White Zim farmer lauds AU rights ruling

2012-11-20 22:12

Harare - A Zimbabwean who became the face of thousands of white farmers who lost land under President Robert Mugabe's regime, on Tuesday hailed a decision by the African Union's continental rights body to hear his case.

Ben Freeth - whose unsuccessful battle to save the family farm was vividly portrayed in the documentary Mugabe and the White Africa - said the decision by the African Commission was a step toward justice.

Freeth and his now deceased father-in-law, Mike Campbell, had won a landmark case against Mugabe's seizures before the Southern African Development Community (SADC) tribunal.

But the regional court was effectively dissolved by member states after the ruling, prompting Freeth to challenge the 14 countries' decision before a continent-wide body.

"We believe this will result in significant pressure to ensure that the SADC tribunal is allowed to resume operations for the benefit of all victims of injustice and the abuse of power in southern Africa," Freeth said in a statement.

The ruling was made at a session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights held in Yamoussoukro, the capital of Ivory Coast last month, but was only recently confirmed to lawyers representing Freeth and his co-plaintiff Luke Tembani.

Freeth lost his property under the controversial land seizure of white-owned farms, supposedly for re-allocation to landless blacks, while Thembani's was auctioned off to service a debt.

The two farmers took their case to the continental body following a last year's decision by the SADC summit to suspend the regional tribunal which had ruled in their favour.

Breach of regional laws

Between 2007 and 2010, the SADC tribunal ruled on 20 cases that included disputes between citizens and their governments, between companies and governments.

In a series of cases involving dispossessed farmers the SADC court held Zimbabwe in breach of regional laws and other international legal obligations.

The suspension of the tribunal meant individuals in all 14 member states no longer have access to the internationally respected court if denied access to justice in their own countries.

In a test case the Zimbabwe farmers had asked for an order to ensure that the SADC tribunal continue functioning.

Tembani, a tobacco farmer and cattle rancher in eastern Zimbabwe until 2000 when his farm was auctioned, said he hoped for justice.

"All I want is justice - and in Zimbabwe justice has left me," Tembani said.

SADC leaders have resolved that a new protocol on the tribunal should be negotiated and its mandate confined to interpreting the SADC treaty and laws relating to disputes between member states.

  • Bluecrest - 2012-11-20 23:11

    Fantastic :) - 2012-11-21 06:49

      African leaders all gradually lead to dictatorship… This is a prime example - "dissolve the court if it’s not ruling in your favour…". We need more Mandela’s and Obama’s in Africa ….

      walter.o.latham - 2012-11-21 07:06

      I agree.... BUT, the court's decision will probably be ignored like many other rulings made against this terrible regime! - 2012-11-21 11:26 "We need more Mandela’s and Obama’s in Africa …." Mandelas yes, lying two-faced puppets, no thanks we got enough of those already. I can't believe anyone would say that, more Obama wtf

  • mark.a.fysh - 2012-11-20 23:27

    Wonderful that you fight so hard to bring justice, Ben Freeth. The SADC squirm silently in their discomfort and would certainly like to silence you. You have the respect and admiration of all who are not blinded by hate and nationalistic fervour.

  • ally.murdoch.jago - 2012-11-21 01:05

    He's kinda cute?! :P

  • greg.berchenko - 2012-11-21 02:52

    I do not know who is telling the truth about Mugabe and his rule. However, I want to know who is going to bring cases on behalf of the millions of Shona and Ndebele people of Zimbabwe who lost land to pure robbery by European settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?

      thisme.thule - 2012-11-21 03:53

      Similar to what the US whites did to the American Indians??

      tony.dakyns - 2012-11-21 06:44

      Who really were the settlers? The Shona have their roots mainly in Mozambique and the Ndebele go back to when Mzilikazi was chased out of Shaka's kraal. With the exit of the Zimbabawe farmers Zambia and Mozambique have prospered whilst Zimbabwe imports food and China exports(winter wheat in Banket, Chinhoyi area) whatever is still being produced.

      wikus.venter.756 - 2012-11-21 06:45

      Typical brainless remark

      LanfearM - 2012-11-21 11:13

      And who will bring justice for the more than 20000 Ndebele's murdered by Mugabe's regime? The tribal chiefs SOLD land to the Europeans, it wasn't "stolen". I am so sick and tired of this revisionist history! @ thisme.thule - no, the Native Americans had a far worse lot than the black Africans EVER did. And they still have, no EE/AA for them, no loudly proclaimed apologies, no reconstitution. Once AGAIN, learn history, proper unbiased [as far as possible] facts, not the revisionist crap that both sides of the fence try to foist off on the public!

      ziso.maziso - 2012-11-21 12:43

      That's it Greg. All these people have convenient amnesia. We were silent for a very long time but now have to revisit all historical injustices and correct them. All those who were historically dispossessed of their land and placed in"reserves" have had to dig themselves out of the holes of poverty. Yet those who stole the land have been leaving an inheritence for their children's children. And then someone wants to argue about human rights abuses?! Where were the human rights activists when our forefathers's land was being violently grabbed.

      paul.phelan.75 - 2012-11-22 16:45

      You need to become more enlightened about african history before you make falasious comment . Also check out the gurukuhundi perpetrated by Mugabe and his senior cadres against the Matabele and before and after each election . You may then just understand a leetle beet of Mugabe politics.Paul Mkhize

  • altus.kirsten - 2012-11-21 06:17

    SA is going the same direction at a slower pace. Zuma will also have his day in court.

