Zimbabwean UK GP at the center of farm invasion controversy resigns from practice, loses business

Owners: British doctor Sylvester Nyatsuro and his wife Veronica have been given a farm belonging to the Rankin family. He has refused to apologise to the Rankins, who have lost everything

A Nottingham doctor at the centre of a Zimbabwean land-grabbing row has resigned as a practising GP after his practice was put into special measures.

Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro resigned on Wednesday, the day before a damning inspection report on his surgery, the Willows Medical Centre, in Carlton, was published.

The highly critical report made by the Care Quality Commission unearthed a catalogue of failures including that an unregistered healthcare assistant staff at the practice was referred to as “doctor” and undertook diagnoses and assessments of patients.

This member of staff recorded almost 900 clinical events at the practice and undertook a number of duties which were “outside of the scope and competency of a healthcare assistant”.

Organisation of staff at the practice was described as “chaotic” and employees said there was a culture of fear and blame with staff being reprimanded or shouted at by management.

The report also found there was not enough staff to keep patients safe, with medication reviews undertaken by non-clinical staff. There was evidence which demonstrated that tasks which should have been done by a nurse were being routinely done by staff who did not have appropriate training.

Data from the national GP survey revealed that just over half of patient said they would recommend the practice to someone new to the area.

The watchdog’s report branded the surgery ‘inadequate’ overall, with individual ratings of ‘inadequate’ for its safety, management, effectiveness, and responsiveness. Its level of care was rated as “requires improvement”.

The practice, which was closed earlier this year, is expected to remain closed while NHS England works with the local clinical commissioning group to decide its future.

It has been at the centre of protests over the past year after Dr Nyatsuro was accused of seizing land from Zimbabwean tobacco farmers.

Dr Nyatsuro said the land lawfully belonged to him and his wife, Veronica, and rejected allegations that he has taken it as part of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s controversial redistribution scheme.

Dr James Hopkinson, clinical lead for NHS Nottingham North and East Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We are shocked by the CQC’s findings and we are sorry that the patients served by the Willows Medical Centre have been let down in this way. As commissioners, we also feel let down by this practice.

“What has happened is an unacceptable breach of trust and the standards of care we expect for our patients. We want to reassure patients that this is highly unusual and is not representative of the standards upheld by the overwhelming majority of our GPs and practice staff.

“Our CCG is responsible for planning effective and safe levels of care for around 150,000 people served by 21 GP practices. We are extremely grateful for the support of four other practices in the immediate area which have stepped in to make sure that the majority of the 3,600 patients registered at the Willows continue to receive the ongoing care they need.”

The CCG confirmed that it and NHS England “had received a formal resignation from Dr Nyatsuro in relation to his GP contract”.

Property: Dr Nyatsuro and his wife live at this £700,000 home with five bedrooms outside Nottingham
Property: Dr Nyatsuro and his wife live at this £700,000 home with five bedrooms outside Nottingham

Janet Williamson, deputy chief inspector of general practice and dentistry in CQC’s central region, said: “Staff confirmed they felt there were not enough staff and told us that requests for additional staff had been refused.

“The practice had no clear leadership structure, insufficient leadership capacity and limited formal governance arrangements. The provider did not have arrangements in place to ensure safe, high quality care was provided to patients and had knowingly employed a healthcare assistant to undertake medical examinations which were outside the scope of the role and for which the individual was not registered or regulated.

The Willows Medical Centre in Carlton, which has been the subject of protests over the past year
The Willows Medical Centre in Carlton, which has been the subject of protests over the past year R

“There was a culture of fear and blame within the practice and we were not assured that all significant events were reported and used as opportunities toimprove safety within the practice.

“CQC is continuing to work closely with Nottingham North and East Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England to ensure all patients of the surgery have continued access to alternative GP services in the area.

“We will continue to monitor this practice closely alongside partner agencies to check whether sustainable improvements have been made.

“If insufficient improvements have been made such that there remains a rating of inadequate for any population group, key question or overall, we will take action in line with our enforcement procedures to begin the process of preventing the provider from operating the service. This will lead to cancelling their registration or to varying the terms of their registration if they do not improve.”

The details of Dr Nyatsuro’s resignation have not been disclosed. Dr Nyatsuro was unavailable for comment.

A narration of how he became a beneficiary of Robert Mugabe’s brutal farm invasions is explained by the moment white tobacco farmers were evicted from the Zimbabwe plantation they had called home for 35 years – by AK47-wielding thugs and police acting on behalf of a wealthy British GP who lives 7,500 miles away in Nottingham.

The squad of about 20 armed men are seen seizing the property and hauling Phillip Rankin and his family away in handcuffs while the gates to the £1million, 2000-acre farm are padlocked behind them.

Some of the Rankins’ furniture and personal effects – which they had desperately grabbed before being dragged out of their home – are seen being thrown carelessly into the back of a police lorry, which is driven away by armed men while Mr Rankin looks on in disbelief on Friday.

