Haunting images of tobacco plantation seized from white farmers by 'Mugabe thugs' in Zimbabwe and given to British GP show 'pathetic' crop and eerie, deserted outbuildings

This post was originally published here
  • Phillip and Anita Rankin were turfed off their Zimbabwe farm by thugs working for Mugabe February last year 
  • The family’s treasured belongings were dumped into the back of lorry and driven away by bailiffs with AK47s
  • Rankins had called Kingston Farm tobacco plantation in Centenary 123km north of Harare home for 35 years 
  • Their farm was seized and given to British doctor Sylvester Nyatsuro and wife Veronica, friends of Mugabe 
  • The Rankins claim the once thriving farm now lies empty, eerily quiet and none of the workers have been paid
  • Couple, who are staying with a friend, say they have been left with no money and their lives have been ruined  

Peta Thornycroft In Zimbabwe For Mailonline

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 lies empty.

Six foot tall tobacco plants which were lovingly tended to by 40 staff last year have been replaced by weeds and the swish of water pumping onto crops is no more.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.

Deserted: A once thriving tobacco farm where a white Zimbabwean farmer and his wife lived for 35 years before being turfed out by a black British doctor as part of President Mugabe's land grab now lies ailing and derelict (above)
Deserted: A once thriving tobacco farm where a white Zimbabwean farmer and his wife lived for 35 years before being turfed out by a black British doctor as part of President Mugabe's land grab now lies ailing and derelict (above)

Deserted: A once thriving tobacco farm where a white Zimbabwean farmer and his wife lived for 35 years before being turfed out by a black British doctor as part of President Mugabe’s land grab now lies ailing and derelict (above)


Abandoned: The seizure of the farm last January was among the most controversial ‘land grabs’ of blacks against white farmers since president Robert Mugabe began seizing land when he feared election defeat in 2000

Destitute: Experienced workers who stayed on the farm have blasted the current crop being grown by Nyatsuro. One said: 'There is a small tobacco seed bed, but it is far too late to plant tobacco now.' The six foot tall tobacco plants the Rankins and their staff lovingly tended  only last year have  been replaced by weeds
Destitute: Experienced workers who stayed on the farm have blasted the current crop being grown by Nyatsuro. One said: 'There is a small tobacco seed bed, but it is far too late to plant tobacco now.' The six foot tall tobacco plants the Rankins and their staff lovingly tended  only last year have  been replaced by weeds

Destitute: Experienced workers who stayed on the farm have blasted the current crop being grown by Nyatsuro. One said: ‘There is a small tobacco seed bed, but it is far too late to plant tobacco now.’ The six foot tall tobacco plants the Rankins and their staff lovingly tended only last year have been replaced by weeds

Disused: The Rankins' world and livelihood was destroyed by Nyatsuro, a privileged, well-educated doctor from Zimbabwe's elite after they were forcibly removed from their farm (above)
Disused: The Rankins' world and livelihood was destroyed by Nyatsuro, a privileged, well-educated doctor from Zimbabwe's elite after they were forcibly removed from their farm (above)

Disused: The Rankins’ world and livelihood was destroyed by Nyatsuro, a privileged, well-educated doctor from Zimbabwe’s elite after they were forcibly removed from their farm (above)

Derelict: The lack of crops - particularly tobacco - is a hallmark of what happened on many properties after Mugabe first encouraged land invasions against whites more than a decade ago
Derelict: The lack of crops - particularly tobacco - is a hallmark of what happened on many properties after Mugabe first encouraged land invasions against whites more than a decade ago

Derelict: The lack of crops – particularly tobacco – is a hallmark of what happened on many properties after Mugabe first encouraged land invasions against whites more than a decade ago

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 GP 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 12 months 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 President Mugabe began seizing properties, including farm equipment and even personal possessions.

