Socialist Worker

Mugabe and the White African

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2184

This film dramatically shows the attempt by two white farmers – Mike Campbell and his British son-in-law Ben Freeth – to stop the Zimbabwean government taking over their 3,000-acre farm.

What the Daily Mail’s reviewer describes as an “excellent, moving anti-racist documentary” is an attempt to make us believe the whites of Zimbabwe are heroes, whose last-ditch defiance deserves our full support.

We see Campbell and Freeth being nice to their African workforce, before driving out, guns in hand, to make sure the “invaders” can’t take over the farm. Meanwhile, Freeth’s relatives in what is shown as the pastoral idyll of Kent, England, speak tearfully of their admiration for this courageous resistance.

The film wholly lacks any historical context. You will not learn that Zimbabwe emerged out of a vicious, racist state – Rhodesia – set up through wholesale land “invasion” at the end of the 19th century by British imperialism.

Africans were driven from their homes and until ten years ago just 4,400 white farmers held a third of Zimbabwe’s land.

A million black peasant farmers scratched a living on about the same area.

The legacy of imperialist theft cannot be excluded from an understanding of Zimbabwe today.

Campbell did not come to Rhodesia until 1974. Before then he had been an army captain in apartheid South Africa (the film doesn’t go into that).

Zimbabwe’s dictatorial president Robert Mugabe has opportunistically used the issue of land to bolster his own regime.

He made no moves against the white farmers for 20 years after his election victory in 1980. It was only when mass popular opposition broke out against his rule from the mid-1990s that he used a drive against the white farmers to divide opposition and unify his own side.

But that should not obscure the truth that land certainly does need to be redistributed.

The real issue in Zimbabwe is the struggle by black workers and peasants for democracy and social justice.

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Article information

Tue 12 Jan 2010, 18:09 GMT
Issue No. 2184
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