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Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:48 UK
Kent-born Zimbabwe farmer Ben Freeth receives MBE
Ben Freeth MBE and family
Ben and his family in London after collecting the MBE

Kent-born Ben Freeth has received an MBE from the Queen for services to the Zimbabwean agricultural community.

In 2009, Ben, his father-in-law Mike Campbell and their family were forced off their farm in the African country.

Ben has campaigned for justice for farmers and farm workers in Zimbabwe and he has been savagely beaten by supporters of Robert Mugabe.

The film Mugabe and The White African records Ben and Mike's fight to keep their farm.

'Fantastic honour'

Ben was first heard about the MBE when the British Ambassador in Zimbabwe called him to let him know he was listed in the Queen's birthday honours list.

In Zimbabwe "it's a contentious issue getting something from the Queen" said Ben. The Ambassador asked Ben if he would like to receive an MBE. Ben replied: "It would be a fantastic honour."

We [Zimbabwe] could be a real success story. Unfortunately, so long as we've got tyranny that's not going to happen.
Ben Freeth MBE

"Obviously Mugabe won't like it very much but it was a very exciting moment in my life."

The MBE, which he received at Buckingham Palace on the 13 October, is for services to the agricultural community.

Ben has been campaigning for white farmers who have been forced off their farms by the state as well as for farm workers who have lost work as a result.

"Two million farm worker are out of work, that's a quarter of the population" said Ben.

'Nothing left'

Ben and his father-in-law can no longer earn a living from farming. They cannot go near their farm which is entirely out of their control.

Laura Freeth
Laura Freeth runs a linen business in Zimbabwe

According to Ben, their 40,000 fruit trees, including mangoes and citrus, have not been watered, fertilised or sprayed by the farm's new owner, who is a minister in the Zimbabwean government. "There's nothing left there," said Ben.

Ben's wife Laura continues with her linen business while Ben is writing a book. "Times are not easy financially," said Ben.

The rural community in Zimbabwe continues to suffer greatly. The night before Ben spoke to BBC Kent his friend, a farmer in his 70s, was shot while in bed.

"It's pretty gruesome having these things continuing to happen as we now go towards 2011 and elections. Those kinds of things are going to continue to happen and be a lot worse as time goes by."

'Need a peacekeeping force'

Ben's thoughts turn to the next election in Zimbabwe, expected after February 2011. "Hopefully as the election gets closer we will see some moves from the international community to sort the situation out," he said.

Ben Freeth MBE and Mike Campbell
Ben Freeth MBE and his father-in-law Mike Campbell

"It's very hopeful to think we can do it democratically. We actually need a peacekeeping force in place to assist our police, assist our army."

"We could be the beacon of hope for southern Africa. Along with Botswana we could be shining a light where we are able to go forward.

"We've got a huge skills base, we've got amazing infrastructure, we've got an incredible climate and natural resources.

We could be a real success story. Unfortunately, so long as we've got tyranny that's not going to happen."

Mugabe and The White African has won awards at many film festivals around the world. Ben is now looking forward to it being shown in southern Africa.




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