-1999) land invasions by 'veterans' in Zimbabwe have been far from peaceful, as Campbell makes clear in the youtube interview (that is to my ears rather more measured in tone than your characterisation of it would suggest), and as anyone will know who has been following the news from Zimbabwe over the last decade.

Defending one's property is a right. Campbell's words, which he carefully frames as a last-ditch deterrent under desperate circumstances, come in the context of violence, both threatened and actual, being carried out against many white landowners and their staff by armed 'veteran' gangs, in a country whose leader expressly (and proudly) labels himself Africa's Hitler, and whose militias wage campaigns of bloody terror against (m)any perceived dissenters - including against Morgan Tsvangerai when he was the leader of the opposition. Violent threats do indeed have consequences - but in Zimbabwe's escalating war of words and deeds, Campbell's threats were a strategy of defence (against other, very real threats) - as he himself, in the youtube clip, makes plain. He and his family were abducted and physically brutalised (in his case, he is lucky to be alive) at a time when the state's claims on his land were still in contest, with the SADC Tribunal's final judgment still pending (a judgment that would ultimately be in Campbell's favour), and with an interim SADC ruling ordering Zimbabwe's government to stay off Campbell's property and to leave Campbell, his family and his staff alone. All this, I might add, was while Zimbabwe was still a signatory to the Tribunal and thus subject in law to its rulings.

Your suggestion that "The reason why Campbell bought this particular farm from himself in 1999 is very clear, it was to get a certificate of non-interest from a judge. This certificate obtained by deception [my bold] has no value whatsoever" simply beggars belief. The only 'deception' here is on the part of the government of Zimbabwe which, when given the privileged opportunity, in accordance with its own prescribed laws, to purchase Campbell's land in 1999, instead chose to grant him a certificate of non-interest that made the land unambiguously his in the eyes of both the government and the law. Within a year that same government was initiating attempts to grab the selfsame land (for 'redistribution' to Zanu-PF crony Nathan Shamuyarira) that it had just legally asserted it did not want - and the government has been fighting its own courts and the SADC Tribunal for years since.

I don't pretend that all of these issues are straightforward. The history of colonialism has left deep scars in Africa, and no doubt Campbell has played his small part in that history. But if the government of Zimbabwe felt that Campbell had no right to the land that he had been paying off 20 years subsequent to Independence, then it should not have granted him title to that land in 1999. You regard this entirely as an issue of pre-Independence land 'grabs'. I regard this more as an issue of law. I also see the state-sponsored intimidation and violence documented in Mugabe and the White African to be a part of the story that is not so easily dismissed.

I get that you dislike a certain wealthy, titled MP in Scotland who is related to the Zimbabwean landowner Ben Freeth - what I do not get is why you think this is relevant to the case in question. If I were in court, whether as plaintiff or accused, I should hardly have to answer for the history, status, lineage or indeed actions of one of my uncles. Of relevance here are the actions of Campbell and Freeth - and they have acted within the law. The same could not be said of those who invaded their land, destroyed their property, and beat the landowners to within an inch of their lives.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
You are right Anton, I used the word 'peacefully' first but your ears are not hearing what Mike Campbell is saying, I posted the South African army captain words:"If anybody comes to take my farm away it is over my dead body"…"A part from me going into a coffin, a lot of you are going to go into a coffin as well".

Defending your property is a right, that is if the property is yours by law. Under the present constitution of Zimbabwe, land is to be redistributed. Whatever you or any tribunals agree or disagree with land reform, the law in Zimbabwe is the law of the land. If you have another suggestion of why Campbell would buy this particular farm from himself in 1999 and why he would tell the world he bought it after independence while not telling that he first bought it in 1974, please speak up.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
This issue is not straightforward because colonialists like Mike Campbell are not straightforward but he is still playing today a game to hold on to a land he bought under a white supremacist regime and this is not in the "documentary". If the story of the South African captain was told truthfully, viewers would have dismissed "Mugabe and the White African" as another story of colonialists who refuse to move on.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
The MP in Scotland is himself a landowner and the third baronet asked at parliament for the United Kingdom to intervene, not to restore human rights in Zimbabwe Anton, but for the United Kingdom to intervene to restore the land to its rightful previous white owners and the baronet Crowmalie asked on behalf of his own nephew!
Please tell me again that it is not relevant or that those people are not colonialists and I'll tell you how much interests the MP has in Zimbabwe and how the baronet refuses to give them up just like Mike Campbell refuses to give up the land. This is not history, those are today's actions of a South African army captain Mike Campbell, his British son in law Ben Freeth soon to become member of the British Empire and of Ben's uncle Sir Robert Hill Smith member of the United Kingdom Westminster parliament third baronet Crowmalie.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
My ears are hearing what Campbell says just fine - but they are also hearing his surrounding words. Anyone can quote out of context. I urge anyone reading this to watch the youtube clip in its entirety - and also to do so with some knowledge of the situation in Zimbabwe.

