Ben Freeth
The land of “take what you want”.

Super: Exandas presents

Super: On the Spot Research and Subject Coordination: NINA MARIA PASCHALIDOU
Super: Image/ Sound: HOPEWELL CHINONO
Super: Original Soundtrack: YANNIS PAXEVANIS
Super: Research Coordinator: AGELOS ATHANASOPOULOS
Super: Production Manager: ANASTASIA SKOUBRI
Super: Written, Produced and Directed by: YORGOS AVGEROPOULOS


Ben Freeth landholder
It's very intimidating when they come in at night and break into your house. There’s lots of them! You don't know whether your house is going to be burnt down or not, whether you'll be beaten or not, whether your children are going to be alright. They were threatening to rape my wife and once they shouted “we are going to eat your children”! We have friends who have been murdered, lots of friends being beaten up, workers being beaten up. And there is just this incredible intimidation and that started back at 2000 and it's just going on till today. We are still hanging on by a little fingernail in our house but we aren’t able to do anything more than just live here at this stage. You just live from day to day not knowing what's going to happen next.

Super: From 2000 until today, hit squads supporting President Mugabe attack the farms of white landholders and occupy them.

Joseph Chinotimba
I saw them too when they went to fight for their country. What did you want me to do?
Forbid it? They are kids who love their country. It can't be done! All the money is there… in the ground! In this ground!
Why do all the British and the Americans insist on this? This is the question! We all want to know... What exactly do they want in this land. If there is no money here, why do they insist? We will not suffer. There’s lots of whites here.

Super: Joseph Chinotimba. Former war veteran, now politician.

Some of them were very bad. There was a man near my farm who was called Hood. He had a sign at the gate, which said... "Welcome to Rhodesia". Twenty years later, it still said "Welcome to Rhodesia". Now, think that since 1980 there is no Rhodesia. Where it said "Welcome to Rhodesia", it doesn't exist any more, we also took that farm, no more Rhodesia. Now there is only Zimbabwe, that's why we took it from him, although it produced a lot.

Ian Smith
We are in complete control in Rhodesia today... We, the Europeans, we are all-powerful.
Super: Ian Smith. Prime minister of Rhodesia.
We have the reins in our hands and we can pretty well do what we like.

1st man: The point is the average African doesn’t know what a “vote” is. He can’t eat it, he can’t sleep with it and he can’t spend it, so he’s not interested.
2nd man: When the white men came to this country they didn’t know anything else but grass huts. The majority of them couldn’t make a wheel.

Super: “We must treat natives as children, and deny them any right or privilege”.
Super: “We must create a system of despotism in our relations with the barbarians of South Africa”.
Super: Cecil John Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia, diamond magnate, 1887.

Narration: When British Mr. Rhodes founded the new rich UK colony in Africa, he named it after him and called it Rhodesia. Rhodesia remained in the hands of the British colonialists for approximately a century, from 1890 to 1980.

Fragment from the film “Rhodesia Countdown”
Question: Sir, are you a Rhodesian?
Michael: Yes, I’m a Rhodesian, born and bred. If there’s anybody here in this country that knows these black people it’s me. I’ve been brought up in this country, I’ve worked with these guys my whole life, I know what they want, I know for instance that they respect the tough man, they like a man with a strong arm. That’s what they want. They don’t want too much of this “freedom”, it does them no good!

Narration: The white landholders took the best pieces of land.
In their vast properties, black laborers worked for a piece of bread.

Lovemore Manduku MDC
Eventually, that’s how the land got to be in the hands of the whites. So it was actually a colonial racist approach, to get land and give it to the whites.

Super: Lovemore Manduku, MDC MP.

Lovemore Manduku MDC
It then went from generation to generation. So if your forefather acquired land they’d give it to their son, and so on and so on. That’s what happened. I think by 1915-1920 most land in the country was already in the hands of the whites at the time.

In 1966, the black population rises in insurrection against the white colonialists.
The country’s current president, Robert Mugabe, is a leading figure of the rebels.
The rebellion aimed at creating a progressive, multiracial society free of oppression.
It took 14 years of war for the goal to be achieved and a new, independent country called Zimbabwe to be born, a place that white and black people would call their home.

