Zim white farmers start anew in Chimoio

via Zim white farmers start anew in Chimoio – New Zimbabwe 28/10/2015

CHIMOIO: A middle-aged white man wearing a khaki shirt and shorts stands on a flat, fertile piece of land surrounded by a group of young black men in bright orange uniforms.

Bill Creswell, 58, owns a farm in the agricultural town of Chimoio in Mozambique’s Manica province. The young men in uniform are his employees. Altogether about 45 of them are working the fields.

Creswell is one of more than 50 white farmers who moved to Chimoio from across the border in Zimbabwe following its controversial land reform programme.

Since early 2000, the move by the government of President Robert Mugabe has driven thousands of white farmers off their lands.

“This is home. Zimbabwe is a chapter in my life that is closed,” Creswell told Al Jazeera, inspecting new tomato seedlings while adjusting his sunglasses to block the rays of tropical sunshine.

Creswell said he left Zimbabwe more than 10 years ago, as the world he and his family knew crumbled around him.

“I felt unsafe. I left with nothing. No valuables, just a bag containing my clothes. Until that point, I only knew Zimbabwe.”

In 2000, violent land takeovers started forcing out Zimbabwe’s more than 3,000 remaining white farmers. Creswell left and never looked back.

Land ownership was one of the major issues during Zimbabwe’s brutal struggle against white British minority rule. Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, and Mugabe was elected leader.

Because of the race-based preferential treatment enforced by the repressive colonial system, white commercial farmers owned an estimated 70 percent of the fertile land in the country, with blacks pushed out of their ancestral areas onto unproductive land without compensation.

At independence, about 6,000 white farmers owned almost two-thirds of the country’s arable land.

Growing impatient at unequal land distribution and the slow progress of redistribution of arable land since independence, impoverished peasants and veterans of Zimbabwe’s colonial struggle took matters into their own hands starting in 2000 – and reclaimed land by force.

Many white farmers moved to the United Kingdom, from where their ancestors had come. Others headed for Australia and New Zealand.

But many remained on the continent. Dozens moved to Zambia, South Africa, and Nigeria. Others chose to stay closer to Zimbabwe. More than 200 crossed the border into Mozambique, the former Portuguese colony of more than 25 million people.

Mozambique emerged from a bloody civil war in 1992, which had damaged the country’s commercial farming sector.

In light of the developments in Zimbabwe, Mozambique saw an opportunity and welcomed the white farmers with cheap, long-term land leases.

Starting from scratch

In Chimoio, located about 95km from the border with Zimbabwe, more than 50 Zimbabwean commercial farmers were attracted not just by the offer of safety and favourable land leases, but also by cheap loans from multinational tobacco companies.

They started from scratch, clearing bush before planting.

The language barrier between the farm owners and Mozambicans was a big problem at first, and the white farmers struggled to find employees who knew about their methods of farming.

They also had to find new markets for their produce: In Zimbabwe, they had contracts with local supermarkets and multinational companies, but they had to start anew in Mozambique. It was painstaking work, but it is finally paying off, Creswell said.

“We started initially very small and we [have] grown. We now grow 12 hectares of horticulture. It doesn’t sound much, but it terms of turnover it is quiet big,” Creswell told Al Jazeera.

More than 140km north of Chimoio is Vanduzi, another town favoured by white Zimbabwean farmers who escaped Mugabe’s land redistribution programme. Vanduzi, which is also near Zimbabwe, is nestled in the shadows of mountains, and has a small river that flows year-round.

Kevin Gifford moved to Vanduzi 13 years ago after his farm was seized. He is the third generation in his family to have been born in Zimbabwe. On his new 450-hectare farm, he grows tobacco and keeps 150 head of cattle and 160 sheep.

He is happy about how he has been received in Mozambique, but is still bitter about events back home.

“I do feel welcome in Mozambique. I think Mozambique has been very good to us. It started with President [Joaquim] Chisano inviting us to come and help develop his country, and I think the government has been very proactive on that. Of course we have had our problems. Everybody does. But I’m comfortable here,” Gifford told Al Jazeera, his three dogs keeping close watch on any movement on the vast farm.

‘Life is getting better’

The farmers’ arrival has been good news to locals in this part of Mozambique. The once sleepy villages that had no jobs to offer youth have started to thrive. These two farmers together employ close to 200 local men, most of whom had previously been unemployed.