When you talk of the 'present constitution of Zimbabwe', you refer in fact to a constitution that has been changed over the last ten years to undermine Campbell's (relatively) successful use of Zimbabwean law. The state's first attempt (in 2001) to take Campbell's land was ruled invalid by Zimbabwe's High Court, and several subsequent attempts were carried out by the state without the proper issuing of land acquisition notices. In 2005, the constitution was amended so that the courts lost their jurisdiction to hear challenges to land seizures. Campbell turned to the SADC Tribunal in 2007, and in 2009 Mugabe's government decided to withdraw from the Tribunal and to declare that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction over Zimbabwe only after the Tribunal had ruled in Campbell's favour (with Zimbabwe's full and active participation in the hearings). The law in Zimbabwe has undergone profound changes during and after the period covered by the documentary, and has often been treated with contempt by the government.

Why did Campbell buy Mt Carmel from himself in 1999? To test his claims to ownership in a court of law. At that time, in accordance with then current laws, land put up for purchase was offered first to the state for acquisition - and it was only after the state officially declared its non-interest that any other purchaser's (in this case Campbell's) ownership could be fully vested - which is exactly what happened. Had Zimbabwe wished to acquire Campbell's land, it could (and should) have then - but instead, it affirmed legally that it did not wish the land for itself, and that the land was Campbell's. Campbell was acting fully within the law, and the state acknowledged this by granting him its certificate of non-interest. What's the problem? If a migrant applies for citizenship in a country, and citizenship is granted, do you consider that to be 'deception' on the part of the applicant too?

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Everything that you have listed here is in fact an action of neither Freeth or Campbell, but of your local MP - which is why it is irrelevant. Take it up with him, or vote against him - but I still wish you could tell me how Sir Robert Hill Smith's status as a landowner or third baronet, or his attempted interventions in Westminster, are relevant to Campbell and Freeth's case against Mugabe's government. You seem to use the word 'colonialist' as some kind of magical shibboleth that somehow bypasses the normal application of law.

Christian, I enjoy discussion and debate, but I also note that you have published essentially the same views, often using exactly the same words, again and again and again on any website that dares mention Mugabe and the White African in positive terms. It has all become a bit, well, repetitive (even in the excahnges on this site). I have no doubt you are arguing from conviction - but don't you think there are at present far greater injustices to address in Zimbabwe than its colonial history?

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Ben Freeth has asked his uncle to intervene to get the farm back, how relevant to you want it to be? The MP happens to be from a party in government, what more do you want?

Look Anton I am responding to the present article, the interview of the filmmaking team behind the "documentary" Mugabe and the White African that finishes with "...the family feel that the film is all they’ve got. It’s their record of the past and their hope for the future because everything they’re fighting for was wrapped up in the farm and so I think it’s very important to them."

I am just exposing the truth that this family has got a lot more than this film to fall back on and I don't believe a word of their claim that they lost everything.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Again you misrepresent what you quote: "...the family feel that the film is all they've got" was prefaced (and softened) by the words "In many ways I think...", marking the words as a carefully qualified ("I think") hyperbole ("in many ways"). The family does not actually claim, as you paraphrase, that 'they have lost everything' - rather the filmmaker Lucy Bailey claims her belief ("I think") that "everything they're fighting for was wrapped up in the farm and so I think it's very important to them." How exactly is this untrue? It's not as though their ongoing legal dispute is about anything other than what is 'wrapped up in the farm' - it's a dispute about the farm and its ownership, isn't it? If I had spent several decades running, paying off and living on a property, I think I would regard it as 'very important' to me - indeed, it would frankly be surprising if I did not. Furthermore, if I lost such a property, I don't think it would be an unreasonable hyperbole to claim that I had 'lost everything'. This is, surely, precisely the sort of 'normative' context in which one does use such an expression. Obviously one has only really 'lost everything' when dead - but then, generally, one can no longer speak at all. The expression is always mildly hyperbolic. Your issue would seem to be with the English language in general, rather than with any glaring usage thereof by Freeth, Campbell or the filmmakers.