General of Rhodesia:
We fought each other, that is history. Let this be a good start for our future together.

Robert Mugabe: This is a great moment, it is the moment of our victory. The culmination of our national struggle conferring upon all of us, the people of Zimbabwe, whether we are black or white, full sovereignty, full democratic rights. We will ensure that there is a place for everyone in this country.

Super: Robert Mugabe

Super: 1980. Robert Mugabe is named prime minister.

Robert Mugabe: I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, do swear that I will well and truly serve Zimbabwe in the office of minister of the government, so help me God!

Since Robert Mugabe came to power, he has never left it.
Unyielding at his 85 years of age, he is Africa’s most long-lived leader.

What we don't want as war veterans, is our country to be taken away from us again, many died for it, you hear me? It was not easy… Most of us spent ten years without seeing our mothers and our wives... Living in the forest, seeing your friends killed, injured, with broken bones and blood everywhere. So you come tell me… The British in our country again? Why? That hurts us. They must see that again. Why did we make the sacrifice?

Super: Mount Carmel Farm. The biggest mango cultivation farm in Zimbabwe.

Ben Freeth
This farm is 1,200 hectares, which is a reasonably sized farm for this kind of climate. We’ve got about 40,000 trees, they you’ve got the oranges, which you can see far in the distance, over there, this side of the oranges you can see maize and sunflowers.

Mr. Ben Freeth is a citizen of Zimbabwe. He was born and raised here.
He did not inherit this land. It was bought by his father-in-law in 1977, when he had just come from South Africa to Rhodesia.
Today, Mr. Freeth is afraid to go around in his farm.
Many already lay claim to it.

Ben Freeth
Farmers only have one chance at an income, which is harvest time, and of course these guys came at harvest time. They’ve reaped all our mangos, they’ve reaped all our oranges, they’ve reaped all our maize, we haven’t reaped one maize cob, one single orange, one single mango since they arrived, in April.

His 150 laborers are hiding, afraid, in their homes inside the farm. No one is working on the fields.

Laborer in the farm
It was the last month when they came here, they were saying “you guys must go away, we don’t want to see you, because you are troublecausers, because you work for the white people, you support the white people, so you must get off…

They are considered traitors because they work for white people. They could get beaten up or even killed.

Laborer in the farm
It’s very difficult, because you can work for them but they can’t pay you whatever you want. And even to help you, they don’t have to help you, you have to wait maybe eight months without pay, so it’s very difficult.
- How much money do you get paid here?
- 25 dolars per month, so it doesn’t do whatever I like in my life, because it’s too little money

Mr. Freeth, Laura and their two children have confined themselves to their home and to whatever surrounds it. They stubbornly refuse to leave despite the fact that the situation has become dangerous in the past months.

Ben Freeth
Maybe tonight they will come and create absolute havoc. And we don’t know what is going to happen next, you know.

It was a quiet night like this, in June 2008, when the phone rang. Horrified, Mr. Freeth heard his father-in-law, who lives further away inside the farm, call for help. He was being attacked. Ben took his car and ran to his aid.

Ben Freeth
They had their rifles at me as I was driving towards them, I immediately ducked down underneath the windscreen of my car and put the car quickly into reverse, turned around and was just heading out when from my blind spot behind me a big rock came smashing through my side window, smashed my window and the big rock hit my head.

Ben Freeth(at the hospital)
Then they dragged me out of the vehicle, took my jersey off, tied me up with ropes and started beating me with the rifle bat over my head and back and everything.

Ben Freeth (at his house)
And then they dragged me over to where my parents-in-law were lying, by the garage, they were all tied up and bleeding, looking in a terrible state. They tied me up there as well and I can just remember seeing all their possessions just coming out of the house. We were taken to Gilbert Moyo’s base, out of Pixton, which is about 50 km. from here. They dumped us on the ground and they started beating us again.

Ben Freeth (at the hospital)
They were abusing us for being white farmers and saying we had no place to be in Zimbabwe as people who didn’t have black-colored skins.

Ben Freeth (at his house)
They had a shambock, like a whip, and with both hands they were just coming down on my feet with all their power. I can remember crying out with each time they hit the bottom of my feet. “Jesus” and then the next one, “Jesus”. It was incredible pain.

