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Ben Freeth kidnapped with family

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Ben Freeth kidnapped with family

Post by shammy on Mon Jun 30, 2008 6:55 am

Farmer who exposed terror, Ben Freeth kidnapped with his family

Scarcely an hour before Robert Mugabe was sworn in yesterday for his sixth term as President of Zimbabwe, his henchmen abducted Ben Freeth, a white farmer who documented the pre-election terror in an article for The Times last Monday .

Mr Freeth and his inlaws, Michael and Angela Campbell, 75 and 70, were assaulted and taken from their homes in Chegutu, about 90 miles (150km) west of Harare.

The Campbells’ son, Bruce, responded to an alarm from his parents’ house but the militias of the ruling Zanu (PF) party were already driving out with their three hostages by the time he reached the scene.

A worker told him that the raiders, 14 of them armed, had assaulted his parents and Mr Freeth , before driving off in one of Mr Campbell’s vehicles. “Bruce followed and fired shots to try and stop them, but shots were fired in return,” Justice for Agriculture (JAG), a body pressing for compensation for dispossessed white farmers, said.

“Bruce tried to follow them to the base, but more shots were fired at him, and the road was lined with youth militia, throwing rocks, and he had to withdraw.” Earlier the raiders had beaten Frank Trott, another white farmer, so severely that he had to be taken to hospital. A dairy owned by another white farmer in the area was “ransacked and looted,” JAG reported.

The Campbells and Mr Freeth turned up shortly before midnight, dumped on a nearby farm. Angela had a broken arm.

Mr Campbell’s apparent crime was that he spearheaded the appeal to the SADC tribunal, the region’s multinational court, against farm seizures. “They have been deliberately targeted and the instructions must have come from the very top,” said John Worsely-Worswick, a spokesman for JAG.

Mr Freeth also adopted a high-profile role, shedding light on the beatings and mass intimidation that paved the way for Mr Mugabe’s second-round election victory. The son of an officer, he became an official of the Commercial Farmers’ Union after marrying the Campbells’ daughter, Laura.

He had seen the preelection violence at first hand. In his Times article Mr Freeth gave a vivid account of thepungwe– a political indoctrination meeting – held on his farm. “Almost all Mugabe’s campaigning goes on after dark. The pungwes have spread like a great cancer even to town,” he wrote. A pungwe is compulsory. Those who refuse an invitation will almost certainly be beaten, but many of the people who do attend meet a similar fate.


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