It is not as though the documentary somehow conceals the fact that Freeth has a family and a country to which he could, if necessary, return - on the contrary, it shows us his parents in England, as well as his parents' house and relative affluence. The point is that the film is "all they've got" in the sense (clearly spelt out in Bailey's next sentence) that "It's their record of the past and their hope for the future." More recently, after the documentary was completed, Freeth has been banned from filming on his own farm on the grounds that it is under "police surveillance", and was even briefly detained by the police in 2009 for visiting his burnt-out Mt Carmel homestead with a camera crew from Al Jazeera: see http://www.sokwanele.com/thisiszimbabwe/archives/... (yet another article to which you have responded with one of your stock opening gambits).

I note - again - that you focus narrowly on the question of Freeth's family background. Fair play to you if that is all that interests you – but I can only say in response – again – that there is rather more at issue here.
Campbell has been running Mt Carmel as a successful and productive mango farm for decades. All evidence suggests that such farms, when taken over by Zanu-PF cronies with little experience or even interest in agriculture, cease to be productive. That is why the transformation of Zimbabwe from African breadbasket to a backwater of impoverishment and starvation has coincided with the post-millennial land grabs. This is nothing to do with some misguided notion of white superiority - all of Campbell's workers are, after all, black Africans - rather, it is to do with a flawed policy of 'redistribution' that has less to do with redressing the past injustices of colonialism, and far more to do with rewarding the corrupt officials and 'muscle' that help keep Mugabe in power. The documentary itself touches upon this very issue. I would suggest that your accusations of nepotism are somewhat misdirected.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
I agree Anton, the "documentary" is about softening the message of white owners of large estates in Africa but the message is clear, they don't accept land redistribution or that they have to move on.

The point you are missing is that the family of Ben Freeth in the United Kingdom is very active to revert a land reform policy in Africa from the uncle going to parliament in London to ask for the land to be returned to white settlers to the Queen of England honouring Ben Freeth with the title of Member of the British Empire. Imagine both scenes to be added to the "documentary" and how it would put a very different perspective to it.
This is not post colonialism Anton, this is active colonialism, today.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
As for farming in Zimbabwe, it has a future without the likes of Campbell. In fact it is presently recovering as the land reform in Zimbabwe is in its last phase. I truly believe that Ben Freeth and Mike Campbell, the South African army captain, are now actively campaigning to stop a similar land reform policy in South Africa.
The documentary was watched last week for the first time in Durban by 200 folks, 200 white folks of course. Ben Freeth warned white landowners there that after the world cup they will lose their land, he is getting a lot of support from the wealthy white South African "farmers".

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Your opening sentence reads less like agreement, and more like a non sequitur in relation to the comments to which it purports to respond. The point you are missing is that what a Scottish MP, or even the Queen of Great Britain, thinks or does is irrelevant to Zimbabwean law, and to the case in question. What the documentary (rightly) focuses on is the way in which Campbell, his family and his staff were treated in Zimbabwe, and his pursuit of justice through legal channels. The fact that Freeth has subsequently received an MBE from the Queen "for services to the farming community in Zimbabwe" (see http://www.thezimbabwean.co.uk/index.php?option=c... is neither here nor there, as Zimbabwe is no longer a colony of Britain, and Campbell and Freeth were granted full title over their Mt Carmel property by the Zimbabwean authorities in 1999, nineteen years after Independence. And no, I cannot imagine this scene being added to the documentary (why do you keep putting the word in inverted commas?) for the simple reason that the MBE was awarded after the film was completed.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
I hope it does have a future - but even you would have to admit that things do not look good at present. Many of the 'redistributed' lands have lain derelict ever since, in the possession of 'veterans' and Mugabe cronies who have no interest in farming - or else they now produce subsistence crops where once they produced commercial-scale crops. Zimbabwe, once one of Africa's main food exporters, has now become an importer, with shortages, and even starvation, become part of the fabric of everyday lives there. The current state of Zimbabwe's economy speaks for itself.
If the eventual land reform policy in South Africa ends up taking a similar form to the one in Zimbabwe, I can well understand why anyone might wish to actively campaign against it. I have no problem whatsoever with the principle of land reform - but there are good ways and bad ways to conduct it, and Zimbabwe has got it terribly, terribly wrong, and should not be imitated.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
The picture you and this "documentary" are painting is not the reality many experts are showing, please do have a look at farming in Zimbabwe today and what it could be tomorrow:

