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.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.