Harare – Police in Zimbabwe have reportedly forced a white farmer, Phillip Rankin, from his property, in a move aimed at paving the way for a Zimbabwean born doctor living in Britain.
Rankini had been on the farm for 30 years.
The Telegraph reported that Rankin was first told to vacate the farm after a claim to the land was made by Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro, in September 2015.
Nyatsuro, 45, who owns a slimming clinic in Nottingham, England, claimed to be in possession of a letter from government, allocating the land to him.
Reports indicate that Nyatsuro and his wife, Veronica, have connections to President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Rankin and his wife Anita said mounting legal bills were becoming too much and they had intended to leave the farm. However, they wanted to wait until they had harvested the £300 000 tobacco crop that they obtained a loan to plant.
However, on Friday, police entered the property and allegedly loaded the Rankins’ furniture into trucks and drove away. The farmer was then arrested and taken to a police station, where he was later released, the report said.
This comes as the Zimbabwean government announce in January that it would allow white commercial farmers to lease land in “strategic areas” in order to help improve and redevelop the nation’s economy.
According to Land and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglass Mambeshora, the duration of the leases given to the farmers would depend on the type of farming operations.
Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party launched a set of land reforms in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.
At the time, Mugabe said the reforms were meant to correct colonial land ownership imbalances.
At least 4 000 white commercial farmers were evicted from their farms.
The land seizures were often violent, claiming the lives of several white farmers during clashes with veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation struggle.
Critics of the reforms have blamed the programme for low production on the farms as the majority of the beneficiaries lacked the means and skills to work the land.