Run down: The farm is now being managed by Nyasuro's brother-in-law, although farmers in the area say little work has been done on the site since the Rankins left, and many of the brick buildings are slowly crumbling into nothing
Run down: The farm is now being managed by Nyasuro's brother-in-law, although farmers in the area say little work has been done on the site since the Rankins left, and many of the brick buildings are slowly crumbling into nothing

Run down: The farm is now being managed by Nyasuro’s brother-in-law, although farmers in the area say little work has been done on the site since the Rankins left, and many of the brick buildings are slowly crumbling into nothing

Eviction: A team of hired thugs arrived at the property with police just after dawn and forcibly moved the couple from their homestead. With their lives ruined and livelihood taken from them, they were forced to move in with another white farming family, where they remain today
Eviction: A team of hired thugs arrived at the property with police just after dawn and forcibly moved the couple from their homestead. With their lives ruined and livelihood taken from them, they were forced to move in with another white farming family, where they remain today

Eviction: A team of hired thugs arrived at the property with police just after dawn and forcibly moved the couple from their homestead. With their lives ruined and livelihood taken from them, they were forced to move in with another white farming family, where they remain today

Lifeless: Officials from Harare hurled the Rankins' furniture, kitchen equipment and treasured possessions onto 30 tonne trucks and took it to a temporary shelter. Mr Rankin told MailOnline: 'So many things were broken in that. It was a nightmare'
Lifeless: Officials from Harare hurled the Rankins' furniture, kitchen equipment and treasured possessions onto 30 tonne trucks and took it to a temporary shelter. Mr Rankin told MailOnline: 'So many things were broken in that. It was a nightmare'

Lifeless: Officials from Harare hurled the Rankins’ furniture, kitchen equipment and treasured possessions onto 30 tonne trucks and took it to a temporary shelter. Mr Rankin told MailOnline: ‘So many things were broken in that. It was a nightmare’

Mistreatment: On the day the farm was reclaimed the police kept Mr Rankin with them, eventually abandoning him at a police station far from the family home. Pictured: The fences and farm equipment slowly erodes in this once prosperous farm
Mistreatment: On the day the farm was reclaimed the police kept Mr Rankin with them, eventually abandoning him at a police station far from the family home. Pictured: The fences and farm equipment slowly erodes in this once prosperous farm

Mistreatment: On the day the farm was reclaimed the police kept Mr Rankin with them, eventually abandoning him at a police station far from the family home. Pictured: The fences and farm equipment slowly erodes in this once prosperous farm

Pathetic crop: The Rankins stayed with friends near Harare while they went to court to try and win their farm back. Even though they succeeded, the police refused to execute the court order and now they live in a spare house owned by another white farming couple. Pictured: Very little grows on the Rankin's lush farm
Pathetic crop: The Rankins stayed with friends near Harare while they went to court to try and win their farm back. Even though they succeeded, the police refused to execute the court order and now they live in a spare house owned by another white farming couple. Pictured: Very little grows on the Rankin's lush farm

Pathetic crop: The Rankins stayed with friends near Harare while they went to court to try and win their farm back. Even though they succeeded, the police refused to execute the court order and now they live in a spare house owned by another white farming couple. Pictured: Very little grows on the Rankin’s lush farm

Policed: Since the Rankins were turfed out of the farm in January last year, it has been guarded by the Zimbabwe Republic Police on behalf of Nyatsuro, who has no farming experience. Pictured: The ailing crop which were planted too late
Policed: Since the Rankins were turfed out of the farm in January last year, it has been guarded by the Zimbabwe Republic Police on behalf of Nyatsuro, who has no farming experience. Pictured: The ailing crop which were planted too late

Policed: Since the Rankins were turfed out of the farm in January last year, it has been guarded by the Zimbabwe Republic Police on behalf of Nyatsuro, who has no farming experience. Pictured: The ailing crop which were planted too late

Fruitful crop: Phillip and Anita Rankin, pictured (above) during happier times with a bountiful tobacco crop, say their lives have been ruined since they were forcibly removed by bailiffs and police
Fruitful crop: Phillip and Anita Rankin, pictured (above) during happier times with a bountiful tobacco crop, say their lives have been ruined since they were forcibly removed by bailiffs and police

Fruitful crop: Phillip and Anita Rankin, pictured (above) during happier times with a bountiful tobacco crop, say their lives have been ruined since they were forcibly removed by bailiffs and police

A team of hired thugs arrived at the property with police just after dawn and forcibly moved the couple from their homestead.

Bailiffs and a squad of police officers brought in from the capital Harare, hurled the Rankins’ furniture, kitchen equipment and treasured possessions onto 30 tonne trucks and took them to a temporary shelter.

The police drove Mr Rankin around much of the day and eventually abandoned him at a police station far from their family home.

British GP: Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro sold his surgery in Nottingham before Christmas after criticism from the CQC and is believed to be back in Zimbabwe
British GP: Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro sold his surgery in Nottingham before Christmas after criticism from the CQC and is believed to be back in Zimbabwe

British GP: Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro sold his surgery in Nottingham before Christmas after criticism from the CQC and is believed to be back in Zimbabwe

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,’ Mr 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,’ Mr 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.’

