When Governments Stumble: Lessons from Zimbabwe's
past and hope in Africa's future
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code
BEN FREETH, a British-born Zimbabwean, took President Robert
Mugabe to an international tribunal in 2008 and won the right for
his father-in-law, Mike Campbell, not to be evicted from his farm.
Torture and abduction followed for the family, and Mr Campbell's
eventual death. Freeth, who narrowly escaped death and whose own
productive farm now lies waste, urges Christians in this coherent
and passionately argued book to follow their calling to stand up to
He charts the tragic failure of the wider Christian Church to
stand against Nazi injustice, and acknowledges that the Church in
Zimbabwe has not been vocal, either, in condemning the injustices
committed by the authorities. Key perpetrators, such as the
Commissioner of Police, declare themselves born-again Christians;
President Mugabe dons white robes and goes to mass; and the Reserve
Bank Governor "laces his statements with biblical quotes".
The chapter "How nations become poor and hungry" is key. It
takes the land question by the scruff of the neck and shakes it,
with a passionate, Bible-backed defence of property ownership and
good stewardship: "Primarily because nearly all African governments
in sub-Saharan Africa have traditionally denied their people proper
land ownership and production systems, Africa is producing less
than ten per cent of what it could be producing if property rights
were properly established."
Freeth identifies fear as the single biggest factor that allows
tyranny to continue and that, together with a latent passivity, has
replaced the sense of outrage in Zimbabwe.
In analysing fears and the biblical response to them, he writes
with clarity and humility of the freedom he experienced in feeling,
as he himself was being beaten and tortured, "an overwhelming,godly
love for these people who were doing such terrible things to
There is hope, he concludes: godly people from Daniel to
Dietrich Bonhoeffer have overcome fear and spoken truth to power,
and individual Christians have led the way throughout history. But,
as targeted sanctions are lifted against almost all those involved
in gross human-rights abuses in Zimbabwe, he warns: "There appears
to be a concerted effort from many in the international corridors
of power to whitewash the paramount principles of truth and justice
and to re-engage with Mugabe."
This is a fine, brave book that teaches, encourages, and
convicts. It mustn't be ignored.