A family of white farmers in Zimbabwe have been forcibly evicted from their land after it was claimed by a doctor who lives in Britain.
Philip Rankin and his family were first told to leave the land they have farmed for over 30 years in September following a claim by Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro, who was born in Zimbabwe but has British citizenship and runs a slimming clinic in Nottingham.
The Telegraph reports that police forced their way onto Mr Rankin’s land on Friday and removed all the furniture from his house before driving it away. He was then handcuffed and taken to a police station nearly 90 miles away.
Mr Rankin has now been released and is staying on another farm. He had already taken the precaution of moving his wife and children to Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.
“I think we have finally accepted that we are not going back to the farm,” he said. “I have also cleared out our house on the farm to avoid our things being broken up as happened when the police took my parents’ furniture and their piano.”
“We have now consulted with our pastor and we know it is over,” he added. “I don’t know what will happen to the tobacco crop as we are not allowed to be here and work.”
Mr Rankin’s land was allocated to Dr Nyatsuro under the Zimbabwean government’s land redistribution scheme that has seen hundreds of white-owned farms seized by the state, helping bring the African nation’s economy to near collapse.
Dr Nyatsuro visited the tobacco farm in September with a letter from the government giving him the land. He is alleged to have family connections to Grace Mugabe, the wife Zimbabwe’s president.
Lawyers for Dr Nyatsuro insist he is little more than a third party in a dispute between Mr Rankin and the state. They also deny that he specifically applied for ownership of Mr Rankin’s farm and that it was allocated to him because it was state land.
They also said Friday’s police action was not at the behest of Dr Nyatsuro and that he has not been awarded possession of the farm following the action.
A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said he was concerned the farm seizure “did not follow the process as described by the constitution”.
“We are aware of the allegation that the beneficiary of this farm may be a British citizen,” he added. “We will consider what further action to take.”