In July 2011, Mugabe and the White African co-directors Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson provided the latest news on the film’s reception, the characters in the film and the cases against Robert Mugabe and the government of Zimbabwe.
It was always our ambition to make a stunning and dramatic film, and one that we hoped would draw the world’s attention to Zimbabwe’s plight. We were delighted with the film’s reception and the powerful impact it had on people around the world. It has now won more than 10 awards and has received numerous nominations. It was nominated for a BAFTA and shortlisted for an Oscar®.
As was our promise to Ben [Freeth] and Mike [Campbell] when we asked them if we could make this film about their case, we have worked incredibly hard to get the film to those in a position to make a difference. The film has been shown to members of British Parliament and the U.S. Congress, to various embassies around the world and to many workers at NGOs and those working for political, legal and human rights organizations, as well as being screened at educational institutions.
The situation in Zimbabwe is still very difficult for many, and things are unlikely to change until there are free and fair elections for all in that country, so that human rights issues can be properly addressed. Tragically, the country is still dependent on food aid as a result of Mugabe’s land reform policy. Our contributors are still fighting for human rights in the region. The SADC (Southern African Development Community) tribunal was recently suspended for another year by the SADC heads of state, and there has been a refusal to reappoint any of the judges or allow any cases to be heard. This is a tragedy for millions of people in southern Africa who are now denied access to this international human rights court.
— Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson, co-directors of Mugabe and the White African
On April 6, 2011, Mike Campbell died at the age of 79. The filmmakers of Mugabe and the White African issued the following statement.
Mike Campbell, 79, the Zimbabwean commercial farmer who made legal history when he took Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, to the international court of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2007 and won his case a year later, passed away at his temporary home in Harare on April 6, 2011. Campbell had never recovered from injuries suffered during his kidnapping and torturing at the hands of a gang affiliated with ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front, Mugabe’s political party) that tried to throw him off his farm in 2008.
The producers of Mugabe and the White African, David Pearson and Elizabeth Morgan Hemlock, and the directors, Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, gave tribute to Campbell, calling him “an amazing and brave man.” Said Pearson, speaking for the entire team, “He was an exceptionally courageous man with great dignity and humor. His willingness to allow us to tell his story was important, as it gave the world a clear sense of what was really happening in Zimbabwe. It was a great honor for us to work with him, Ben and the family, and the film is a testimony to his sense of fairness and desire for justice and the rule of law.” Morgan Hemlock added, “Audiences the world over have been touched by the strength of Mike’s character and his decency.”
Campbell was beaten, along with his wife, Angela, and son-in-law Ben Freeth late at night in a remote militia camp on June 29, 2008, just two days after the country’s presidential run-off election.
Eventually, their captors forced them at gunpoint to sign a paper stating that they would withdraw their case, due to be heard before the SADC Tribunal in Namibia the following month. They were then dumped outside the town of Kadoma, and when discovered, they were rushed to hospital.
Campbell sustained severe head injuries that resulted in brain damage, as well as broken ribs and damage to his lower limbs caused by a crude and brutal torture method known as falanga.
Falanga consists of beating the soles of someone’s feet with iron bars, logs or cables and can result in permanent disability or death due to kidney failure. Campbell’s medical report noted that severe force had been used, and that the possibility of permanent damage was likely.
A dedicated farmer and conservationist, Campbell purchased Mount Carmel farm in the Chegutu district in 1975 and spent the next 24 years paying back his mortgage on the property. The farm was transferred legally to the family’s company in 1999 upon receipt of a “certificate of no interest” from the Mugabe government, which had the first purchase option on any sale.
Described as a model employer, Campbell had a large workforce on the farm. The farm sustained more than 500 people, including the wives and children of employees.
After the farm invasions began in 2001, Campbell, his family, their workers and other farmers in the district became the target of unrelenting state-sponsored violence and intimidation. On Campbell’s property, a safari lodge was burned down, wildlife was slaughtered and cattle were rustled. After seeking recourse from the Zimbabwean courts to no avail, Campbell took his case to the SADC Tribunal in October 2007, and in March of the following year an additional 77 white commercial farmers joined his case as interveners.
In November 2008, the SADC Tribunal ruled that the farmers could keep their land, because the land reform program was not being conducted according to the rule of law and was also discriminatory. However, the victimization continued, and the following year both the Campbell and Freeth homesteads were burned to the ground, together with workers’ homes and the small linen factory created by Freeth’s wife, Laura, to provide employment for the wives of farm workers.
“What Mike and his family have achieved for Zimbabwe and the whole of Southern Africa in setting an international precedent in property rights and the rights of white Africans in international law will only be realized by most people in years to come, when we have a government that will respect the rule of law and the rights of people,” said Deon Theron, president of the Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe.
Campbell is survived by his wife, Angela, their son, Bruce, daughters Cathy and Laura and five grandchildren. Their sixth grandchild is due to be born next month.