Ben Freeth (at the hospital)
Then they started waving weapons around myself and my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law was just praying that they wouldn’t shoot us, saying “Please, shoot me rather than them”.

Ben Freeth (at his house)
And then we were taken off again and we thought we were probably going to our graves. Eventually they climbed on to the back where we were lying and they untied us, and they lifted us out of the vehicle and left us on the road. We had no idea obviously where we were.

Ben Freeth (at the hospital)
I managed to get up, unfortunately my father-in-law and my mother-in-law couldn’t get up. But I managed to get up and get to a house, borrow the phone and I managed to phone the family and get some help, to come down and pick us up.

Super: Mike Campbell
Ben Freeth’s Father-in-Law

Super: Angela Campbell
Ben Freeth’s Mother-in-Law

Super: Their house

Robert Mugabe, the hero of independence for many, completed 29 whole years behind the country’s wheel in 2009.
At the beginning, he exterminated his political adversaries.
Then, he reduced hunger and infant mortality. The economy, education and health rates rocketed. Everything was in motion. Mugabe became one of Africa’s most respected leaders and Zimbabwe an example of a country in rebirth after colonialism.

This is Zimbabwe today. Rage, violence, oppression and absolute poverty.
The countdown to chaos began in 2000.
Mugabe called a referendum in order to change the Constitution that had been in force since the country’s liberation, 20 years ago.
The proposed Constitution strongly reinforced the president’s powers and allowed the State to confiscate farms belonging to white people, with no compensation.

Lovemore Manduku MDC
What I think is Mugabe in fact didn’t want to change the Constitution. He wanted to shift the people into believing there was change. There was a lot of push for a new Constitution, so they decided that they would pretend that they have a new Constitution. So still, in a different way, it retained the powers of Mugabe.

Mugabe and his party, the Zanu PF, was the only party in the country after the independence. All attempt of opposition failed.

Robert Mugabe
My opinion is that the people are going to vote “Yes” by at large and they will support therefore the draft Constitution.

However, this time Mugabe was wrong. Young people, mostly from the cities, who hadn’t lived the revolution and were tired of the president’s authoritarian ways, began to gather around a party which emerged shortly before the referendum: The MDC, Movement for Democratic Change. Its leader was Morgan Tsvangirai.

Morgan Tsvangirai
Change your ways!
Government of murderers!
This is the issue!
We united here to declare enough with corruption!
We united here to declare enough with violence and abuse in Zimbabwe!
We united here to declare enough with poverty!
We united here to declare enough with Zanu PF!
Change your ways!

Mugabe lost the referendum. It was a complete shock. Never before had he lost any elections.
Worried about winning the national elections which were three months away, he remembered his old comrades: 50,000 war veterans who had fallen into oblivion after the independence.

John Robertson, economist
He had made promises over many many years. He wanted to win the elections and the only way politicians can ever win elections is to give stuff away or promise people things…

Super: John Robertson, economist

And that’s what Robert Mugabe was doing. “I promise to give you land”. And towards the end of the 90s, people began to say “we are tired of waiting for you to fulfill your promises, when are we going to get our land?”

However, the time had now come.
First, Mugabe pointed out the enemies.

A vote for the MDC is a vote for the British to have once again not just a foothold here, but real power. We cannot allow the British once again to dominate us here through their puppets.

Then he launched the veterans against his enemies. To take back the land that belonged to them. The land that the British had stolen in the 19th century.

Present state of mind is that you are now our enemies because you really have behaved as enemies of Zimbabwe. We are full of anger, our entire community is angry, and this is why the war veterans are now ceasing land.

(Group of black people claiming a farm)
White Farmer: I have no legal instrument to allow you people to take the land. I cannot give you land!
War Veteran: No, we are taking it!
White Farmer: But I’m not giving it to you!

Lovemore Manduku MDC
People could occupy land as they wished, which the government then called a revolution. But it was clearly you get into a farm, you grab a farm with a group of people.
And the government was approving that kind of lawless acquisition of land.

Black follower of Mugabe:
Long live Zanu PF! Long live the War Veterans Association! Let the seizure of the land proceed! Quiet!
Nicole! We defeated Smith, in the bush, he was so strong! We are going to defeat you!

