A white Zimbabwean farmer previously kicked off his land by the former Robert Mugabe regime received a hero’s welcome from his community Thursday following the new government’s return of his land, the Associated Press reported.
— AP Africa (@AP_Africa) December 22, 2017
Guided by military escort, Robert Smart became the first white farmer who came back to the land he once owned before it was seized nearly two decades ago by Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party.
“The support has been amazing and all along they were always phoning us. ‘When are you coming back? How are things going?’ So, they hadn’t lost faith at all. So we really had to keep the faith up and say, ‘We’re definitely coming back.’ And we stuck with it even before the change in government to be told that,” Smart told the AP. “The change in government, of course, was a Godsend to us.”
In 2000, Mugabe ordered land seizures and evictions of white farmers and their families. According to the Telegraph, of the estimated 4,500 white farmers prior the seizures, only several hundred remain.
Zimbabwe’s farmlands fell into disarray after these evictions, causing the economy that what was once known as the “southern African bread basket” to collapse. By 2006, National Public Radio reported Zimbabwe’s economy shrunk by almost a third.
However, following a forced resignation, the long-time Zimbabwean dictator Mugabe was pushed out of power last month after the military and ruling party turned on him. The country’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, pledged to change the land reforms put into place by his predecessor.