Presentation with the Zimbabwean Ambassador & Ben Freeth in London
Zimbabwe and Southern Africa: Hopes, Dreams and Fears
13 May 2014
This speech was presented by Ben Freeth, MBE – Executive Director of the Mike Campbell Foundation, at an event in London on 13 May 2014.
Why is it that the richest continent on earth is by far the poorest, and the poorest people on earth are unable to realise the riches of the wonderful African Continent on which they live? How can the box to this puzzle be unlocked and the pieces be assembled so that the wealth of the African people is realised for her people?
When David Livingstone, the great missionary explorer, travelled the African Continent in the middle of the 19th century, he had over three decades of hard African travel to reflect on how it was that the intense poverty, injustice, hunger, illiteracy and disease could be combated. He saw slavery and he saw African traders trade in slaves, Arab massacres of African slaves, and European buyers buying slaves – and he devoted his life to free Africa from this tyranny. I hope that we can all agree that the unlocking principles of Livingstone’s 3 “C”s are still as relevant today as they were then.
- The first “C” – Christianity – Christ-like Christianity – is about self-sacrifice, forgiveness, love and giving real hope in a troubled world. There is nothing more noble than that. Livingstone wanted to see an Africa that was set free from fear, ignorance and injustice.
- The second “C” – Commerce – is noble too. Replacing the slave trade by “legitimate trade” – and not the illicit blood diamonds of today’s Zimbabwe – was essential. Commerce brought roads, railways, employment, food, health, education and wealth. Through commerce and not aid, countries are brought out of poverty and hunger. We would have no need for the billions of dollars of aid in Africa if African governments created the environment for private individuals and entrepreneurs in commerce to thrive.
- And Civilization – the third “C”! The West takes for granted the set of laws and the system of order which ultimately allows people to live in security – unafraid of others taking their lives or their private property – because civilization protects them. Most of Africa does not have this luxury. It is civilization that creates the environment for societies and nations to flourish. The opposite of civilization, where people and their property is unprotected, or the State does not allow them to even own property, leads only to fear and intense poverty. Lawlessness makes commerce and fair trade impossible. The lawlessness and lack of individual, tradable and justicable property rights in so much of Africa today is the reason why only 1 percent of the world’s foreign direct investment comes to Africa – despite Africa having more natural resources and agricultural potential than any other continent on earth.
Bringing the 3 “C”s to Africa
In the first 60 years of the 20th century in Africa, huge strides were taken in helping bring the 3 “C”s to Africa. Many people from our country dedicated their whole lives to this noble objective – living in remote places far away from schools and hospitals and modern conveniences.
There are many today who are apologists for that era of history, but I challenge anyone to show me a continent throughout the history of the world that developed from a base of poverty, hunger and illiteracy more quickly than the African continent in the first 60 years of the 20th century. Before that, Africa had no written language, no wheel, no roads, no towns… There were no schools or hospitals or factories or farms. Disease, hunger and war were rife. The only clothes for warmth – within living memory – were from the skins of animals – and most disturbingly, because there was no law and order, the warring inter-tribal raids killed and enslaved people and burnt down houses. Slaves were Africa’s biggest export.
There were mistakes, of course there were. But from a zero base, the building of roads, railways, towns, schools, hospitals, police stations, courts, factories and farms took place. By the mid 1960s in Rhodesia, there were 13.7 doctors per 100,000 people. To put that in perspective now, half a century later [33 years of which have been under Zimbabwe’s current dressed up dictatorship], there are only 1.6 doctors per 100,000 people – a reduction of 850 percent.
The black population of Zimbabwe had grown from a similar base of numbers of Aborigines in Australia at time of colonization to a number that was over 1,500 percent more. Conversely, in Australia there had been a significant decline in the numbers of Aboriginal people since it was colonised.
The late Mike Campbell
Mike Campbell, my father-in-law, was one of the Zimbabwean builders after the people got their so- called “independence.” He built dams, he planted tens of thousands of fruit trees, he was at the for-front of wildlife tourism and conservation, he sponsored education and health care, he earned valuable foreign currency for the country, he produced food for what would otherwise be a hungry population.
What did he get for his life’s work? He was beaten, he was abducted, all of his furniture and clothes and other family possessions were stolen and his house was burnt down. Mike saw the theft of all his tractors and other machinery, the theft of all his crops, the slaughtering of over 500 beautiful animals that he had lovingly looked after and bred – giraffe, sable, waterbuck, zebra, wildebeest, warthog and impala, as well as cattle, sheep, poultry and his horse, Ginger, who used to have breakfast with us on a Saturday morning on the verandah. Mike eventually died from his injuries, like Ginger.
The last time I snuck onto the farm – a few months ago – the fruit trees were burnt. Our house was a ruin with our garden trees chopped down. The land was a desolate waste in the control of a government minister.
The workers who had not been evicted were living in feudal serfdom with the few who were working going for months without pay – and liable to be evicted from their homes at any moment if they did not toe the line. Nobody who had committed the crimes against our workers or ourselves has been brought to justice – and the culture of impunity is allowed to just continue.
