Zim farmer who took Mugabe to court dies of his injuries

Mike Campbell (78), the Zimbabwean commercial farmer who made legal history when he took President Mugabe to 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.

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Mike Campbell on his Mount Carmel farm in the Chegutu district of Zimbabwe in 2008. CREDIT: Robin Hammond

Campbell 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. 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.

A dedicated farmer and conservationist, Campbell purchased Mount Carmel farm in the Chegutu district in 1975 and the farm was transferred legally into the familys company name in 1999 on receipt of a certificate of no interest from the Mugabe government.

On Mount Carmel, Campbell grew tobacco and maize and built up a sturdy Mashona / Sussex cattle herd. Later he developed a significant mango growing enterprise with more than 40,000 trees and secured lucrative export contracts, generating much needed foreign currency.

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, intimidation and vicimisation.

Last month Campbell and an elderly black commercial farmer Luke Tembani, who has also been dispossessed, lodged an application with the Tribunal for an order that would ensure the Tribunal would continue to function in all respects as established by Article 16 of the Treaty.

This followed the Tribunals suspension by the SADC heads of state pending a review of its role functions and terms of reference, thus attempting to block further court action. A documentary film about the court case and the familys brave stand, Mugabe and the White African, has brought the plight of Zimbabwean farmers and their farm workers to the world stage and has won numerous international film festival awards.

What Mike and his family have set 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 the 6th one expected next month.

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