The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs have resolved at a party caucus meeting last week that cabinet should consider re-opening Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) abattoirs in Francistown and Maun in a bid to appease farmers countrywide ahead of next year’s general elections.
Records compiled at the recent closed meeting of the BDP, seen by this publication, suggest that the party intends to go into 2019 elections leaving nothing to chances. It is apparent from the evidence that the BDP will fight with everything to soothe the souls of Batswana, precisely, farmers to see their popular vote going up from last election’s 47 percent.
According to the compilation, some party MPs, especially from regions synonymous with pastoral farming bluntly told President Mokgweetsi Masisi that the upcoming elections will not be an easy on the BDP as some in the party may think. This fear has forced the party leadership to approve a robust ‘dirty’ electioneering grand-plan. Part of the plan which has been highlighted as urgent is the resuscitation of the beef sector.
The party has already pleaded with the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia to hasten with the implementation of the plan. The first part of the strategy is the re-opening of the Maun and Francistown abattoir before the elections next year.
“A number of MPs are worried that constituents are neglected as a result of the closure of the abattoirs and since we want to retain power, we wanted them to be opened for the benefit of Batswana. The party leadership has since welcomed that,” one of the MPs told WeekendPost.
However, this position is not shared by the Minister of Agriculture, Ralotsia, who believes that re-opening of the BMC abattoirs should not only be determined by the desire to appease farmers, but other factors should be considered as well. “While we want the abattoirs to be opened, there are economic dictators that called for the closure. In Francistown for example, it is the issue of inefficiencies like cost of operations superseding the investment. This is so because there is lower supply of cattle,” he said.
“In Maun it is the matter of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak. So reasons not to open are scientific as you may know that we are complying with a number of international standards to export our beef,” Ralotsia said. Maun East MP, Kosta Markus and Kgalagadi South MP, Frans Van Der Westhuizen are reported to be among those who suggested the idea to the party. This, they say, came as a result of their constituents being concerned by the negligence they suffer despite pastoral farming being their main source of income.
The idea to resuscitate the closed facilities comes as the party wants to win all the Maun and Ngamiland constituencies. The perennial victory by the opposition in some Francistown, Maun and Kgalagadi constituencies has also coerced the ruling party to consider re-opening the abattoirs.
The Maun abattoir which was closed down after the outbreak of the FMD has slaughtering capacity of 120 cattle per day but after the outbreak, it only killed 106-110 cattle per day. Last year the abattoir failed to reach its yearly target of 29 000 cattle slaughtered but only managed 18 000. The plant reduced their target to 24 000.
BMC ceased its Francistown operations citing that it was struggling to attain operational efficiency owing to the low level of cattle supply from the farmers. The abattoir has been struggling with annual slaughter, at times as low as 10,000 or less. Failure to open the two abattoirs, the party has told Ralotsia, will result in the liberalisation of the beef sector and see more players taking part. Government recently took a decision to privatize the BMC. The privatization is expected to be in full swing very soon.
Cabinet has already agreed to reform Botswana’s beef sector following calls by farmers in the past few years to allow for more players in the sector. The interesting part of the reforms is the introduction of the beef regulator. “This will go a long way as the decision will help small farmers, since 80 percent of beef producers are small farmers.”
BMC has been protected from export competition, with several privately owned and local council abattoirs, as well as a large number of local butcheries that undertake slaughter having been restricted to supply only the domestic market. The BMC Act gave BMC monopoly over the export of beef and related products and also prohibited the export of live cattle. The EU quota – which is specific to Botswana – also means that the BMC always faced little or no competition in the EU from other beef exporting countries. Despite the monopoly and all these privileges, the BMC continued to experience both administration and efficiency problems.
BMC CEO, Dr Akolang Tombale prior to approaching the ministry over privatisation, said, they had satisfied themselves that with establishment of the beef regulator, there would be no negative impact brought about by liberalisation of the beef industry in Botswana. The BMC CEO had said the liberalisation of beef industry in Botswana did not necessarily mean immediate success for the industry since Botswana remains a small player in the beef market. He said what the BMC has done was to focus on the niche market and benchmarked against Namibia which is producing the same amount of beef as Botswana.
Government has been resisting calls by farmers to liberalise the beef industry. Since independence, government through BMC has been the only entity authorized to run an abattoir that exports beef to other countries. The idea of liberalization of BMC came about in 2013, when Ghanzi Farmers Association garnered support at the Otse Meeting of farmers associations, resulting in the Letsema Resolution, requesting government to bring to an end BMC monopoly.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katholo has revealed why he took a decision to engage private lawyers against the State. The DCEC boss engaged Monthe and Marumo Attorneys in his application to interdict the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing files and dockets in the custody of the corruption busting agency.
In his affidavit, Katholo says that by virtue of my appointment as the Director General of the DCEC, he is obliged to defend the administration and operational activities of the DCEC. He added that, “I have however been advised about a provision in the State Proceedings Act which grants the authority of public institution to undertake legal proceedings to the Attorney General.” Katholo contends that the provision is not absolute and the High Court may in the exercise of its original jurisdiction permit such, like in this circumstance authorise such proceedings to be instituted by the DCEC or its Director General.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has gone through transformation over the years, with new faces coming and going, but some figures have become part and parcel of the furniture at Tsholetsa House. From founding in 1962, BDP has seen five leaders changing the baton during the party’s 60 years of existence. The party has successfully contested 12 general elections, albeit the outcome of the last polls were disputed in court.
While party splits were not synonymous with the BDP for the better part of its existence, the party suffered two splits in the last 12 years; the first in 2010 when a Barataphathi faction broke ranks to found the now defunct Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). The Barataphathi faction was in the main protesting the ill-treatment of then recently elected party secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi, who had been suspended ostensibly for challenging the authority of then president, Ian Khama.
Mr Abdoola has known Mr. Uzair Razi for many years from the time he was a young boy. Uzair’s father, Mr Razi Ahmed, was the head of BCCI Bank in Botswana and “a very good man,” his close associates say.
Uzair and his wife went to settle in Dubai, the latter’s birthplace. He stayed in touch and was working for a real estate company owned by Mr. Sameer Lakhani. “Our understanding is that Uzair approached Mr. Abdoola to utilize their services for any property-related interests in Dubai. He did some work for Mr.Abdoola and others in the Botswana business community,” narrates a friend of Mr Abdoola.