MIke Campbell who took Muagbe to court dies

?Mike Campbell (79), the Zimbabwean commercial farmer who made legal history when he took President Mugabe to the international court of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal in 2007 and won the case a year later, passed away at his temporary home in Harare on April 6. He became famous for his principled and courageous approach to life and the case he fought was filmed in detail to make Mugabe and The White African.

The producers and directors of the film gave tribute to Mike, " He was an exceptionally brave and courageous man with great dignity and humour. His willingness to allow us to tell his story was important and gave the world a clear sense of what was happening in Zimbabwe. It was a great honour for us to work with him, Ben and the family, and the film is a testimony to his sense fairness and desire for justice and the rule of law. "

Mike never recovered from the abduction and brutal beatings meted out to him, his wife Angela and son-in-law Ben Freeth by Zanu-PF thugs late at night in a remote militia camp on June 29, 2008 just two days after the Presidential run-off election.

Eventually their captors forced them at gunpoint to sign a paper stating that they would withdraw from the SADC Tribunal court case, due to be heard in Namibia the following month.  They were dumped outside the town of Kadoma from where they were rushed to hospital.  

Campbell sustained severe head injuries which resulted in brain damage, broken ribs and damage to his lower limbs caused by a crude and brutal torture method known as falanga. 

This involves beating the soles of the 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 the loan.  The farm was transferred legally into the family’s company name in 1999 on 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 and, with wives and children, the farm sustained more than 500 people.

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. The safari lodge was burnt down, their wildlife slaughtered and their cattle rustled. After getting no recourse from the Zimbabwean courts, Campbell took his case to the SADC Tribunal in October 2007 and in March the following year an additional 77 other white commercial farmers joined the case as interveners.

In November 2008, the SADC Tribunal ruled that the farmers could keep their land because the land reform programme 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 burnt to the ground, together with worker homes and their linen factory, an upliftment project initiated by Freeth’s wife Laura.

 “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 in Zimbabwe.

 Campbell is survived by his wife, Angela, their son Bruce, two daughters, Cathy and Laura, and 5 grandchildren as well as 6th due to be born next month.