THE Zimbabwe Republic Police has distanced itself from the eviction of an elderly Centenary farmer who was forced off his property at gunpoint by police officers.
Philip Rankin had been resisting attempts by a Zimbabwe-born British doctor Sylvester Nyatsuro to remove him from Kingston Deverill farm, until the violent eviction on January 29.
Truckloads of heavily-armed security details from the crack Harare-based Support Unit battalion allegedly swarmed Rankin’s farm and forcibly loaded a few of his belongings onto a truck before “arresting him”.
“I was taken to Bindura police headquarters before being transferred to a district police station in the town,” Rankin told The Standard.
“However, police [at the station] refused to take me in before I was bundled into a truck to Concession, but again they [police at Concession] could not detain me,” Rankin said.
Mashonaland Central police said they were not involved in the eviction.
“We have never been involved in that issue and do not have personnel at that farm in any capacity.
“We know nothing about that,” Mashonaland Central police spokesperson Milton Mundembe said on Friday.
There are allegations that Nyatsuro is related to First Lady Grace Mugabe. The British embassy in Harare said it was aware of Nyatsuro’s activities in Zimbabwe.
“We are aware of allegations that the beneficiary of this invasion may be a British citizen,” the embassy said.
“We will consider what further action can be taken.
“We are closely following this case. Our officials visited the farm today and have been in regular contact with both Mr Rankin and senior Zimbabwean government officials. We are concerned the law has not been followed and disruption has been caused to a farm employing 80 staff.
“We have called for the end of the occupation of the farm and for the authorities to follow due process, as described by the Zimbabwean Constitution in this case.”
Meanwhile, a UK-based lobby group — Zimbabwe Vigil Diary — has launched a petition urging Prime Minister David Cameron to rein in Nyatsuro.
A terrified Rankin refused to say much about his ordeal last week.
However, he disclosed that he had been allowed to reap his 200-hectare tobacco crop.
“We have been allowed to reap our crop, but the situation is still tense and I would rather not say much at the moment. I am taking instructions from my lawyers,” Rankin said.
Rankin bought the farm 35 years ago, but had to watch in horror as AK47-wielding military servicemen with support from political activists sang liberation war songs on Nottingham-based Nyatsuro’s behalf.
The government says the land reform programme that displaced close to 4 000 commercial farms is over, but there are reports of continued land invasions across the country.