CHIMOIO,October 28. 2015- 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 president.
Because of the race-based preferential treatment enforced by the repressive colonial system, white commercial farmers owned an estimated 70% 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.