Riding a horse who escaped President Mugabe, one of history’s most dickish dictators

Me, riding Tequila, who has lived a pretty extraordinary life
Me, riding Tequila, who has lived a pretty extraordinary life

The other day, I rode a horse into the sea. This beast has an amazing story, which is part of an even bigger story.

In 2002, he was one of 104 horses who were led on a mass-migration from Zimbabwe down to Mozambique by a couple, Pat and Mandy Retzlaff, whose farm was seized from them by President Mugabe.

Mugabe did this shortly after gaining power because he decided that white settlers shouldn’t be able to own their land in Zimbabwe anymore (then called Rhodesia), because their distant ancestors had no right to it in the first place.

He might be right about that.

President Robert Mugabe, who suddenly and violently seized land from white settlers in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in 2002, forcing many to abandon everything they owned, including their animals
President Robert Mugabe, who suddenly and violently seized land from white settlers in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in 2002, forcing many to abandon everything they owned, including their animals, and run for their lives

I never know what to think about territory wars.

Are the Jews entitled to turf the Palestinians off their land, because way-back-when, the Palestinians supposedly nicked it off the Jews?

Should Britain kick out anyone of Scandinavian decent, because the Vikings invaded Britain in A.D. 793?

Basically, humans (and animals, for that matter) have always invaded one another’s land. So does how we view it just depend on how long ago it happened? How raw the wound?

All I know for sure is that Mugabe is undeniably an utter wanker, from where I’m standing, and that has nothing to do with territory.

First of all, he’s a terrorist and a racist in every sense of the word. He has declared himself ‘the Hitler of the time’ – and uttered the immortal words, “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man.”

Mugabe has said that gays and lesbians are ‘worse than dogs and pigs’. Personally, I happen to love dogs and pigs, and also happen to love my gay and lesbian friends, so whatever, Mugabe.

More recently, his charming wife issued a statement in Zimbabwe in which she told rally-goers, “if you are raped, it’s your fault.”

You get my drift. So ANWYAY…

Mandy Retzlaff fled her farm in Zimbabwe with 104 horses she gathered from surrounding land and led them down to safety in Mozambique  in 2002
Mandy Retzlaff fled her farm in Zimbabwe with the 104 horses she gathered from surrounding land, and led them down to safety in Mozambique in 2002
She did this with her husband Pat
She did this with her husband and fellow equine-devotee Pat
The journey was long and arduous, and they had to bride officials to let them do it, but eventually the horses were led onto Benguerra Island, where they roam to this day
The journey was long and arduous, and they had to bribe officials to let them do it, but eventually the horses were led onto Benguerra Island, where they roam to this day

In 2002, the Retzlaffs, along with scores of other white land owners who had lived there for generations, were handed an official letter giving them four hours (yes, you read that right) to flee their farm. Those who didn’t risked losing their lives.

Many people were forced to just abandon their animals and flee, leaving their horses, dogs and cattle to starve to death, or be tortured (for fun) and shot by Mugabe’s thugs.

So the Retzlaffs rounded up all their neighbours’ horses along with their own, and managed to lead them over the border to Mozambique, where they remain today.

Now onto the happy ending. 

Tequila, who was four when was rescued and led from danger into paradise
Tequila, who was four when he was rescued and led from danger into paradise, and who adores the sea

Many of these remaining horses still roam Benguerra. Sometimes people like me are allowed to accompany them on their ocean frolickings. 

I took Tequila, a gorgeous plodding chestnut male, who was only four when he was led by the Retzlaffs out of Mugabe-territory, but who, as I later discovered, has something of a Houdini habit.

Tequila has been known on numerous occasions to detach not only his own, but his comrades’ reins and bridles, and gallop miles and miles in the direction of Zimbabwe, from whence he came. The force is strong in this one. 

It being an island though, he doesn’t get very far.

Neck-deep and cruising
Neck-deep and almost floating 
Faizel, who works at Azura and who I have written more about here
Faizel, who works at Azura and who I have written more about here

Conveniently for me, Tequila didn’t try to run away to Zimbabwe while I was perched on his back.

Instead he just trudged through the gentle waves, neck deep, my legs trailing through the warm sea either side of him, his hooves sinking gloriously into the sand.

Mandy wrote a book about their extraordinarily difficult journey from Zimbabwe to Mozambique with all the horses, so if you want to find out more about it, you can read it here.


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