News / National
Grace Mugabe cronies wreck farm in one year
15 Jan 2017 at 08:51hrs | Views
A once thriving tobacco farm where a white Zimbabwean farmer and his wife lived for 35 years before being turfed out by a British doctor with links to first lady Grace Mugabe lies empty only a year after its seizure.
Six foot tall tobacco plants which were lovingly tended to by 40 workers last year have been replaced by weeds and the swish of water pumping onto crops is no more.
Many of the farm's boreholes are no longer working and much of the farm infrastructure is neglected.
The small maize crop well-watered by good summer rain, is reedy, pale, and overwhelmed by weeds.
It is here that Phillip Rankin and his wife Anita brought up their children in the place they called home for 35 years before being forcibly evicted to pave the way for Nottingham-based Sylvester Nyatsuro.
Farmer John Chiweshe, who has a small piece of land nearby, said the Zimbabwe Republic Police have been guarding the farm more or less full-time since the Rankin family were forced out in January last year.
The failure of their crop, particularly their prized tobacco, is a repetition of what happened on many properties after President Robert Mugabe encouraged land invasions against whites when he feared election defeat in 2000.
For the Rankins, the past year have been a misery. After losing their home and their farm they were offered accommodation by another white farmer and have lived there since their world was destroyed.
Nyatsuro, a privileged, well-educated doctor from among Zimbabwe's elite, kicked the Rankins off their land in the most controversial "land grab" of blacks against white farmers' land since Mugabe began seizing properties, including farm equipment and even personal possessions.
A team of hired thugs arrived at the property with police just after dawn and forcibly moved the couple from their homestead.
A squad of police officers brought in from Harare, hurled the Rankins' furniture, kitchen equipment and treasured possessions onto 30-tonne trucks and took them to a temporary shelter.
The police drove Rankin around for much of the day and eventually abandoned him at a police station far from their family home.
Initially the Rankins stayed with friends near Harare as they went to court to try and win their farm back.
They succeeded but the police would not execute the court order and now they live in a spare, small house, with most of their household goods a two-hour journey north of Harare.
"So many things were broken in that. It was a nightmare," Rankin recalled this week.
"I now make up food packs to sell to locals and others. That brings me in a few dollars a month, but at present there is such a shortage of cash I can't lay my hands on any cash notes.
"So, I think this small business will come to an end. I live off the charity of others.
"I paid my farm workers a moving allowance, but some of them spent that and then stayed on the farm and now they need more cash.
"They lost their jobs because I was kicked off the farm. I have no cash to pay anyone anything. I have nothing, I am ruined," he added.
Around 40 full-time workers used to live on the farm and in the height of the season, many of their wives also would be hired on contract.
Some of the workers who remained on the farm have sent messages to their former colleagues who left, saying they have not been paid.
"I feel sorry for some of them. I wish I could pay them. I have no cash at all. For anything," Rankin said.
"No pension, no home, nothing. I never want to go back to the farm. That is over now. I know it will be wrecked. I don't want to think about the farm.
"Maybe next season I will get a job on a farm growing tobacco for someone else, somewhere else, as I have to earn some money. But not now, it is too hard for me."
Rankin was born in Zimbabwe but his father was a UK citizen and he is now considering applying to become British and then hold dual citizenship, which is allowed in Zimbabwe. But he says he doesn't believe he could easily live in the UK.
"I don't think I could live there. I don't know it. I am a stranger there. This country is the only one I know," he said. Both his sons live in Zimbabwe and his daughter lives in Malawi.
He said talk in the district around his farm was that Nyatsuro had not grown anything substantial since he took over the farm.
"It takes a lot of energy to grow a tobacco crop. And it is a risky crop. One can lose a lot and also, in a good season, make money," Rankin said.
His wife, Anita has never lived anywhere but life on a farm in Zimbabwe. "I can't even live in town. I don't know town life," she said.
Back at their former farm, experienced workers blasted the current crop being grown by Nyatsuro.
"That maize is pathetic, we won't get much from that," said one farmer. "There is a small tobacco seed bed, but it is far too late to plant tobacco now."
Nyatsuro, a 48-year-old father of three, moved to the UK in 2001 with his wife Veronica and their children were privately educated.
They lived in a five-bedroom, detached home in Nottingham bought for £730 000 in 2006.
Nyatsuro ran his surgery, the Willows Medical Centre, in Carlton, Nottingham, which was sold before Christmas for £325 000.
He resigned after his practice was put into special measures following the publication of a damning inspection report.
The critical report by the Care Quality Commission unearthed a catalogue of failures at the "chaotic surgery," where a healthcare assistant posed as a doctor.
His lawyer Fungai Chimwamurombe told MailOnline that Nyatsuro had legally taken possession of the Rankins' home.
Source - MailOnline