A family of white Zimbabwean farmers have been evicted from their land after it was handed over to a British doctor who runs a weightloss clinic in Nottingham.
The Rankin family, who have farmed tobacco in Zimbabwe for decades, were handcuffed by police and dragged off their land so it could be claimed by Sylvester Nyatsuro.
Dr Nyatsuro, 45, is originally from the African country but has lived in Britain for at least 15 years, and is now in charge of his own GP practice.
He and his wife Veronica were allocated the Rankins’ farm under Robert Mugabe’s controversial land seizure laws which allow the state to take the property of white people and hand it over to ‘indigenous’ black Africans.
One of the family members today hit out at the ruling, saying that Zimbabwe’s land should be ‘for the people of Zimbawe with nothing, not for wealthy British doctors who do not live here’.
Phillip Rankin, 57, has lived at Kingston Deverill farm in the north of Zimbabwe for more than 30 years with his wife Anita and their three children.
The size of the tobacco farm has been progressively reduced since Mugabe’s land grabs began in 2000, and last year he was told that he must leave the property for good.
Dr Nyatsuro, who is linked to the Mugabes, apparently turned up at Kingston Deverill in September with a government document saying that he was now the rightful owner of the land.
The Rankins refused to leave without being compensated for their property, having recently planted a £300,000 tobacco crop, but two dozen settlers moved into an empty cottage nearby and a warrant was issued for Phillip’s arrest.
In the early hours of Friday morning, 20 police officers dug under the fence surrounding the family’s home and knocked on the door before carting away most of their belongings.
They then handcuffed Mr Rankin and took him to a police station before later releasing him to stay with relatives.
His son Barry, speaking from his new home in the capital Harare, today described how the family thought they had ‘survived’ after they held onto their land in the initial wave of confiscations by the Mugabe regime.
The 33-year-old father of three hit out against the eviction, saying it ‘doesn’t make sense’ that a wealthy professional who lives in the West should be given property by the government.
‘As a family we are absolutely gutted,’ Mr Rankin told MailOnline. ‘We have been turfed off of our land and there’s nothing we can do about it. We are devastated.
‘It was our business – but more important than that, it was our home. We have never owned anything other than the farm and that’s gone in one weekend.
‘My parents have been working on the farm for 35 years. I grew up there. Those years have not all been hunky dory, we have had our ups and downs like any family, but we thought the farm would always be there.
‘We have had 16 years of land acquisition in Zimbabwe and we thought we’d survived – we didn’t see this coming. We thought we had ridden our way through it, we thought we would be alright.
‘I don’t know what we are going to do. I can’t even think beyond tonight.’
Slamming the decision to give his land to Dr Nyatsuro, he added: ‘It doesn’t make sense to me, how a doctor who lives in the UK can come and take our land.
‘Land requisition was supposed to be for the landless, for the people who didn’t have anything. I thought it was for the people of Zimbawe with nothing, not for wealthy British doctors who do not live here.
‘But what do I know? I don’t know the law, I’m just a simple farmer. My parents have farmed tobacco over four decades, it is all we ever knew.
‘It is every family’s dream to pass on their property onto their children. My parents were going to give it to me, and I was going to pass it on to my children and their children after that.’
Phillip and Anita Rankin both have British ancestry but were born and brought up in Zimbabwe, employing more than 40 people at Kingston Deverill.
Dr Nyatsuro has been practising as a doctor in Nottingham for at least 15 years after moving to Britain from his home country, and he describes his nationality as British in official documents.
He runs a GP practice, The Willows Medical Centre, and is a specialist in helping patients lose weight.
The doctor lives with his wife in a £700,000 home outside Nottingham. Mrs Nyatsuro has been rumoured to be related to Mugabe’s wife Grace, but she has denied this.
Last year he launched the Zimbabwe Diaspora Skills Network, a charity which aims to use the expertise of Zimbabweans living abroad to boost healthcare and other services in the poverty-stricken state.
He was previously director of Midlands College Limited, a company which provided training for dental nurses and was the subject of a compulsory winding-up order in 2010.
The couple have always denied using violence to enforce their claim to the Rankins’ farm, saying that they were allocated the property by the state in accordance with normal legal procedures.
At the time that news of their claim to the farm came to light last year, Dr Nyatsuro’s clinic was targeted by protesters accusing him of collaborating with the Mugabe regime.
Mrs Nyatsuro said that the couple were ‘under siege’ and claimed they had received death threats, insisting that none of the Rankins’ allegations were true.
The Foreign Office has expressed concern over the seizure of the Rankins’ farm and suggested that it ‘did not follow the process as described by the constitution’.
Zimbabwean farming family handcuffed and frogmarched off their land to make way for British doctor
Author: Hugo Gye
Source: The Daily Mail