By Ben Freeth
Published by Lion
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Recently, a documentary called Mugabe and the White African began to garner awards across the globe. Now, the companion book written by the “White African” in the documentary named Ben Freeth has hit the presses.
Mugabe and the White African recounts the compelling story of one man’s struggle to maintain his land and way of life in the face of great adversity. In Zimbabwe, where this book was written, land owned by white persons was being taken from whites and given to blacks in an attempt to reverse the influence of colonialism. The leader of this movement was a man named Robert Mugabe, who eventually became President of Zimbabwe, and remains in that position to this day. This unlawful seizure of land and property was often violent. Ben Freeth and his father-in-law Mike Campbell have stood boldly against this policy that they believe to be unjust, and in the process have also managed to establish a strong, loving Christian witness with many around them.
(PICTURE OF BEN FREETH)
As one reads this story it is easy to notice several things. First, the Campbell/Freeth clan has truly been treated unfairly. Their struggle is epic, and Freeth’s command of the details makes it clear he has been careful to stick closely to the facts of the situation he is in as best as he knows it. Your heart breaks for the family. They are simply seeking to make a living and build a business in a country they have always called their home.
Although the story is compelling, the actual text of Mugabe and the White African is poorly written. Often the details of legislation are overly explained, bogging down the reader. Also, details of what happened to Ben and his family are given interpretation by Mr. Freeth in an awkward, stilted, and self-promoting kind of way. In other words, there were times I felt like this text would be a better political tract than an autobiography that needed to be marketed.
Also, one must be warned, as this story makes it to an American audience, not to make straight line comparisons between the racial and political tensions in Zimbabwe to those we experience in the United States of America. Some may try to compare the plight of the whites in Zimbabwe to minorities in America. This does not work because of the history of each of the nations. Blacks were forced to America in slave ships. Whites in Zimbabwe colonialized Africa. Also, others may want to compare the more progressive policies to address social inequities of our African-American President with this African leader. This is an unfair as well. Mugabe is a totalitarian dictator. President Obama is our elected leader. Mugabe has killed thousands of innocents to accomplish his goals of power and control over a nation. Our president has done nothing of the sort.
Nevertheless, despite the textual weaknesses of the writing style of Mugabe and the White African, this is really a story that has been forgotten by our media and the church, and a story we need to hear. It helps to remind us that evil and bigotry lurks everywhere, and wherever we see it, we as Christians need to fight against it.