A new start for Zimbabwe? by Ian Scoones
Challenges the myths about Zimbabwean agriculture and land reform http://www.lalr.org.za/news/a-new-start-for-zimba...

Moving Forward in Zimbabwe: Reducing Poverty and Promoting Productivity www.bwpi.manchester.ac.uk/events/BWPI_ZimbabweRep...

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
In 1999, in full accordance with Zimbabwean law, Campbell offered the Mt Carmel property to the state of Zimbabwe. The State of Zimbabwe declared its official non-interest in the property. So much we have already established. This offer by Campbell represented a full engagement with the process of Land Reform - but the State did not want to play (or pay). When the State then tried to steal the land whose ownership it had officially vested in Campbell less than two years earlier, rather unsurprisingly he did not want to play - and several courts both within and outside of Zimbabwe have subsequently supported him. Mt Carmel, the property with which the documentary is concerned, is different from many other reclaimed properties in Zimbabwe in that its ownership by Campbell has been affirmed in post-colonial Zimbabwean law. Nonetheless, I suspect that few would disagree that the intimidation and actual violence deployed by the State in reclaiming lands since 2000 has shown the ugliest face of land reform - as has the rather narrow, nepotistic and inappropriate choice in recipients of such lands.
I still fail to understand what you mean by "It was wrong for them not to share the land and now they are paying the price." The Zimbabwean government has never proposed that the land be 'shared'.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
I disagree. The first article talks of the 'potential' for a better future in Zimbabwe, while painting a pretty bleak (if qualified) portrait of the present - a position summarised in the introduction thus: "After years of political impasse and economic instability, there is a potential for a new start". The 'myths' that the article goes on to debunk merely replace extreme language with more measured language, so that, e.g., 'Zimbabwean land reform has been a total failure' is altered to 'Zimbabwean land reform has been a qualified failure'; 'there is no investment in the new resettlements' becomes in effect 'there is little investment in the new resettlements' ("almost all of it private, individual efforts with vanishingly little provision through the state"); etc.


The chapter on agriculture and land reform in the second, much longer essay, has this conclusion:
"The new settlements created by Zimbabwe’s haphazard land redistribution require significant assistance, through the provision of infrastructure and support services to farmers, if they are to be made functional. The tenure for smallholders on redistributed land remains insecure, an issue that must be addressed in the post-crisis reconstruction. This chapter has also argued that the former white owners of land appropriated
in the resettlement process should be compensated, and that ways in which this compensation could be channelled into kick-starting other areas of the economy need to be explored." Like the first article, it looks forward to a potentially better future, while criticising much that has happened in the last ten years.