Lovemore Manduku MDC
Currently, you have to be a supporter of the ruling party, a member of the Zanu PF, you have to support the president and his people to get land. Then, if you face the right to land… if you just decide what piece of land you want… If you can use your power, your force and go and just occupy a piece of land or use completely unlawful means to evict a current farm, you might actually end up being entitled to that piece of land. So, “might is right” under the current circumstances. So most people who occupy farms now, they are supporters of the ruling party.

(From the video by Kevin Dee Boyle)
Owner: I just wanna video you guys taking my stuff out of the…
Man in farm: I'll take the camera!
Owner: No, no
Man in Farm: Take it. I'll take the camera!
Owner: Here we go.
Man quarreling: He wants to hit me!
Man in farm: Take his camera!

- Why did you decide to invade the farm?
- It was a mistake the MDC made in 2000. A big mistake.
We had to vote for the new Constitution in which we had said that we would take our land and instead of agreeing the people voted "no". We were surprised, why "no"? Isn't that why the war happened?
Everyone said "no, no, no".
So you keep your "no"… We'll do what we please!

From the video by Kevin Dee Boyle (fight at the farm)
- Man, this land is ours!
- What law? When you first got the land where was the law?
- How did you buy this land?
- No man, don't do this.
- Tell him not to videotape us.
- Stop shooting with the camera.
- Listen man, what we don't want is the camera.
- Why don't you want it?
- Let’s be clear.

Beatrice Mtetwa, human rights lawyer, former president of the Law Society
The media has not highlighted the fact that there are many black Zimbabweans who have been dispossessed of their farms after they bought them.

Super: Beatrice Mtetwa, former president of the Law Society

My partner in the law firm, his farms were taken when this started, in 2001. And they gave it to a man who had just become a member of parliament, for that area in Zimbabwe, who was completely clueless with regard to farming.

From the video by Kevin Dee Boyle
Owner: Mr. Cononga! Take your people off my yard Mr. Cononga. What have you got to say Mr. Cononga? On the camera Mr. Cononga. Is this the way to do it? Talk! You’re on the camera Mr. Cononga. Is this what you’re trying to do, bring violence? Careful! Come on Cononga, talk!
Man: He should go!
He should go! Out, otherwise I’ll call the entire farm.
Out Mr. Cononga!

Beatrice Mtetwa, human rights lawyer, former president of the Law Society
It has been portrayed as a racial issue but actually it’s a question of who wants your property. It’s a question of how powerful you are and what you want really, that’s what it is. If you look at who gets settled in the farms, it’s not the needy peasants. We know that, that’s a fact.

From the video by Kevin Dee Boyle (fight)
- Don't shoot!
- If you record me you'll be in trouble, it is illegal!
- This is my yard, and what you are doing is illegal!

Beatrice Mtetwa, human rights lawyer, former president of the Law Society
Let’s look now, after the Land Reform. How much land is in the hands of a few top black Zimbabweans? Because the idea, at least from what I think was being said was that: “You take the land from the few whites and then you spread it amongst a lot of Zimbabweans, black Zimbabweans in particular. But we’ve had a situation where the land is taken from the few whites and it goes into the hands of a few blacks. You don’t substitute one huge landowner who’s white with one huge landowner who’s black while the peasants remain exactly where they were before 2000.

Mugabe won the 2000 elections with the votes of the farmers who were hoping for a fair redistribution of the land to all.

John Worsley-Warswick, Organization “Justice for Agriculture”
Certainly what we’re seeing today, we would contend, is not Land Reform at all.

Super: John Worswick, “Justice for Agriculture”
What we’ve seen over the last nine years is a very vicious political program for the survival of the Zanu PF and Mugabe. It has nothing to do with Land Reform.

Beatrice Mtetwa, human rights lawyer, former president of the Law Society
I believe that every Zimbabwean, regardless of color, is entitled to have land. That land must be given in a transparent process which ensures that everybody gets a fair share.

From the video by Kevin Dee Boyle (fight)
- Why do you protect him? He took all our fields away.
- The fields are there, this is the house!
- We don't want him here!
- Let him go back to his country, America!
- I'm not from America!
- Where are you from?
- Here, I was born here.
- You were born here? Don't lie.
- Do you want to see my birth certificate?
- What do I want it for? That doesn't mean you're from here.
- You were born here, but your country is far away, in America. Zimbabwe is for black people, not for white!

