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Zimbabwean Whites Move on Despite Troubled Past

Former Commercial farmer Ben Freeth of the Mike Campbell Foundation on the floor at a Zimbabwe hearing in USA.

Being white in Zimbabwe has for the past decade been a nightmare for some following an often-violent land reform program that began in 2000, dispossessing them of fertile farming land.

Many white Zimbabweans told VOA they still feel like they belong, adding they have never known any other country and will stay in the country regardless.

Former white commercial farmer, Alex Goosen says he's not bothered by the recent history between the white community and the ruling Zanu PF, adding he’s not bitter that he lost land that he had coveted over the years as a family treasure.

Affectionately known locally as Tshuma, a common surname in the Matabeleland region, Goosen, aka Magxozindenda, literally meaning someone with welling saliva, says many members of Zimbabwe’s white community whom he knows have moved on and living happily in their new circumstances.

Goosen lost his farm to invaders despite his deep roots in the Mguza community where he lived harmoniously with locals.

He says he has moved on and is currently operating some businesses in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo.

The love for the local Ndebele language has healed some of his wounds, he adds.

“I am proud of being Ndebele,” he says. “The Zimbabwean people are probably the most-friendly people in the world.”

He dismisses assertions that some whites in Zimbabwe, mostly those who were affected by the land reforms, are isolating themselves.

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“You can’t isolate yourself in a country like this. We all want to survive. We all trade,” said Goosen. “You want something like siphathelene a road runner.”

His colleague, Ben Frieth of the Southern African Development Community Tribunal, however, is still a bitter man following violent farm invasions in his area, which left one of his close relatives dead.

Frieth says he is still seeking redress for alleged injustices committed on white commercial farmers.

“President Mugabe is getting away with racist practices. I told a U.S congressional team that racism is wrong,” adds Freeth.

He believes that there was no need for the government to use force when it introduced its land reforms, which have been widely criticized by countries like the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia resulting in them imposing restrictive sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle.

The West accused President Mugabe and his government of committing serious human rights abuses and rigging elections.

For Ian Kay, a commercial farmer who also suffered at the hands of land invaders, life goes on despite racial outbursts at times from some in the ruling elite.

Some white Zimbabweans like David Coltart, an attorney and former education minister, Zanu PF is still behaving as if it is waging an armed liberation struggle in a country that attained independence in 1980.

“Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF practice politics of the 1960s. The vast majority of people have moved on,” says Coltart. “We still suffer the legacy of war there is need for reconciliation.”

Goosen believes that all this is unnecessary as most Zimbabweans, including whites, are struggling to make ends meet due to the current harsh economic climate. He adds that some whites who left the country are now coming back to Zimbabwe regardless.

On the other hand, Frieth argues that President Mugabe has failed to unite the nation as per his pledge to cater for the needs of all Zimbabweans when he became the country’s first black leader. As a result, he says, some scared white farmers have stopped most commercial activities due to fears that their land will be taken over by the government.

But Zanu PF Central Committee member and Member of Parliament for Pelandaba-Mpopoma, Joseph Tshuma, dismisses these fears, arguing that farmers will lose their land if they don’t utilize it productively.

For Goosen, the solution is for young white children to learn the local language so they can team-up with their black counterparts to create a democratic nation.

“The next generation will change this,” he says.

Some within the community argue that much needs to be done to transform Zimbabwe into a rainbow nation as was promised by the government in 1980 when the country attained its independence from British rule.