Posted by: Paul | May 28, 2010

Mugabe and the White African

This powerful and very upsetting documentary was shown on More4 last week. They’ve had a few good acquisitions in their schedules recently.

Zimbabwe’s descent into chaos is well documented, as is Robert Mugabe’s absolute denial of the facts. His program of “land reform” has systematically removed almost all white farmers from the country by making their lives intolerable and their livelihoods untenable through intimidation, beatings, home invasion and enforced evictions. The only thing sadder than the state of the country is the rest of the world’s apparent indifference to the situation and unwillingness to help. No natural resources, you see – you could guarantee if Zimbabwe was an oil producing country the UN would be in like a shot.

MATWA is the story of one white farmer, his family and their employees. Mike Campbell bought Mount Carmel farm in 1980, after Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain. The government signed declarations of “no interest” at the time, as it would not be needed in any future land redistribution programme. And almost a year to the day after repaying the loan he took out to buy the farm, the government announced it was forefeit and to be passed onto ‘the poor black majority’. This turned out to be the son of a wealthy government minister, who proceeded to camp on Campbell’s land and employ people to intimidate him and his family and beat his staff in order to force them to leave. Campbell and his family refused, took their case to the SADC tribunal (to which Zimbabwe is a signatory), and became targets of savage beatings themselves. Mount Carmel was home and work to a community of 500 people, including many children.

This is a heartbreaking film. I won’t spoil it as you really should see it, especially if your knowledge of what’s happening in Zimbabwe is limited (and it is still happening). I admit to a personal connection to the recent story of the country as a very good friend and colleague at the turn of the new millennium was from Harare, and I remember her regular reports on how bad things were getting – and especially her account of going home for a brief visit before they changed the passport regulations to outlaw dual nationality in the country, meaning she couldn’t travel back to see her family and then return to Britain, and as the plane took off from Harare airport all she could see stretching far into the distance was burning farms. Karen, if by some chance you’re reading this, please get in touch.

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