A WHITE Zimbabwean farmer evicted under the government of Robert Mugabe has returned to a hero’s welcome as the first to get his land back under new President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Darryn Smart’s return to his farm, with military support, is a sign that the new leader is reforming an issue that had hastened the country’s international isolation.

Hundreds of farmers were evicted, often violently, under a programme Mr Mugabe called a righting of colonial wrongs.

Now Zimbabwean officials are reaching out to other white farmers who lost their land, including those who have moved to neighbouring countries.

Mr Mnangagwa is desperate to revive the once-prosperous southern African nation’s economy after years of international sanctions. He has months to win public support before elections scheduled for August at the latest.

Mr Smart made his way into Lesbury farm, about 120 miles east of the capital, Harare, to cheers and songs from dozens of workers and community members.

Such scenes were once unthinkable in a country where land ownership is an emotional issue with political and racial overtones.

“We have come to reclaim our farm,” sang black women and me.

Two decades ago, their arrival would have meant that Mr Smart and his family would have to leave.

Ruling ZANU-PF party supporters, led by veterans of the 1970s war against white minority rule, evicted many of the country’s white farmers.