On the surface, Mugabe and the White African is about Mike Campbell’s fight to protect his land from being illegally taken from him by the corrupt Mugabe government of Zimbabwe. Campbell had purchased his farm legally. Mugabe began a plan of redistributing land to poor black farmers. Campbell, his family and his workers had been threatened and physically abused when they tried to fight against this land grab. Campbell brought his case to a regional African court and won.
This straight-forward legal battle was, of course, complicated by a subtext of racial tension because Mugabe was redistributing land only owned by white farmers. The story is further complicated by the long history of colonialism. Although Campbell obtained his land legally, his farm was resented by many in the community. The tale is even further complicated by the accusation that Mugabe was not actually redistributing land to poor farmers but to his cronies.
It could be easy to assume Mugabe and the White African is the tale of a white Englishman who faced reverse racism. But the film is much more than that as it raises many issues that are too complex to resolve. However, it’s hard to say whether or not this strategy works in favor of the film. The main focus is on Campell, his son-in-law and his son-in-law’s parents in England. There is some footage of Mugabe’s legal team and the men trying to occupy the farm. Oddly, the film does not present any interviews with any of the black farm workers whose insights could have gone a long way to providing some context for the racial issues.