Africa is the richest continent on earth: The World Economic Forum reports that Africa has 30% of the world’s natural resources and some of the best climatic conditions, rainfall and soils in the world. Africa has an abundance of arable land, yet 35% of the population is chronically undernourished and the whole continent of Africa only contributes 1.3% to the world’s produce. In the last 50 years, Africa has received more than US$ 2,000 billion of aid and yet the number of people living in poverty has increased. Zimbabwe’s food aid needs have risen by 60% in the past year alone, with almost two million people in need of foreign aid contributions to survive the ‘lean’ season. Why? Because the powers of the institutions of justice to safeguard the rights of the many have been undermined by the power-hungry ambitions of the few.
In the 1990s, Zimbabwe was heralded the “breadbasket of Africa”, boasting an excellent infrastructure and the highest farming productivity on the continent. However, since 2000, due to the breakdown of the rule of law and the chaotic and violent land invasions instigated by President Robert Mugabe’s government, UNESCO estimates that 3.5 million of the country’s 7 million children, many of whom are AIDS orphans, continue to live below the Poverty Line and are chronically hungry. Their parents and grandparents, many of whom had lived and worked on the commercial farms in Zimbabwe for generations, have been left impoverished and destitute. UNICEF reports that 78% of Zimbabweans are living in absolute poverty.
Why are we called the Mike Campbell Foundation?
Mike Campbell was the dynamic Zimbabwean commercial farmer and conservationist who, together with his son-in-law Ben Freeth MBE, and 77 other displaced farmers, took Robert Mugabe to court over his government’s controversial land seizure programme.
After a protracted and dispiriting slog through Zimbabwe’s partisan court system, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal, the only international human rights court in the region, was finally asked to pronounce judgment on the case and ruled resolutely in Mike’s favour, ordering the Zimbabwe government to protect those farmers and farm workers against whom violent atrocities had previously been committed.
Mike’s struggle for justice is poignantly documented in the award-winning, clandestine documentary film, “Mugabe and the White African”, and in Ben Freeth’s book of the same name. The family’s willingness to go “upstream” to confront the source of the abuses which had decimated their country led to the torching and destruction of Mike’s beloved farm – Mount Carmel, in the Chegutu district of Zimbabwe. This was the culmination of almost a decade of threats against Mike’s person and property. His home, livelihood and the houses of his workers were razed to the ground by ZANU PF activists and Mike, Ben and Mike’s wife Angela were abducted and tortured by militia acting on behalf of the authorities. The injuries Mike sustained during this ordeal sadly led to his death in April 2011.
The Mike Campbell Foundation was formed shortly afterwards in 2011 and was registered as a charity in the UK, with a Board of Trustees which includes Elize Angula, the charismatic Namibian lawyer who featured in the film.
Ben Freeth now heads up the Foundation as its Executive Director.