I don't regard any of this as inconsistent with what the documentary shows (although the documentary is not about the whole of Zimbabwe), or indeed with my own position.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Here is the timeline
1965 White Rhodesians seized control of the majority of fertile land within the country and forced blacks to use the poorer, arid, and unproductive ground.
1974 Mike Campbell moved to Mount Carmel from South Africa.
1980 White minority rule ended, implementation of the Lancaster House Agreement followed.
1990 Zimbabwe Constitution was amended in order to provide for the redistribution of land within the country.
1997 Mount Carmel is listed for acquisition as part of the government's 'Land Reform' programme.
1999 Mike Campbell bought Mount Carmel from himself and obtained a certificate of 'No Interest' from the court to do so.
2000 Zimbabwe adopted a "fast-tracts" land reform process and identified tracks of land for redistribution.
2000 The Commercial Farmer's Union (CFU) successfully obtained an order from the Zimbabwe Supreme Court to stop the "fast-tracts" land reform process.
2001 The interdict was overturned, "fast-tracts" land reform resumed.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
The inconsistency is in two folds:
First, there were opportunities for white settlers to engage and to take part positively in the land redistribution of the estates they bought before 1980. Some did just do that, some left, Mike Campbell refused the last thirty years and kept it all. The number of small farms grew like never before and the large estates disappeared one by one. After the failure of getting the reminding white settlers to willingly share their land, Zimbabwe authorities forced the sale then took over the land earmarked for land redistribution. This last event regarding a few white landowners doesn't take away the success of Zimbabwe to distribute its land from the hands of a few to the hands of many. The numbers are there for you to see.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
I missed this post of yours Anton, I struggle with you claiming that Britain has no power on how Zimbabwe is ran. The queen of England made it very clear on which side she is and the uncle of Ben Freeth is putting pressure on parliament to intervene into the affairs of Zimbabwe regarding land reforms. More to the point most of the natural resources are still owned by a few people in Britain, this baronet is one of them. They do consider Zimbabwe to be a colony of Britain, an MBE is a member of the British Empire Anton, EMPIRE.
I would recommend to the producers of "Mugabe and the White African" to insert this to the "documentary" and show it to the people who felt sorry for Mike Campbell and Ben Freeth. I have an idea for the title, "Mugabe, the white South African army captain, his British son in law, the third baronet MP and the Queen of England".

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
So you're saying that the existence of an award with an antiquated name somehow proves the continuing existence of the British Empire, or even the Queen's belief that such an Empire still exists?

Campbell lives and works in Africa, and has done so for many years. This is why the film's title refers to him as a 'white African'. Your comments about the queen and a baronet of Britain are simply irrelevant, and in any case postdate the events covered by the documentary.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Yes - and it is worth noting that in 1997, "listed for acquisition" means "listed to be purchased from the current owner at market prices" (see p.85 of http://www.bwpi.manchester.ac.uk/events/BWPI_Zimb.... The Zimbabwean state did not follow through on its own acquisition listing, and indeed in 1999 officially declared its non-interest in the property, acknowledging Campbell's ownership of the property.
And the timeline, in Campbell's case, does not end in 2001 - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Campbell_%28Pvt...

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Your point would be more interesting were it not the case that the Mt Carmel property was not earmarked for division into smallholdings and redistribution to a number of needy black workers. Rather, it was earmarked to be handed over to former MP and Zanu-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Campbell_%28Pvt%29_Ltd_and_Others_v_Republic_of_Zimbabwe) - which sounds to me like one large landowner (with experience in farming) losing his holdings to another (with no such experience).

I'm not sure that I understand your quote marks - are you suggesting that Mt Carmel was not a "successful and productive mango farm"? And I'm not sure that you have addressed the issue of the food shortages that have become the norm in post-millennial Zimbabwe (i.e., coinciding with the aggressive land reforms). I have no problems with smallholdings - but crops need to be grown, as I suggested above, on a commercial scale (which in no way precludes smallholdings), not on a merely subsistence scale, or on no scale at all (much of the reclaimed land has remained idle), if Zimbabwe is to go on feeding its own people. Right now, it is failing to do that.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Campbell is South African, Ben Freeth British, neither of them are Zimbabweans, this is why the film is not called “Mugabe and the White Zimbabwean”. The award is clearly given by the Queen to recognise the rights of Ben Freeth and other white settlers to own land in Zimbabwe. I am really amazed that people like Ben Freeth and his supporters claim that the British Empire is no more and that colonialism is dead, yet Ben asked his uncle to speak at Westminster for him to keep some land in Zimbabwe then tells the world how delighted and proud he is to be honoured by the British monarch. How can both be right and how can this be irrelevant?
The "documentary" needs updating.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Yes and in 2000 Zimbabwe adopted a "fast-tracts" land reform process and identified tracks of land for redistribution, putting Mike Campbell back to square one.
Let's be clear Anton, Mike Campbell had no intention to let go to anything and thought that selling his property to himself, to his son and his son in law would do. He was of course wrong, there is the law and the spirit of the law. Land redistribution between white settlers is an insult to the policy you said you agreed with.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Look we went through this before Mike Campbell was a South African army captain never a farmer. I have been trying to show you that the case of Mike Campbell is isolated and irrelevant to the farming reform in Zimbabwe but you hold this film so dearly that you seem to think that it is bringing the solution to the problem, give back the land to white settlers and it all be fine. Mike Campbell had 30 years to share his land with the 500 people farming the land and he did not, this is unacceptable by any standard.
Zimbabwe is choosing to feed its people by giving them the land to grow food for themselves instead of working for the white man like they did for decades feeding me with mangoes. Zimbabwe future is bright if Campbell, his South African white friends, his British son in law, the baronet and the queen would leave the country alone to get on with it.
One thing I agree with Ben Freeth, South Africa is next and if white settlers follow Mike Campbell’s example South Africa is in for a tough ride.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Here we go again...
Yes, indeed, the documentary is not called Mugabe and the White Zimbabwean. You've really cleared that up for us now. Congratulations. Talk about tilting at windmills.

