by UK Papers
A British doctor and his wife from Nottinghamshire with family connections to Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe has allegedly seized a white-owned tobacco farm near Harare that has been seized from a white owner, in a twist to the country’s long and violent campaign to eradicate what President Mugabe calls “British interests” from agricultural land, it has been reported.
It is claimed that Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro, 45, who was born in Zimbabwe but now runs a slimming clinic in Willows Medical Centre in Carlton, hired a gang to invade Phillip Rankin’s tobacco farm last Friday after claiming Robert Mugabe’s government had granted him ownership of the property.
“Dr Nyatsuro and his wife visited me last month and told me that the government has offered him my farm,” Mr Rankin, 57, told the Telegraph. “I don’t know if the documentation he showed me was genuine but I told him I was not going to be forced out by a British citizen.”
“They are trying to make us leave the house. If we do that I will be finished, I would never be able to get back on the land, and the police will not come and help us.”
A senior political source in Harare who asked not to be named said the land had probably been taken for “resettlement” to Dr Nyatsuro because of his “family connection” with Mrs Mugabe, who is now carving out a political career for herself within her husband’s ruling Zanu PF party.
Hendrik Olivier, the director of the Commercial Farmers’ Union, an organisation which represents mainly the white farming community in Harare, says Mr Rankin is now a ‘hostage’ on his farm as he cannot leave his homestead.
“Mr Rankin is under siege. He is a hostage. The situation is not good as the police will not give him any help,” he said.
Even if he does not lose his farm, Mr Rankin fears the harassment will cause his crop to be ruined, costing him up to £240,000 in lost revenue. He has planted 110 acres of tobacco for the current summer season and needs to water it this week as it is exceptionally hot in Zimbabwe.
“I irrigated last week and I need to do so again now but I can’t go outside and turn the water on as the crowd is there and that would be the end as they would then move in and take over my house. They want me to make this mistake.”
Mr Rankin bought his 2,000-acre farm, Kingston, 32 years ago and received a certificate of no ‘present’ interest from Mr Mugabe’s new government.
After invasions of white-owned land began in 2000 ago he said he handed a third of his land to the government for resettlement on the “understanding” that he could continue to farm, but had suffered multiple attempted invasions of his farm since.
The current seizure of his farm was “by far the most serious,” he said.
Neither Dr Nyatsuro nor Mrs Mugabe responded to request for comment.
Zimbabwe has been unable to feed itself since 17 million acres was seized from about 3000 white farmers from 2000. They ran about 500 farms and employed more than a million workers.