“What happened in Zimbabwe, if it happens here it will be sad for us, because he [Creswell] is helping us a lot. In this community there is a lot of unemployment,” said Jorge Alberto, a 32-year-old father of four.

Other white Zimbabwean farmers found the relocation too difficult, though. They laid down their tools and headed out of Mozambique to seek opportunities in other countries.

“Many of them gave up the fight and left. Some went to Australia and others gave up farming completely,” Creswell said.

Creswell and Gifford are two of the thriving few to have remained, and now they are reaping the rewards.

“Life is getting better and our yield is increasing every season. I have no plans of going back to Zimbabwe. My family and I are going to stay here,” said Creswell.

This article is taken from Al Jazeera.


  • comment-avatar

    “Because of the race-based preferential treatment enforced by the repressive colonial system, white commercial farmers owned an estimated 70 percent of the fertile land in the country, with blacks pushed out of their ancestral areas onto unproductive land without compensation.”

    That’s the biggest lie and if you keep repeating it long enough you might just convince yourself it’s true. There are many millions of hectares of arable land out there that hasn’t been developed yet. The “land invaders” just wanted the land that the white farmers had developed, the easy pickings especially if that land had a crop already planted in it!!

    Time to stop lying and face the truth. The “invasions” were (and continue to be) common racist theft and have nothing to do with historical imbalances.

    • comment-avatar
      JRR56 7 years ago

      Well said Mik.. The other thing was all the farmers who bought after 1980 having obtained a “certificate of no interest” from the government. It was downright theft by Zanu PF and applauded by those that want something for nothing. Unfortunately when something is obtained for nothing it is rarely appreciated and is more often than not squandered. Thus Zimbabwe has no food, no water and no electricity. Well done Mr Mugabe and his supporters!

      • comment-avatar
        Tinomunamataishe 7 years ago

        Its even sad to note this is coming from New Zimbabwe not the usual Herald. It means the lie has been believed by many more people when it shouldn’t.

        I hope one day the correct history will be told.

  • comment-avatar
    C Frizell 7 years ago

    I must that I get sickened at the unceasing lies – or is it just ignorance, having been fed these lies for 35 years many think they are fact.

    I think it is sadly funny that they keep on about The Breeteesh – UDI was precisely to breal away from Breetain!

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    Doris 7 years ago

    I wish those guys all the best for their new life. Well done and hang in there. Spare a thought for those farmers who had built up their farms over 50 years. Born in Zimbabwe but denied the right to belong. Nowhere else to go. No other country wants them. Everything they have worked for stolen. Eeking out an existence and relying on family and friends for a living. Pensioners left with nothing.

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    I’m with you – sod Zimbabwe, a nation of crooks, thieves and racists.

    I bet these farmers laugh when they export from Moz to Zim! Ha, ha!

    I know so many business and manufacturing people who left because of Zanoid racism and corruption. No wonder the economy has died.

  • comment-avatar
    rigger munorwa 7 years ago

    What about men women and children who died at chimoio during the liberation struggle after being bombed by the rhodesian forces.what about our heroes who hide themselves in blair toilets fearing for their lives.

  • comment-avatar
    mandevu 7 years ago

    rigger munorwa. What about the many women and children killed by the liberation armies – is that any better? It is time that Zimbabweans developed a better perspective of both the past and the present. The fact is this country is in serious trouble, and it is time that we acknowledged this.

  • comment-avatar

    The Land grabing is a total failure becauce the logic behind it was wrong. No child born after 1980, went to school ,passed or failed O’levels, etc with the dream of one day being given a plot of land.To do some substistance farming. Some bit of maize there ,a couple of cows ,goats and chickens. Just the hard life his parents went through and he personally also felt.And not even those rich and powerfull who now own huge farms really want to do some farming at all.

  • comment-avatar

    The first president of Zimbabwe will leave a legacy of total starvation and destruction and will be in the history books forever for destroying a country by his arrogant and racist views// and being a catholic he can look forward to eternity( a VERY,VERY ) long time in hell// GOD SPEED MY FRIEND//

  • comment-avatar
    Mugarbage 7 years ago

    Zim white farmers start anew in Chimoio, Mozambique. Respect!

    Meanwhile in the jungle, black UK doctor related to theft central starts anew in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s daughter and a ZANU bigwig are fighting over a stolen farm. Disgust!