Scores of Zimbabweans nearly knocked the 71-year-old farmer off his feet as he and his two children stepped out of their car and onto their land for the first time in six months. The country's new government has vowed to stop illegal land seizures.



The last time white Zimbabwean farmer Rob Smart left his land it was at gunpoint, forced out in June by riot police armed with tear gas and AK-47 assault rifles.


He returned on Thursday to ululations and tears of joy from former workers and their families who were also kicked out - a jubilant return and the first sign that the president who has replaced Robert Mugabe is making good on a vow to stop illegal land seizures and restore property rights.


Land ownership is one of Zimbabwe's most sensitive political topics. Colonialists seized some of the best agricultural land and much of it remained in the hands of white farmers after independence in 1980 leaving many blacks effectively landless.


Twenty years later, Mugabe authorised the violent invasion of many white-owned farms and justified it on the grounds that it was redressing imbalances from the colonial era.