The change in government in Zimbabwe is inspiring hope among some white farmers, nearly two decades after the start of the sometimes-violent land reform programme, a news report says.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has ruled out reversing land reform, but has vowed to put an end to land invasions and to give white farmers 99-year leases like their black counterparts.

‘Right direction’

Farming couple John and Marie Osborne told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that they see a future for the first time in two decades.

“If the current president does half of what he says he’s going to do, then I think we’re going in the right direction,” John Osborne told ABC.

The Osbornes saw farmers beaten and killed during the land seizures launched by former President Robert Mugabe in 2000, and had their own farm reduced and parcelled out. But with the change in government, their Australian-based daughter and son-in-law are considering joining them in Zimbabwe.

“So now we’re in the very pleasant position of having our family start to come back and planning for a future,” John told ABC.

Violently evicted

Another Zimbabwean, Brian Pattison, said he returned to Zimbabwe from Australia to run a mixed-crop farm outside Harare.

He said his parents weren’t happy with the decision.

“They couldn’t believe that I was going back to Zimbabwe to farm after they had lost their farms,” he said.

But he added: “I’ve got my Aussie passport in my pocket in case I have to go back.”

Well-known farming family, Ian and Kerry Kay are not convinced though. The Kays were violently evicted from their farm, east of Harare, in 2002.

“With no property rights, why would anyone go back? It’d be crazy,” Kerry Kay said.

“You can change the driver but if all the passengers are the same, what difference is it going to make?”

‘We are one’

Ahead of the July 30 poll, Mnangagwa told a group of white voters in Harare that there was “no discrimination” under the “new dispensation”.

“A farmer – a black farmer, a white farmer – is a Zimbabwean farmer. We should look at it that way. We should begin to develop a culture among our people to accept that we are one,” he said, in comments carried by the state-run Sunday Mail.

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