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A Bush Beauty

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Passionate about culture

Since winning the Miss Botswana crown in 1975, Lucy Hinchliffe never looked back. Her crowning as the most beautiful girl in the country set the tone for her life and she went on a pursuit of success and self-actualization.

However unlike vain teenagers who get consumed by their own beauty, Hinchliffe was never shy to get her hands dirty.

She looked beyond her own good looks and proved herself as a capable businesswoman in both events management and agriculture.

After setting up a successful events management company called Business Centre which operated for many years at the then Gaborone Sun and Grand Palm she got tired of the city life and decided to go back to her home village in Marobela. Today she runs one of the fastest growing annual cultural event called Zhizha at her farm.

Voice reporter Kabelo Dipholo visited her at her farm to find out why this former beauty queen abandoned the city lights for a bush life.

Q. You were once a city girl, travelling with government officials as Miss Botswana. Today you are a farmer, staying in the bush; which is in sharp contrast to the city life. Why did you opt for farm life?

A. I applied for this piece of land while I was still based in Gaborone and leased it for integrated farming. I did one big event in Gaborone and they paid me well, I invested the money on the farm and started building traditional houses. When I started farming my husband thought I was crazy because there was no water and I had to drive kilometers to fetch water in Marobela. I have always been a hands on person and I was raised the traditional way by my parents, so coming to set up my life here in Kuminda farm was a logical choice.

Q. How was life in Gaborone back then?

A. I came to Gaborone in 1978 and witnessed the city growing from a small bush town. Then there was only Gaborone Hotel, Holiday Inn, Notwane Club and African Mall. We moved freely as there was no crime. You could actually go and watch The Scarrers at Notwane Club and walk back to Extension 14 or white city with no one bothering you.

Q. You ran a successful business at two major hotels in Gaborone. Why did you leave the business?

A. The business did very well until I got two partners. We could not agree on the direction the company should take so I left the business to start Kuminda farm.

Q. You could have applied for a farm anywhere in the country, is there any particular reason why you chose this place?

A. I was born here, my umbilical cord is somewhere around here. My parents stayed here, they left in 1959 when I was just five years old to settle in Sebina. This is a beautiful place, its beauty inspires me to think and brainstorm ideas on how I could take advantage of it. I started with vegetables such as tomatoes and hired one lady called Mma K to help me build mud huts. She was so passionate about mud huts and had rare talent. May her soul rest in peace.

Q. What plans do you have for Kuminda farm?

A. I have so many plans for this farm, it has become quite a likeable place for a lot of people and I want to use that to turn it into something bigger. I have hosted international students on cultural expeditions. I brought four chickens into the farm a few years ago and today I believe they are well over 300. This inspired me and I recently brought in goats. I want to move into agro-tourism, I’m trying everything, I grow chilli, corn, sweet potatoes and recently I began growing garlic. The farm has also attracted some people who want to host their events here. I have people asking me if they could come for their retreats and wellness day here.

Q. Is the farm available for such requests?

A. If its something decent I don’t have a problem. I however cannot allow rowdiness because this is my home. I can use this place for educational purpose. I could take young people on bush tours to show them some of the wild plants, edible roots we used to eat. There is Group in the United Kingdom called World Challenge, they send students on cultural expeditions and Kuminda is ready to host these students every time they come here. My passion is to serve people and to empower women.

Q. Kuminda farm also hosts the annual Zhizha Cultural Festival. How did you come up with such an idea?

A. Zhizha was inspired by the annual Domboshaba event. I attended Domoshaba regularly and I liked what I saw. I then decided to make something similar but a smaller scale because Domboshaba is such a huge event. The first thing that caught my eye was the talent shown by little known traditional groups. I wanted to use this event to further give them exposure. Zhizha celebrate this unique talent, raw talent which ahs not gone commercial. I had to come up with names, and I had names like ‘E ke ntolo’ but finally settled for ‘Letlhafula’ (Zhizha).

Q. You first hosted Zhizha in 2013 April. How did it go?

A. It was one of the worst days of my life, an absolute failure. Only four people bought tickets and when time passed and I realised no one was coming I went to the village and invited my neighbours and villagers in Marobela for lunch. We lost big but it did not stop me from marching on. I persevered despite this earlier set back. It took guts to host another event the following year after such failure but we did it anyway. About 80 people bought tickets and we got lucky that we received a delegation from the city of Genk. The Genk Mayor and his delegation came here with the Francistown delegation. They shared pictures on their website and today people in Genk know about Zhizha at Kuminda farm. In 2015 the turn up was ok. We had applied for sponsorship from the Culture department which was declined.

Q. What can people expect from the 2016 installment?

A. This year it is going to be totally different. We have gone all out to ensure that we leave a lasting impression to our guests. We have received sponsorship from the ministry and a few private companies. We have invited a traditional group from Okavango called Qangwa and together with Ikalanga and Tswana poets I believe we are going to have a mind blowing experience.

Q. In 1975 you were crowned the most beautiful lady in the country. Take us back and share with us the memories of that special night.

A. It was a wonderful evening for me. I know today that being crowned Miss Botswana opened many doors for me. I would never have achieved some of the things I did if I had not won the crown. I used that opportunity to serve people and in the process explore business opportunities.

Q. What was the queen’s present?

A. I was given P500. It was a lot of money back then and a lot of people envied me.

Q. Did you represent the country at Miss World Finals?

A. No I did not because just when I was getting ready to, I was told I could not take part in the pageant because I was a mother. I did not attempt to fight the decision, in fact I had no problem with it, I was happy with what I had achieved.

Q. What is your best memory of being Miss Botswana?

A. The most memorable thing as Miss Botswana was shaking the hand of President Seretse Khama. It was such an overwhelming experience.

Q. It was such a pleasure talking to you. It’s a Friday what do have planned for the weekend?

A. I’ll be welcoming Zhizha guests on Saturday. It is going to be a great event and I want to enjoy with the rest of the community.