BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s projected winter wheat harvest has been severely cut after the government failed to stop an invasion by quelea birds at his Kwekwe farm because authorities bought a wrong chemical to quell the menace.
Mnangagwa’s projected harvest has been reduced to about seven tonnes per hectare from the original projection of 10 tonnes/ha after quelea birds went out of control, officials familiar with the issue have told The Standard.
This publication has obtained a video of Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka where he revealed that the government was duped into buying a wrong chemical from an undisclosed supplier.
Masuka was speaking during a tour to assess the damage at Mnangagwa’s Precab Farm in Sherwood near the City of Kwekwe recently.
He said when the government put out a tender for the procurement of chemicals to control the birds, a supplier provided samples that were approved.
The minister said the person went onto supply the chemicals that were used at Mnangagwa’s farm, but they did not kill the birds that went on to cause serious damage on the crop.
“On a sad note, when the government tendered for the procurement of the chemical to control the birds, the supplier provided a sample that was within specifications, however, when the bulk of the chemical was presented and utilised, we noted it was [not] efficacious,” he said.
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“Our tracking team, the scientists have found out that the chemical was indeed wrong, this is sabotage at a national level and we are tracking that.”
He did not disclose the amount of money the government lost through the deal, but described the actions of the supplier as sabotage and a threat to national security.
“This is sabotage and a national security threat and we are looking into that,” Masuka said.
“As a stop-gap (measure), we have airlifted additional chemicals from China and we are expecting the chemicals.
“We have limited chemicals in stock and, therefore, we are now going to use drones to control these birds.
“At a national level, we have heard of the reports on these birds in Headlands, Rusape and in Bindura.
“So, we are activating the national team to be able to respond timeously.
“We urge farmers to report the occurrence of these birds and also to note the roosting places.”
Masuka said the government had since bought more chemicals from China to control the quelea birds.
“We also have some bird repellent, which is available, although on some of the labels, the chemical is indicated as having expired, our scientists have tested and found that the chemical’s active ingredient is still useful and efficacious,” he said.
“We urge farmers to use double the rate of the bird repellent, ant anthraquinone and also to spray twice a week, we need to be on top of the situation, we need to protect every grain and it takes all of us.”
Masuka was not picking calls yesterday when The Standard tried to seek further clarifications about the controversial tender.
Officials from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and government disclosed that the country only had a one 50kg bag of the chemical that was used at Mnangagwa’s farm, but was inadequate to control the birds.
Agriculture ministry permanent secretary John Bhasera last week disclosed that the birds were now under control after a chemical imported from China was used to spray the birds’ roosting place.
Bhasera admitted the government was caught unprepared.