Two men stand by the the gates of a farm which they seized from white farmers in Chegutu 120km south west of Harare on April 17, 2009. Farmers in the area told officials that there had been disruptions on 17 farms since January. President Robert Mugabe on April 17, 2009 denied that farm invasions were taking place in Zimbabwe but vowed to continue land reforms, as the country's unity government launched a probe into fresh grabs. AFP PHOTO / Desmond Kwande / AFP / DESMOND KWANDE

Harare - A white Zimbabwean tobacco farmer who was arrested on Friday has finally given up trying to remain on his farm after his land was awarded to a Zimbabwe-born British doctor last year.

About 20 uniformed policemen dug under the security fence around Phil Rankin’s farm before dawn on Friday, forced their way into his house, took all his furniture and loaded it into two trucks, handcuffed him and took him to a police station in another district.

Rankin, 57, has struggled to remain on the farm he bought in 1985 since he was invaded in September last year and told that Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro had been awarded his tobacco farm by the Lands Ministry.

He said three weeks ago he would be happy to move off his farm if the British government paid him compensation.

Nyatsuro left Zimbabwe after political disturbances began in 2000 and became a British citizen. He now runs a slimming clinic with other medical personnel in Nottingham, England.

He was awarded the farm by the Lands Ministry and went to it with his wife and government officials late last year.

Two weeks later, about 20 unemployed young men moved into a cottage on the farm, where they remained, often holding parties through the night.

The Rankin family are devastated.

Barry Rankin, 32, the elder son who helped run the farm, said: “I don’t know what we will do about the tobacco crop we planted. We borrowed a fantastic amount of money to grow this crop. We have nowhere to go to, no other home, no jobs, nothing.”

He said he moved his wife and children off late last year, and on Sunday was packing up his possessions.

“My parents’ furniture, including the piano, was badly damaged. It’s all over for us,” Barry added.

The Rankins bought the farm, Kingston, in 1985 and gave three-quarters of it away to “settlers” after land invasions began in 2000.

Phil Rankin remained in control of a small section, built a new dam to replace the one taken from him, and borrowed more then R2 million last year to grow 48-hectares of tobacco this season. The crop would only be ready for sale in August.

About 40 full-time workers are employed by the Rankins as well as 20 part-timers during the season.

“We don’t now what will happen to them, they were so loyal to us,” said Phil.

Nyarodzoh Maposa, the Rankins’ lawyer, said she was at the farm early on Friday. “I am a witness to all of this. It was all lawless and disgraceful.”

Nyatsuro and his wife Veronica, who runs a slimming practice in the UK, have both refused to answer questions emailed to them three weeks ago. They also refused to take phone calls.

There are about 300 white farmers left in Zimbabwe, most of whom remain in control of about 10 percent of their original land-holding.

More then 3 000 of them were evicted without compensation, even for personal possessions, since the accelerated land reform programme began after President Robert Mugabe lost a referendum, his first political defeat.

The Zimbabwean constitution says the British must pay for the land - the small part of the compensation plan - but the government must pay for improvements to the farm.

Independent Foreign Service