A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat...
Victims of Robert Mugabe’s land invasions, Pat and Mandy Retzlaff began an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.
Theirs is gripping, true story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams. A family forced to leave their home, the horses they rescue and their final journey to freedom.
We catch up with Pat and Mandy on their beautiful land in Vilanculos, Mozambique where they now run a small business, taking visitors on stunning horse rides along the coastline of Mozambique.
Mandy, this is a harrowing story, and one that has been made into a book. Can you tell us about it?
In 2000 Robert Mugabe began to systematically invade commercial farms in Zimbabwe forcing families to flee and leave their much-loved animals behind. Our neighbours in Chinhoyi were nearly killed and quickly made the decision to leave for New Zealand leaving their horses behind with us.
With the continuing trouble and increasing violence, we moved horses and staff across the country, leasing farms where we could. As the land invasions intensified we would have to move on, sometimes packing up in less than a few hours.
As more and more farmers abandoned their horses, we took them in.
After several more evictions we ran out of grazing for the horses and made a decision to move them to Mozambique. We developed an agricultural project in Chimoio and found the horses a safe haven there, but unfortunately the business collapsed and our investors quickly withdrew from Mozambique leaving us penniless with over a hundred horses to look after.
My husband, Pat, realizing the horses needed to earn their keep, loaded them into an old truck and drove to the seaside resort of Vilanculos and started Mozambique Horse Safari.