I put it to you that the old people who built what is now called Zimbabwe, are heroes. Mike’s story is just one of thousands of others. They deserve better than to have court orders ignored, their pensions swallowed up, their homes stolen and their livelihoods destroyed by greedy Zimbabwe government-sponsored thugs who are hell bent on bringing the country back into the dark ages where people and property are unprotected – and a few predatory politicians just get richer….. while the rest of the population survives totally dependent on the aid community to give them food – and on ZANU PF to allow the aid people to do so. Or else Zimbabweans leave – mostly through the razor wire and the crocodile-infested Limpopo river. Over a quarter of our population has fled.
Helping those heroes
We need to help those much-maligned heroes of Zimbabwe who, through no fault of their own, are destitute. It is a fundamental Christian duty to help the heroes, both black and white, who developed Zimbabwe to become the most advanced country in Africa after South Africa, and who are now living in penury. These heroes had opened the box and were putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
By 1975 Rhodesia, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) yearbook, was second in the world for yields in maize, wheat, soyabean and groundnut production, third in cotton – and first in the entire world in an aggregate of those crops.
Unfortunately, due to the relentless state-sponsored attack upon them, by 2008, 33 years on and [and eight years after the farm invasions began], we had the third lowest yields of cereals per acre in the world according to the FAO. In that year we needed 24 acres to produce what British cereal growers produced off 1 acre. I am afraid that the situation remains dire, with Zimbabwe consistently needing food aid each year, and with farmers continually being evicted from their farms, titled land being swallowed up by the state – and almost nobody speaking out about it.
In the Mike Campbell Foundation, which I work for, we are working to try to help create the environment where the 3 “C”s can thrive once again. The vast majority of Africans today are far poorer in per capita income terms than they were half a century ago.
Restore title deeds and law and order
In Zimbabwe, we want to see commerce once again create wealth for the people. For this, the answer to the opening of the puzzle box is simple: we need title deeds and law and order. Put simply, we need people and their private property to be protected across the board. That is what justice is all about. That is what independence of the individual is really about. It is tried and tested, but our current leaders won’t listen.
As Moeletsi Mbeki, outspoken brother of the former President of South Africa, and author of the book Architects of Poverty has said: “State land ownership must be abolished.” With that, the people must be given title deeds – and law and order to protect them – and themselves. Predatory politicians resist giving the people ownership because they want to control the people by controlling the land that they live on. Marx outlined how easily a peasant population living in “dependence” could be manipulated and controlled.
Under the current Zimbabwean constitution, property remains unprotected. Racial discrimination is allowed to happen on the basis of the colour of the skin – and the people who gave their life’s work to building Zimbabwe are the subjects of institutionalized injustice. Yes, crimes against humanity are still being committed against them in Zimbabwe as I speak.
I put it to you that the single most important ingredient in unlocking the puzzle of poverty in Africa is:
The establishment of the rule of law where people and their private property are protected and tradable freehold title is established.
Until that happens, try as we will, the green revolution will not happen and Africa will remain hungry and undeveloped.
It was not a coincidence that the first thing that God gave the Israelites when they came out from 400 years of slavery, as a nation for the first time, was the Ten Commandments – the law – written by his finger in stone. The “abracadabra” for commerce, civilization and plain right living was put in place! 3,500 years later, it has not changed.
Unilateral closure of the SADC Tribunal
Livingstone would have so relished congratulating the African leaders when they set up an international court – the SADC Tribunal through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Treaty – to use the law to protect life and property and establish a road forward to prosperity and true independence in southern Africa through the law.
When this court was closed down dictatorially in 2012 [following its suspension by the SADC Heads of State in 2011], without any legal or democratic process – and international judgments continued to be ignored to the detriment of both international investors and black and white Zimbabweans, Livingstone would have been appalled.
More than 250 million people in Southern Africa are now without recourse to an institution of justice when domestic justice systems fail them – as they periodically do. Why is it that the likes of the British Government do not speak out about this though? Why does the British Government not even have a bilateral investment treaty with Zimbabwe, when other countries do?
If the international court at The Hague was closed, or the European Court, by a few European Heads of State, would the world be silent? Are the institutions that protect the people of Africa from the excesses of their governments unimportant to the leaders of Britain today? Are Africans to continue to be left to the hyenas of injustice with no-one being brought to account? Has the nobility of the likes of Livingstone, Buxton and Wiberforce’s 3 “C”s been lost in the current age?
Trillions of dollars of aid will continue to be forked out by the tax payers of the West to Africa until the rule of law and the protection of property are guaranteed through good law and fair minded and efficient justice institutions that are established independently of corrupt and predatory politicians.
Livingstone once said when trying to open a route for the 3 “C”s along the Zambezi into the African interior: “I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.” When justice systems take a step backwards, poverty, hunger and despair is always the net result. Going backwards is something we must fight against if the ideals of democracy and freedom in Africa are ever to mean anything positive to her people – and the tremendous natural wealth of the continent is to be used to bring it out of poverty.
As Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, one of the Mike Campbell Foundation Patrons once said: “Do your little bit of good wherever you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
As everyone does their little bit of good in the right direction and on the right foundations, the puzzle will be unlocked, and Africans of all skin colours, tribes and creeds, will at last be free of the tyranny that they have been living under for such a torturously long time.
I thank you!
The Mike Campbell Foundation
Restoration of justice, the rule of law, human rights and property rights in Zimbabwe
Mike Campbell Foundation, Kent, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0)17 9584 2341
Registered charity number: 1144943