Dumped: Phillip and Anita Rankin were forced from their farm in Zimbabwe and their belongings were piled onto a police vehicle and driven away
Dumped: Phillip and Anita Rankin were forced from their farm in Zimbabwe and their belongings were piled onto a police vehicle and driven away
Evicted: Two armed Zimbabwean police officers padlock the gates to the farm when Anita and Phillip Rankin have lived for 35 years. The land is being seized by British GP Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro
Evicted: Two armed Zimbabwean police officers padlock the gates to the farm when Anita and Phillip Rankin have lived for 35 years. The land is being seized by British GP Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro
Back-up: Armed thugs and police moved in on the 2,000 acre property, worth $1million, on behalf of a wealthy British GP who lives 7,500 miles away in Nottingham
Back-up: Armed thugs and police moved in on the 2,000 acre property, worth $1million, on behalf of a wealthy British GP who lives 7,500 miles away in Nottingham

The valuable property was seized and given to Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro, a Zimbabwean-born GP who moved to Britain in 2000 and owns a clinic specialising in weight loss techniques in Nottingham, who is understood to be close to the Mugabe regime.

Farm workers are desperately trying to save the tobacco crop that the Rankin family lovingly tended for decades, but the profits will now be going into the pocket of Dr Nyatsuro and his wife, Veronica.

The ‘land grab’ took place as part of 91-year-old dictator Robert Mugabe’s policy of handing land owned by whites to black Zimbabweans – usually as rewards to his cronies in the ruling Zanu PF party and their supporters.

This ‘land reform’ has been taking place for 16 years, with 90 per cent of white farmers being driven off their land.

Many Zimbabwean activists are questioning why the Rankins’ farm should be given to a British doctor who has made his home on another continent and is already wealthy in his own right.

Dr Nyatsuro has faced protests at his clinic in Nottingham, with more scheduled over the coming weeks.

Dr Nyatsuro and his wife, Veronica, who manages his clinic, live in a luxurious, gated Nottingham home that they bought for £730,000 in 2006. They also own a second four-bedroom home near the surgery that is understood to be rented out for ‘a comfortable sum’. They drive Mercedes sports cars.

The Rankin family have been left destitute. Anita Rankin, who farmed the tobacco fields with her husband for more than three decades, wept as she described the trauma of losing everything they own.

She told MailOnline: ‘They would come to the kitchen door and stare at us and they made so much noise. It was a very tough situation and it went on and on.

‘We don’t know where we will live or what we will do. I am born and bred on a farm. I don’t know town life. And I only know Zimbabwe.’

Family: Phillip Rankin and his wife Anita are now staying with a relative around 15 miles away from Harare
Family: Phillip Rankin and his wife Anita are now staying with a relative around 15 miles away from Harare.
Personal effects: The Rankins' belongings are seen being thrown into the back of a truck during the eviction
Personal effects: The Rankins’ belongings are seen being thrown into the back of a truck during the eviction

Under lock and key: The gates to tobacco plantation in Zimbabwe were padlocked after the Rankin family was forced off their land

Bewildered: Farm workers look on as the farm is taken over by police officers and thugs armed with guns
Bewildered: Farm workers look on as the farm is taken over by police officers and thugs armed with guns.

She and her husband are now staying with their son Barry in Harare as they contemplate how to claim back the tobacco crop they planted and move on with their lives.

They have no property beyond the farm and had borrowed a huge sum of money – £400,000 – to finance this year’s crop and manage debts from previous years.

Barry said: ‘We paid the workers their January salary [on Monday], but as for next month I just don’t know. I don’t know how we will manage any of this.’

Speaking from his new home in the capital Harare, he described how the family thought they had ‘survived’ after they held onto their land in the initial wave of confiscations by the Mugabe regime.

He hit out against the eviction, saying it ‘doesn’t make sense’ that a wealthy professional who lives in the West should be given property by the government.

‘As a family we are absolutely gutted,’ Barry told MailOnline. ‘We have been turfed off of our land and there’s nothing we can do about it. We are devastated.

‘It was our business – but more important than that, it was our home. We have never owned anything other than the farm and that’s gone in one weekend.

‘My parents have been working on the farm for 35 years. I grew up there. Those years have not all been hunky dory, we have had our ups and downs like any family, but we thought the farm would always be there.’

Owners: British doctor Sylvester Nyatsuro and his wife Veronica have been given a farm belonging to the Rankin family. He has refused to apologise to the Rankins, who have lost everything

Property: Dr Nyatsuro and his wife live at this £700,000 home with five bedrooms outside Nottingham
Property: Dr Nyatsuro and his wife live at this £700,000 home with five bedrooms outside Nottingham
Practice: Dr Nyatsuro runs The Willows Medical Centre in Nottingham, a medical and slimming clinic.

HOW MUGABE’S LAND GRABS LED TO VIOLENCE AND POVERTY

Robert Mugabe’s policy of ‘land reform’ has been running for 16 years, with 90 per cent of white farmers in Zimbabwe seeing their land taken and given to black people instead.