I'm still not sure how you think a speech made at Westminster impacts upon the law of Zimbabwe (a sovereign, independent state) - and I certainly don't think Mugabe or his government is much bothered by anything the Queen says or does. Your 'clearly' cloaks pure speculation on your part - but since you bring it up, if white settlers have no right to own land in Zimbabwe, I wonder how exactly your much touted model of 'sharing' land would work. There can be no sharing without implicit ownership.

History, the world, events - these are always moving on. Can you name a documentary (or even a "documentary") that does not need updating - especially if "updating" involves the addition of all subsequent details and events, no matter how irrelevant to the documentary's original point?

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Again, you ignore the fact that in order to purchase the land to himself, Campbell had first by law to offer the land to the Zimbabwean state. He duly did this, and the state officially declared in response that it was not interested in acquiring the land, so that the land could be, and indeed was, fully vested in law as Campbell's. The fast-track land reform process was, in the case of Campbell's property, an underhanded policy enabling the state to circumvent its own (very recent) decisions as well as the law. When the government issued a notice to seize Mt Carmel from Campbell in 2001, this notice was declared invalid by Zimbabwe's High Court. In 2005, the government emended the Constitution to remove its own courts' jurisdiction over challenges to land seizures. In 2009, after the SADC Tribunal had also ruled in favour of Campbell, the Zimbabwean government withdrew from the Tribunal. Like you say, there is the law, and the spirit of the law. The Zimbabwean government rides roughshod over both of these - and enforces its policies with a jackboot. Campbell 'was wrong' precisely in the sense that he imagined he could ultimately win against such a government. He has not won - he has been beaten (literally), and is now evicted from land that the state had declared his in 1999. He has indeed been put 'back to square one' - but what this reveals about the state's respect for its own laws is rather alarming. Why bother even having courts, eh?

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Mike Campbell was a South African army captain who became a farmer. You're so obsessed with his history and background that you happily overlook the more-than-three decades he has since spent managing Mount Carmel in Zimbabwe.
It is you who conflates Campbell with all other 'colonialists', white settlers, Scotland-based lords and even the Queen. I assume this is why you ignore the point that Mt Carmel, specifically, was to be handed over to an individual Mugabe crony, rather than to Campbell's 500 workers. Anything is good for Zimbabwe if it gets rid of those whities, right?

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Have you read what the MP said?

Mugabe is delighted, have you not understood yet that this is why the white landowners in Zimbabwe think that Ben Freeth is not helping them but he is justifying the actions of Mugabe?

I never said white settlers have no right to own land, I said they must share the land they bought when the black man could not buy the land he farmed.

The story is not told, it has no beginning, it is only one sided and the end is missing.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
And the Zimbabwe state did not want to take it over at Mike Campbell's chosen time, then it did. Anton, nothing stopped Mike Campbell to share the land with the 500 people working the land, he went to court to keep it all.

Anyway the law of the land as prevailed, no regional tribunal, Westminster parliament or even the Queen can change that unless the world sides with a handful of white settlers against the black majority of an African nation because of some "documentary".
Why bother even having African nations, let's call it the British Empire or the Commonwealth and let's make sure only white settlers can own African natural resources?