- Now we are in my farm, this is where it begins. Do you see? These are the limits of my farm. Until there, isn't it small?
- How many acres?
- About 250.
I don't steal like others, this is what they gave to me. This is my only farm.
- Where did you begin from today?
- From there.
- Only the centre is left, until we get there.
- But you haven't done this piece?
- We'll do it, we're going the other way around.
- Look down so you don't miss anything, ok?
- Yes, we do.
- Don't leave anything, because there is much hunger this year.
- We know about hunger.
- A lot of hunger.
- The white man who was here, was he not bothered when you took his farm?
- The white man who was here was my friend I didn't want him to leave. We had a good relationship, but when they took it away I had no choice because I wanted it too. It had water and it was nice…
But, you know, I did not go and live in his house. I didn't want his house I wanted the fields. So I took only the fields. There are those who only want the houses. I only wanted to cultivate.

The Land Reform was carried out in a way that gave the coup de grace to the country’s economy, as big agrarian companies producing tons of food stopped working.

Ben Freeth
I look at my neighbors all around, there is no wheat. We have the capacity to grow 400,000 tons of wheat, we will be lucky this year if we grow 10,000 tons of wheat from 400,000.

John Worswick “Justice for Agriculture”
One of the things that are not widely understood about Zimbabwe is the fact that agriculture is the backbone of the economy. We are a totally agricultural based economy, unlike South Africa, which is mining. So land and how Land Reform is conducted is doubly important in a country like Zimbabwe.

John Robertson, economist
We have had to import food that we can’t easily pay for because we’re not making the foreign currency through exports that we used to make… our biggest exports were from agriculture, and they are not there any longer. We had the most developed country in Africa, apart from South Africa, until Land Reform. Now we have been overtaken by most of the countries in the region.

Super: Inflation in Zimbabwe July 2008:

Lady with banknotes spread out on a table
- How much is the money you have in front of you?
- I think it's trillions. We saw we needed more and more money. We would go to the shop and they told us our money was no good. The same thing happened with my husband's salary. When we went to the bank, they told us they had no value any more. Since then, life has become very difficult.

Super: July 2008 –
1 egg = 50 billion Zimbabwe dollars.

John Robertson, economist
The money, the Zimbabwe dollar, was losing half its value every day! So prices were doubling every day. At that rate, you don’t want to hold those dollars for long. If you’ve got them by tomorrow, you’ve really lost half of your money, so you changed them into something else as fast as you can.

Super: There was not even enough money for the treatment of drinking water.
Super: There was a cholera outbreak. 4,000 people died.

Lady with black hat
Look at how dirty it is here. In our houses there is no water for the toilets. We have no clean water for cooking. And where there is water from the tap, it's green and obviously polluted.

Super: The Zimbabwean currency lost all its value and was suspended in 2009.

The economy’s collapse aggravated the already existing social unrest. More people took to the streets and supported the opposition. However, all voices of protest were violently suppressed.
The authorities and the members of the Zanu PF, Mugabe’s party, made it clear that no one could dispute the president’s authority.

This country belongs to 12 million people. Not 50,000 war veterans! This is our country! If Mugabe’s time to go comes, he will definitely go. We’ll make him go. If he wants war, we’ll leave our offices and go to war.

Beatrice Mtetwa, human rights lawyer, former president of the Law Society
It’s fear, starting from the bottom, right up to the courts. There are times when you know that the judge is as frightened as the accused person is, and that makes it extremely difficult to practice law in this country.

Lovemore Manduku MDC
Actually that’s the way people live here. You’d be sure they could come here and get you arrested. They can come and pick you from the office.

Human rights activists and members of the opposition were targeted.
Even Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, was publicly beaten along with others and then arrested and imprisoned.

Amidst this climate, presidential elections were called in March 2008. The main candidates were once again Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.
It took approximately a month for the results to come out.
When they were finally announced, Mugabe had lost the elections. However, his adversary had not achieved the required majority.