The government insists it is necessary to reduce the whites’ economic dominance which dates back to the colonial era – but opponents claim it is a tyrannical and unfair process which bears little relation to justice. Mugabe said that the British took the land in the 1890’s and Zimbabweans are claiming it back. Most of the land is then given to pro Zanu PF supporters.

The white farmers, many of whom have occupied the same plots for decades, were removed from their homes without compensation and often suffered violence from police during the evictions.

Around 20 farmers and their workers died during the first wave of seizures, which contributed to the country’s economic collapse as Zimbabwe’s skills base was hollowed out and the amount of crops produced tumbled.

The policy also led to allegations that Mugabe’s cronies were more likely to be given land than genuinely needy citizens.

Some suggested that the reforms were instigated as a way of distracting from the government’s failure to implement true democracy in the decades after the end of white rule, with Mugabe presiding over a series of rigged elections and ruthlessly quashing political dissent.

But the policy instead made the regime less stable, with Zimbabwe’s economic troubles causing the collapse of the local currency after a period of damaging hyperinflation.

Roughly 300 white farmers were left in possession of their land, but last year the policy of confiscation seems to have started again, threatening the last remaining holdouts such as the Rankin family in Centenary.

Barry added: ‘We have had 16 years of land acquisition in Zimbabwe and we thought we’d survived – we didn’t see this coming. We thought we had ridden our way through it, we thought we would be alright.

‘I don’t know what we are going to do. I can’t even think beyond tonight.’

Slamming the decision to give his land to Dr Nyatsuro, he added: ‘It doesn’t make sense to me, how a doctor who lives in the UK can come and take our land.

‘Land requisition was supposed to be for the landless, for the people who didn’t have anything. I thought it was for the people of Zimbawe with nothing, not for wealthy British doctors who do not live here.

‘But what do I know? I don’t know the law, I’m just a simple farmer. My parents have farmed tobacco over four decades, it is all we ever knew.’

‘It is every family’s dream to pass on their property onto their children. My parents were going to give it to me, and I was going to pass it on to my children and their children after that.’

Solicitor Nyarodzo Maphosa said she is seeking a ruling that would allow the Rankins to return to their home and carry on farming as they were before the ‘lawless’ acts on Friday.

Dr Nyatsuro apparently turned up at the Kingston Deverill plantation in September with a government document saying that he was now the rightful owner of the land.

Two dozen settlers then moved into a nearby cottage and caused problems for the family, according to Mrs Rankin, 54, who has three children with her husband.

Dr Nyatsuro, 45, who is originally from the African country, refused to apologise to the Rankins when approached for comment by MailOnline earlier this week.

He also declined to comment when leaving Bakersfield Medical Centre, less than a mile from his own practice, before driving away in his black Mercedes 4×4.

Dr Nyatsuro’s lawyer denied that his client had clashed with the Rankin family, claiming that the farmers had not been able to prove that they are the rightful owners of the land.

He also insisted that the doctor’s political connections were not responsible for his being given the farm, saying ‘any Zimbabwean has a right to benefit from the land reform programme’.

Fungai Chimwamurombe, a Harare-based solicitor, told MailOnline: ‘The government’s position is that the farm was acquired over a decade ago.

Guarded: A man  carrying a gun is pictured at the farm in Zimbabwe, which is padlocked shut and deserted

Forced out: Police officers are pictured at the Rankin family's farm in these new photos obtained by MailOnline

Salvage: A tractor was confiscated from workers but they are still at the plantation tending to the crop

Valuable: A handful of workers can be seen in the distance trying to salvage the Rankins' expensive crop

White farmers launch new land reform proposals in Zimbabwe.
At various court sessions we attended with Mr Rankin and his lawyer, they failed to show the legal basis why he was occupying the farm.

‘It is our understanding that the minister of lands offered our client the land because they believe it is state land and it is up to Mr Rankin to prove otherwise.

‘The issue here is not between our client and Mr Rankin because he is only a third party who applied generally for land years back. He was on the waiting list for a long time and was offered this state land on the strength of his application.’

The lawyer added that Dr Nyatsuro did not know that the farm was occupied by the Rankins until he went to take possession of the property allocated to him by the government.

He said: ‘It is our understanding that many Zimbabweans regardless of political affiliation benefited from the land reform programme.

‘We are not aware of their relationship status with the president… any Zimbabwean has a right to benefit from the land reform programme.’

Mr Chimwamurombe claimed that the ownership of the farm had not been finally settled because police told Dr Nyatsuro that he could not immediately move in.

Mrs Nyatsuro has denied rumours she is related to Mugabe’s wife Grace.

The couple have also denied using violence to enforce their claim to the Rankins’ farm, saying that they were allocated the property by the state in accordance with normal legal procedures.

Occupied: The couple say police have taken over their home and stopped them working on the farm

Tobacco: Mr Rankin invested £300,000 in his current tobacco crop which will be ready for harvest in August

Home: The Rankins pictured on their tobacco farm in the Centenary district of northern Zimbabwe

 

Nottingham Post and Daily Mail

 

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