Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi has lost the battle to take over part of Barquest Farm which houses the biggest chicken hatchery project here after the provincial lands committee recommended the withdrawal of his offer letter.
The minister was early this year issued with an offer letter to take over about 367 hectares of Barquest Farm owned by Mrs Hellen Mitchell.
The farm is located 20km east of Masvingo city on the shores of Lake Mutirikwi and houses a hatchery project that produces 100 000 day-old chicks per week.
Besides supplying day-old chicks to Masvingo, Barquest Farm also supplies Manicaland and Midlands provinces.
This forced the Masvingo provincial leadership, led by Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa, to bar Eng Mzembi from taking over the farm, arguing that it was strategic to the economy of the province.
Eng Mzembi defended his plans to move into Barquest Farm, saying he would not interfere with Mrs Mitchell’s chicken hatchery project but intended to partner her.
He said the portion of land allocated to him had been gazetted for compulsory acquisition under the land reform programme.
Sen Mahofa yesterday said the provincial lands committee turned down Eng Mzembi’s plans.
She said investigations were underway to establish how many farms Eng Mzembi owned in Masvingo.
“The Masvingo provincial lands committee met and agreed that Minister Mzembi should not move into Barquest Farm and a letter recommending the withdrawal of his offer letter for the land in question is being prepared and will be sent to the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement Dr Douglas Mombeshora,’’ she said.
“The only thing we can do for Minister Mzembi is to look for another farm for him but we are first investigating reports that he already has two farms with one of them said to be a conservancy on the outskirts of Masvingo.’’
Senator Mahofa said they wanted to know what happened to Minister Mzembi’s chicken farming operations at Standard A1 Farm near Stop Over business centre.
Minister Mzembi claims that he bought the farm before the start of the land redistribution exercise.
Acting Masvingo provincial chief lands officer Mr Fortune Chimbishi refused to shed light on Minister Mzembi’s future at Barquest Farm only saying they were going to look for another farm in Masvingo for allocation to the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister.
A few years ago, Zimbabwe chiefs’ council president Chief Fortune Charumbira attempted to take over Barquest Farm but was stopped after the provincial leadership said the property was of strategic importance to Masvingo province.