The late Mike Campbell, my father-in-law, was a successful commercial farmer and an ardent conservationist. He was one of the first private individuals in Zimbabwe to capture and relocate wildlife onto private land for conservation. His animals, introduced over many years, included sable, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, kudu, impala, nyala, warthog and reedbuck.
In 2002, Mike’s Biri River Lodge game park was invaded and poaching began immediately on a large scale, resulting in its closure due to the danger of tourists being attacked. In 2005, the lodge was deliberately burnt down. In 2007, Mike was attacked and abducted by President Mugabe loyalists, who were involved in the poaching. During the attack a number of Mike’s ribs were broken.
Despite gross, systematic human rights abuses, the widespread slaughter of wildlife and ongoing rape of the environment, President Mugabe was selected in May to co-host the next United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) summit with Zambia.
We are asking individual Governments to pressure the United Nations into withdrawing recognition of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe as a “leader for tourism” and for a fellow signatory State of the “UN Convention against all forms of Racial Discrimination” to investigate ongoing racial discrimination in Zimbabwe.
Canada has already taken a principled stance, pulling out of the UNWTO, and other states are asked to do likewise. Additionally, Canada or any other signatory country of the UN Convention Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination should request the Secretary General to investigate allegations of racism in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was the only country in Africa to have more game on private farms and conservancies – owned by white farmers and conservationists - than in the national parks. In this way the remaining endangered conservancies may yet have a chance of being saved from destruction.
In power for 32 years, Mugabe (88) has run an increasingly ruthless and deeply unpopular regime which has retained power by terrorising the people through cruel torture campaigns, systematic rape and murder, resulting in mass-scale displacement and a refugee crisis. By destroying the commercial farms, withholding food aid, ruining the previously thriving tourism industry and bringing the business sector close to collapse he has impoverished the nation.
Mike Campbell’s experience is but one example. Since 2000, tourism numbers have plummeted and hotel occupancy rates have dropped precipitously, contributing to the bankrupting of the national carrier, Air Zimbabwe, which stopped operating in February.
The country’s once prized wildlife has been decimated and poaching syndicates continue to operate in the national parks and wilderness areas, including the Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO natural world heritage site on the banks of the Zambezi River. Some of the syndicates are known to have connections to Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Privately-owned wildlife conservancies have also been targeted by syndicates and many have been over-run by invaders who have snared and hunted the game and destroyed vast swathes of indigenous forests, causing an environmental catastrophe.
At the end of 2007, Mike took President Mugabe to the Southern African Development Community’s regional court, the SADC Tribunal. After the violent Presidential run-off election in 2008, Mike was again abducted and told to withdraw his case. He was severely beaten, sustaining seven broken bones and over 60 severe blows to the head from which he never fully recovered. At the end of the year he won his case. That year all of his remaining wildlife was killed.
In 2009, Mike’s house was burnt down through arson and all of his crops, tractors and household possessions were either stolen or burnt. His son, Bruce, was finally forced out of his home on the adjoining farm, Carskey, in March 2011. The following month Mike died from the multiple injuries sustained in 2008.
President Mugabe doesn’t deserve to be recognised as a world leader for tourism. He deserves to face justice for crimes against humanity under his dictatorship and the destruction wrought on the country during his three decades in power.