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Zimbabwe farmers forced from home find new life as French estate agents

Zimbabwe farmers forced from home find new life as French estate agents


Friday, January 04, 2013 Source: Ivan Radford

Zimbabwe couple forced from from find new life as French estate agents

Guy and Vicky Watson-Smith once owned a farm in Zimbabwe.

In 2001, one of President Robert Mugabe's closest allies violently and illegally seized the couple's property, leaving them and their two small children no choice but to flee to South Africa. They had just 2 hours to pack up their belongings under threat of death and that any removal trucks would be burned.

After four generations in the country as miners and, since 1950, farmers, the family grabbed their personal photographs and papers before tragically leaving behind their home.

Guy launched legal action in the Supreme Court to challenge the seizure of his estate and assets, estimated to be worth £2 million, by the former leader of Mr Mugabe's Zanla guerrilla forces. His attempts were unsuccessful. Instead, he was ordered to inform his farm workers that they would now be working for a new manager.

The family have never been able to return to their farm and as well as being forced from their home, they lost their livelihood; their farm vehicles and tractors, irrigation and equipment, cattle, game and crops.

With an ability to speak some French and a desire to make a fresh start in a beautiful country, Guy and Vicky moved to France where they began to rebuild their lives. With a passion for real estate, Guy and Vicky began to build their estate agency business and to harness interest and support from acquaintances and international buyers. Vicky also juggled a property management role and helped foreigners who wanted someone to look after their properties and Lao, their son set up a rental company.

The couple's efforts evolved into a family-run business that is becoming part of the Fine & Country network today. They will head up its first office in France, Fine & Country Cannes, which officially opens in January 2013.

Guy, who is now a French-speaking property professional and advisor to international clients, says, "Following this heart breaking turn in our lives, Vicky and I have put everything into our property business in France. I am proud to now head an experienced and honest family team which has beautiful properties for sale."

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