Mr 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.

Ruined: A year on from their torment the Rankins have told MailOnline how they are financially destitute by losing the farm. Their equipment and treasured possessions were flung into the back of a 30- tonne flatbed truck and the couple are living in the spare room of a friend
Ruined: A year on from their torment the Rankins have told MailOnline how they are financially destitute by losing the farm. Their equipment and treasured possessions were flung into the back of a 30- tonne flatbed truck and the couple are living in the spare room of a friend

Ruined: A year on from their torment the Rankins have told MailOnline how they are financially destitute by losing the farm. Their equipment and treasured possessions were flung into the back of a 30- tonne flatbed truck and the couple are living in the spare room of a friend

Power couple: Father of three Nyatsuro, 48, moved to the UK in 2001 with his wife Veronica, who is friend of President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace 
Power couple: Father of three Nyatsuro, 48, moved to the UK in 2001 with his wife Veronica, who is friend of President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace 

Power couple: Father of three Nyatsuro, 48, moved to the UK in 2001 with his wife Veronica, who is friend of President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace 

Under investigation: Nyatsuro resigned after his practice was put into special measures following a damning inspection report on his Nottingham surgery the Willows Medical Centre was published
Under investigation: Nyatsuro resigned after his practice was put into special measures following a damning inspection report on his Nottingham surgery the Willows Medical Centre was published

Under investigation: Nyatsuro resigned after his practice was put into special measures following a damning inspection report on his Nottingham surgery the Willows Medical Centre was published

Family home: Nyatsuro sent his children to private school. The family lived in a five-bedroom, detached home in Nottingham bought for £730,000 in 2006, pictured
Family home: Nyatsuro sent his children to private school. The family lived in a five-bedroom, detached home in Nottingham bought for £730,000 in 2006, pictured

Family home: Nyatsuro sent his children to private school. The family lived in a five-bedroom, detached home in Nottingham bought for £730,000 in 2006, pictured

‘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.’

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 told MailOnline.

Back at their former farm, experienced workers blasted the current crop being grown by Nyatsuro.

‘That maize is pathetic, 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.

How it once looked: The plantation was once prosperous with around 40 workers tending to the six feet tall crop - but since the Rankins left those plants have been replaced by weeds 
How it once looked: The plantation was once prosperous with around 40 workers tending to the six feet tall crop - but since the Rankins left those plants have been replaced by weeds 

How it once looked: The plantation was once prosperous with around 40 workers tending to the six feet tall crop – but since the Rankins left those plants have been replaced by weeds 

A team of hired thugs (above) arrived  with police last January and forcibly moved the couple from their homestead. The Rankins' furniture, kitchen equipment and treasured possessions were hurled onto 30 tonne trucks and taken away
A team of hired thugs (above) arrived  with police last January and forcibly moved the couple from their homestead. The Rankins' furniture, kitchen equipment and treasured possessions were hurled onto 30 tonne trucks and taken away

A team of hired thugs (above) arrived with police last January and forcibly moved the couple from their homestead. The Rankins’ furniture, kitchen equipment and treasured possessions were hurled onto 30 tonne trucks and taken away

Happier times: Phillip Rankin, who tended to the farm before his eviction, shows some of the tobacco crop at their Kingston Farm in Centenary. Some of the workers who remained on the farm  claim 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'
Happier times: Phillip Rankin, who tended to the farm before his eviction, shows some of the tobacco crop at their Kingston Farm in Centenary. Some of the workers who remained on the farm  claim 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'

Happier times: Phillip Rankin, who tended to the farm before his eviction, shows some of the tobacco crop at their Kingston Farm in Centenary. Some of the workers who remained on the farm  claim 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’

Land grab: The farm's seizure, 123km north of the capital Harare, echoses the land grab invasions encouraged by Robert Mugabe defeat in 2000

Land grab: The farm’s seizure, 123km north of the capital Harare, echoses the land grab invasions encouraged by Robert Mugabe defeat in 2000

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 (CQC) unearthed a catalogue of failures at the ‘chaotic surgery,’ where a healthcare assistant posed as a doctor. 

His lawyer Fungai Chimwamurombe told MailOnline that Dr Nyatsuro had legally taken possession of the Rankins’ home.