Lovemore Manduku, MDC
So they then justified a run-off, a second election between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. And before the second elections there was massive violence in the country. People being killed, people being tortured, homes being burnt and so on, to the extent that by the time we reached the day of election, Tsvangirai couldn’t leave his tent.

Ben Freethe
It was amazing! At our local polling booth here, in the next-door farm 600 metres away, there wasn’t a single vote for the opposition by the time it came to the June elections.

After the elections, they searched and found that 28 people had voted for the MDC. They said it was us. They burnt our houses and threw stones at us.

Man in sofa
They asked me if I thought I was capable of ruling and cursed me. That's all I remember.

Lady in hospital with broken arms
The man who hit me, I know him from the neighborhood. Those who hit us are all from the neighborhood.

Woman victim of electoral violence
- Why did you vote for the MDC?
- The children were not going to school any more… It was impossible to bathe every day, because we had no soap… We couldn't even grind our maize because the machines had no fuel…
The basics we had before we didn't have them any more, life became very difficult…
We suffered and we wanted to give a chance to another government, because with Zanu things were getting worst and worst. We wanted a change for Zimbabwe.

Super: At the election run-off, Morgan Tsvangirai retired in an act of protest.

Super: Robert Mugabe won by 82%.

I know nothing about violence in the last elections. What I know as vice-president of the veterans is that the people were playing a game. It was like a game between two football teams. Such a game never ends. It's obvious! It's a game!

This game cost the lives of 200 people, 50,000 were kidnapped and approximately 200,000 were driven away from their homes.
In order to appease public outcry, President Mugabe offered his irreconcilable enemy a place in power. Despite the fact that he had been imprisoned and tortured, he accepted the position of prime minister in President Mugabe’s new government.

Morgan Tsvangirai
What led me to participate in this government was none other than the plight of Zimbabweans. We had reached such a point that a lot of Zimbabweans were only involved in the struggle for survival. The situation was so desperate and we could see that idealism was not going to be the fortitude. So we decided to participate in order to rescue the country.
The relationship at a personal level… I think one would say it’s a workable relationship, we have a working relationship, as president and prime minister.
It is difficult, so was Nelson Mandela when he entered into a government with the very same people who had arrested him for 27 years. Th challenge is… so in Poland. The “Solidarios” and the Communists cohabitated for years, not because it was ideal but it was a transitional process to ensure that the crisis that the country was facing is co-managed.
In the world there are so many instances where you can point out two very antagonistic sides sitting down to say what is the best interest for the country.

Lovemore Manduku MDC
I disagree very much with that decision. I think that he should have pursued the leadership of the struggle. That was very clear. The struggle wanted a completely different kind of Zimbabwe. And that is what our struggle was all about. That is what Morgan Tsvangirai represented. So there was no point in him saying “I have to share power with this old order”. Because the old order has not changed. So I think he was now understanding power in a different context, so we don’t agree, I don’t agree.

In October 2009, Morgan Tsvangirai ended his collaboration with the president.

Super: He said the Zanu PF “was unreliable”.

Laura Campbell, Ben’s wife
The people who’ve taken my parent’s house have been trying to get us out of our house. They came a few times and one night they came… they ploughed up our drive. They came with a tractor and they were ploughing up the drive… and that was quite threatening you know…

Ben Freethe
It was a very frightening experience, seeing all these people just bursting through and not knowing what was going to happen next…

Laura Campbell, Ben’s wife
They left after a couple of hours, shouting abuse at us and saying that we had to be out by the morning.

What about our children who left as immigrants and were denied entrance to Europe? Was that not unfair? So we stay in our country because we can't get a visa and again we are the bad guys? The white people only look out for themselves. They come to our country and have a great time. They eat what we blacks produce. So what's the problem? We are the children of this land. This soil is our God. There's no way we shall leave. Getting us out of here will take us to war. Not just a quarrel, proper war. This is the truth. Tsvangirai must know this, as well as all those who want to rule this country.

Ben Freethe
Without faith there’s no way that we would still be here. God has a purpose and we need to try and stay in His will and do what it is that He intends us to do. You go through days when you do feel quite hopeless. You feel a sort of despair, a black mood. Things will never change, they will just carry on getting worst.
But then you go through other days and think no, in the end good will always prevail.

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