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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.