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
"The story is not told, it has no beginning, it is only one sided and the end is missing."
That is a description of any and every story. It is in the nature of stories.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Sigh. 'Back to square one', to borrow your phrase. Non sequiturs, and endless reassertions of the same position. Good night.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Anton, I don't know what he did, I don't know who owned Mount Carmel before him but I suspect it was a Rhodesian who made 500 people working hard for him then decided in 1974 that the future of white settlers in Rhodesia was over.
The white minority in Zimbabwe chose to take the land for themselves, you cannot blame the majority black to want it back. If it means that a couple of foreigners leave the country because they disagree, I don't think they are going to be missed.
I have a story of an African who came to Scotland and bought a large estate. When the people who worked the land for generations told him that they could now own the land they lived on because of some new law, the African landowner first laughed and told them he bought the land and it was his. When the authorities confirmed that the law had changed since he bought the estate, the African landowner went public and accused the authorities and the government of Mugabe style human right abuse then he told everyone that he was going to leave the country and that we will all miss him. We laughed.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
Yes, I can see the bemusement. I'm glad you (pl.) didn't also beat his workers, and him, and his wife, after abducting them, and burn down their homestead too - although that would make your parallel complete. I also note that when Scotland abolished its feudal system of land tenure in 2004 (from a law enacted in 2000) in favour of an allodial system, there was a mechanism in place to compensate the previous landowner fully for any resulting loss of feuduties. In Zimbabwe, under the current land reforms, there is no compensation system in place - and the land is often not transferred (as it is in Scotland) to the population who have lived and worked on it for years. A pertinent example here being Campbell's property at Mt Carmel, which was all along slated to be transferred to an individual, Nathan Shamuyarira, who just happens to be a former Minister of Information, a spokesman for Zanu PF, and Robert Mugabe's current biographer - and who has, to my knowledge, never lived or worked in the Chegutu district where Mt Carmel is located. As the documentary makes clear, the actual workers on Campbell's property were terrified of what Shamuyarira's arrival would mean for their livelihood and future. Is this what you call 'the majority black' getting his land back? Upon examination, your parable, though perhaps amusing, is hardly relevant.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
I don't know what would have happened to Mohamed Al Fayed if he had told that the only way to take his land would be by force and that he would shoot to kill if needed.
Anton, since 1980 white settlers have been compensated by Britain and by Zimbabwe when they shared their land, only since 2000 the ones who refused for 20 years to share the land have been evicted by force. It is hard to believe that none of the 500 people who worked the land in this case would not want to own some of it. People in Scotland had to be encouraged to own the land they worked and lived on for generations, it is not easy to become independent when you have been a servant for all this time.
Anyway in Zimbabwe it is over now, but South Africa where only six percent of white farms have been redistributed to black farmers since Mandela came to power, is just going to address a policy of land redistribution that is not working, who will the white settlers blame there?

Christian Allard

3 years ago
You are saying that Zimbabwe got it terribly wrong and should not be imitated, then tell South Africa what to do. They are in the same position that Zimbabwe was in 2000, 'the willing buyer, willing seller' Zimbabwe model is not working there either. How do you force a white minority to give away the majority of the land that they own if not by force?

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
In 1999, Campbell was willing to sell, but Zimbabwe was not willing to buy - hence its declaration of non-interest...

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Zimbabwe has not gone for the nationalisation of farms identified for redistribution, do you think Zimbabwe should have gone for this and more to the point how would you want South Africa to proceed?

If Campbell was willing to sell, he had 20 years to do so and 500 people to sell some of his land to, he chose to sell the land to himself instead.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
you are mistaken - in the Nineties, Zimbabwe had gone for this. That is why it enshrined in law a requirement that any landowner (on farms identified for redistribution) first offer his/her land for sale to the State before being able to sell it to anyone else (including to him/herself). The State, if interested, would purchase the land and conduct redistribution itself - but in 1999 the State asserted (through official legal process) that it was not interested in the Mount Carmel property, and issued Campbell with a certificate of non-interest. It was only after the State changed its laws, that it 'redistributed' the land to one of its cronies not to Campbell's 500 workers. We are going in circles here.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
Sorry Anton, I meant to say do you think Zimbabwe should have gone for the nationalisation of all farms identified for redistribution and think about finding new owners later? There must be a reason why none of the 500 people who worked and lived on Mike Campbell's land did come forward to claim their share. I remember you stating that land redistribution must happen, it cannot be land redistribution to the ones who already own the land, this is making a mockery of the policy.
But let's not go in circles, what do you think South Africa should do now because there are no Mugabes there for white landowners to blame?

