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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.