From George Maponga in MASVINGO
MASVINGO Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa has barred Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi from taking over part of Barquest Farm, which is home to the province’s largest hatchery project that produces 100 000 day-old chicks per week.

The farm, owned by Mrs Hellen Mitchell is located near Lake Mutirikwi, about 20km east of Masvingo city.

Minister Mzembi wanted to partner Mrs Mitchell in the hatchery project after he was issued with an offer letter for about 370 hectares of land at Barquest Farm that was gazetted for acquisition under the land reform programme a few years ago.

On Thursday, Sen Mahofa said Minister Mzembi was not supposed to take over the farm as it was strategic to Masvingo province in terms of supply of chicks and eggs.

Mrs Mitchell also supplies Manicaland and Midlands provinces.

Sen Mahofa said she had already informed officials in the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement in Masvingo to identify another farm for Minister Mzembi.

She said other senior officials in the province like Zimbabwe Chiefs’ Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira wanted to take over the farm a few years ago but were stopped because of its strategic importance to Masvingo.

“We are not saying Minister Mzembi should not get a farm but the farm he was allocated (Barquest) is strategic to the province (Masvingo) because it supplies day old chicks that sustain lives of many ordinary people,’’ she said.

She said Cde Mzembi would be allocated another farm once it has been identified and that Ministry of Lands officials have since been notified that Barquest Farm could not be taken over.

Sen Mahofa said the Masvingo provincial leadership would not tolerate take-over of productive farms that benefit the majority of the people.

“I think there was a mistake on the part of Cde Bhasikiti (former Masvingo provincial affairs minister) when he allowed Minister Mzembi to get an offer letter for Barquest Farm. Maybe he did not know the history behind it,’’ she said.

Minister Mzembi said he wanted to co-exist with Mrs Mitchell at Barquest, saying his offer letter was for part of the farm that was gazetted.

“I have my own equipment (hatchery) that is on the seas and I have no intention of taking anyone’s equipment. My offer letter is for an area that was gazetted.

“I am a Zimbabwean who is also entitled to land like any other person,’’ said Minister Mzembi.

Mrs Mitchell had allegedly been given three months to cease operations at her farm which would have left more than 200 workers at Barquest jobless while also threatening future supplies of day-old chicks across Masvingo province and beyond.