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
If you listen carefully to Campbell's words in their entirety on the youtube clip from your first post, you will realise that it is addressed specifically to gangs of illegal land invaders - the ones that Campbell states (correctly) were so successful in removing many other landowners from their properties through intimidation, violence and destruction. I don't think there was an equivalent to such gangs in Scotland during the radical land reforms that came into effect in 2004 - but if there had been, the Scottish authorities would have dealt with them pretty swiftly. The same was not true in Zimbabwe...
Again you ignore the fact that in 1999, when given the opportunity (enshrined in laws of its own making) to purchase the Mount Carmel property at market value, it chose not to, and officially declared its non-interest. Campbell did not refuse to share the land - on the contrary, almost as soon as he had himself finished paying it off he offered it for sale to the State (which, under the laws current in 1999, had taken upon itself the responsibilities of redistribution). The State declared its official non-interest. Evidently the State had neither the desire nor the intention to pay the compensation enshrined within its own laws. And its subsequent attempts, ultimately successful, to take Campbell's land have had nothing to do with the concerns of the 500 workers who had lived there - the land was redistributed to one individual, a Mugabe crony with no farming experience or links to the district.
I would not wish to extrapolate from this specific case to South Africa's future - but I can say that South Africa would be ill-advised to seize land against the rulings of its own courts and of Tribunals to which it is a signatory - and if/when it does seize land, I would hope that it would do so via bailiffs and the police, not via paramilitary mobs. Operating within the law, respecting the judiciary and its independence, taking action against criminal activity - these are all sound principles for any State, surely?

Christian Allard

3 years ago
I am very disappointed with your answer Anton. In one hand you are accepting that land redistribution should happen and Zimbabwe made a mess of it, but in the other you are refusing to suggest to South Africa how to deal with the fact that the land will stay with the white minority if nothing is done.
There are many problems with land redistribution, problems of fairness that we are experiencing in Scotland, but those problems should not be excuses to deny the principle of land redistribution.
We are going in circles regarding Mike Campbell because you do not accept that Mike Campbell used the law to keep his land as if the policy of land redistribution should not apply to him.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
What I had said was "I have no problem whatsoever with the principle of land reform" - I think you would agree that is hardly the same as saying "land redistribution must happen." And are you suggesting that Zimbabwe's land redistribution should be left to the responsibility and discretion of landowners like Campbell, with no input from the State? The whole point of the Nineties legislation was to give the State the opportunity to purchase and redistribute land, with the previous owners recompensed at market value. In the case of Mt Carmel, the State wasn't interested.
I thought we were talking about the documentary and the interview above, not South Africa's future policies on land reform - but I would hope that South Africa would conduct any process of land reform within the law, and without recourse to extra-judicial violence and intimidation.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
When have I denied the principle of land redistribution? On the contrary. Do you actually read the comments to which you respond? When you say Campbell "used the law to keep his land", you make it sound as though that is a bad thing. I agree that we are going in circles, and have lost interest. Good luck in your campaigning, and sorry to have disappointed.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
We can go back to the interview above if you wish to but it is going to be hard not to go in circles when you seem to think that it is enough to claim that you have no problem whatsoever with the principle of land reform and follow up by defending people who are against this same principle.
The state of Zimbabwe, with all its limitations, gave a fair chance to 'the willing buyer, willing seller' policy but it did not work for a few farmers like Mike Campbell. It worked with many other white landowners and Mike Campbell cannot be made an exception.
I shall remind you that Mike Campbell is South African, the "documentary" was shown in South Africa last week and Ben Freeth is gathering a lot of support from white landowners there who call Mike Campbell a hero. Zimbabwe land reform is at its last stage and won’t be reversed whatever the party in power, if we can agree on that, let's agree that this “documentary” is a warning for what is going to happen next in South Africa.

Christian Allard

3 years ago
You haven't, this is what I said:
"In one hand you are accepting that land redistribution should happen and Zimbabwe made a mess of it, but in the other you are refusing to suggest to South Africa how to deal with the fact that the land will stay with the white minority if nothing is done."
But you are blaming Zimbabwe for trying to implement the policy with the intended result that people like Mike Campbell do not keep all the land that they own.
Thank you for the good wishes.
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