  • grant.a.richardson.5 - 2012-11-21 07:24

    Why must it be a "White" farmer? Stop polarizing the people N24....

      JHLR73 - 2012-11-21 08:26

      Oh my word sciencepunk-but this is the most idiotic remark I have ever read. This article is about land being taken away from 'WHITE" farmers in Zimbabwe and the injustice linked to it.So what was the article suppose to read according to you??

      grant.a.richardson.5 - 2012-11-21 10:22

      Simple, leave out the race of who did what to who. Using race as a "Us vs Them" leads only down one path.

  • quarty.vanzyl - 2012-11-21 08:04

    Ja, that,s Africa. If their tribunal rules against banana republics regarding land, the tribunal is simply closed down. Brilliant!

  • justin.ove - 2012-11-21 08:33

    I'm glad to hear this, and I hope the judgement this court hands down has more teeth than previous rulings. It's a shame what corruption and cronyism is doing (and has done) to the Breadbasket of Africa.

  • raymond.billson - 2012-11-21 08:42

    Unfortunately the judgement does not hold any water. It does not arise from the Zimbabwe judicial high court and the "President Mugabe" and the cabinet do not acknowledge ANY judgements that are not made by ZANU-PF. I wish you well in your endevours.But unless the country of Zimbabwe is surrounded on all sides by a mightier power ( and there is no one more powerful than the ZANU-PF at the moment) more brutal than them no change will occur in your favour. We have to look at it from an Black African perspective and then from the White african perspective. Where is the balance for all the people that inhabit and ply their "trades" within the borders of the countries.

  • thato.seloane - 2012-11-21 09:25

    Great move from the AU. justice should be served to all, regardless of race, greed or social status

      Cuteandbronzed - 2012-11-21 20:17

      You do realise Robert's only doing to others what was done to him? -PILLOWREAD.COM

  • mart.botha - 2012-11-21 12:04

    One step forward soon to be followed by two steps back is the shameful legacy that many many past and present African Liberation Movements have foisted on the povo of Africa. In this story the stride forward has been taken.....the question is, 'will history show once more the ineptitude of a liberation movement's ability to govern beneficially for anyone other than the ruling elite and their muppets.'

  • ziso.maziso - 2012-11-21 12:47

    Land is Zimbabwe's wealth. You cannot expect the people to stand by when all the inheritence they've had to hand over to their children is proverty, yet the ones who disposessed us of the land have been storing wealth for their children's children. If you cannot appreciate the historical abuses and injustices that have occurred as a result of colonical rule, then it's pointless to even debate the issues with you. All we will do is action!! Truth hurts!!

      Montagnes.Bleues - 2012-11-21 13:01

      The United Nations has repatriated land and possessions stolen illegally throughout Africa - including Moçambique! Zimbabwe is no different, the swing of the pendulum will decapitate the likes of your expression. PAY UP

      cathy.pires.9 - 2012-11-26 12:38

      I agree that Colonial rule created injustice, but are Zimbabweans any better off under Mugabe, he only worries about himself and his inner circle. Look at thealleged money his wife spends when overseas on shopping trips. The country needs a leader that is interested in uplifting the people not just grabbing for themselves.

  • cython - 2012-11-21 13:12 mandela was the original communist marxist architect of what's happening in SA now. Open your eyes. Oblahblah is another useless lying commie.

  • thisme.thule - 2012-11-21 15:06

    @ lanfear Yes you hit the nail on the head!! Exactly the message I was trying to get across to greg berchenko, but guess you didnt get it!! Tired of the Europeans always getting blame for past history.

  • Cuteandbronzed - 2012-11-21 20:19


  • christian.allardsnp - 2012-11-22 12:21

    Ben Freeth is no Zimbabwean, nor is he a farmer, nor was the property his, the large estate was "acquired" in 1974 by a white South African army officer in the middle of a civil war in Rhodesia ruled by a white supremacist regime.

      thisme.thule - 2012-11-22 19:23

      Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980. In 1999, Freeths father-in-law, Mike Campbell, purchased Mount Carmel farm, which is located in the Chegutu district of Mashonaland West, in the familys company name. Every farm bought after independence in 1980 had to be offered to the government first for possible land redistribution and then deeds were stamped "No Government Interest" if they did not wish to purchase it.However, from July 2001, 17 months after the violent, state-sponsored land invasions began, government agents sought to seize the highly productive Mount Carmel operation, farmed jointly by Campbell, Freeth and Campbells son, Bruce. Despite court orders protecting the residents of Mount Carmel, they continued to be the target of appalling violence and abuse which frequently brought farming operations to a halt at a time when starvation had become rife country-wide.

  • forwieforwie.forwie - 2012-11-29 07:22


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