The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) is failing to service two loans drawn from the Public Debt Service Fund.
“While it is common cause that the Botswana Meat Commission has financial constraints which render it difficult to honour its loan repayments obligations, I am still not aware what arrangements have been agreed to deal with these loans. As in the previous year, the repayment instalment due in the year under review has not been paid,” writes the Auditor General in his latest report.
He writes that the Botswana Meat Commission holds two loans from the Fund totalling P354 000 000, and is currently not able to honour the repayment instalments due on one loan because of financial constraints plaguing the Commission. He is of the view that the interest income is therefore understated to the extent of the interest element on the unpaid instalment when due.
The Auditor General notes that during the 54th meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, in acknowledging the Commission’s difficulty in meeting repayment obligations to the Fund under these loans, the Accounting Officer had informed the Committee that Government would continue to assist the Commission to improve its financial position, but did not state what action was proposed to be taken in respect of existing obligations under these loans, Accountant General observed.
Furthermore the Accountant General said the Government equity contributions to Botswana Meat Commission and Botswana Vaccine Institute totaling P545 000 000 should not have been reflected against the accounts of the Fund, as being more appropriate to the Domestic Development Fund.
Privatisation is the solution
The Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr Patrick Ralotsia, has repeatedly indicated that government has come up with a resolution to privatise Lobatse abattoir with its shares being split between government and private sector. Ralotsia has already briefed Cabinet on the current situation at BMC to find solutions to BMC’s poor performance. The minister stated that a directive was issued by Cabinet outlining resolutions following discussions to solve BMC situation.
This included keeping the Maun abattoir as a government entity, as an insurance for Batswana that government would keep buying from them. This will sustain the industry so that it does not collapse. He has also noted that an expression of interest would be issued out for the Francistown abattoir. Lobatse abattoir is expected to slaughter 650 animals a day, Francistown 380 a day and Maun 120 a day. However the Francistown plant with its infrastructure designed to slaughter over 300 animals a day could only do 70.
He said government’s decision to keep the Maun abattoir was meant to Mr Ralotsia said they agreed that the little that Lobatse benefited would be distributed to the other two abattoirs but was proving to be unsustainable due to the current financial situation. The BMC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Akolang Tombale has also called for the privatization of the embattled parastatal in order to allow for other players to compete in the market. Tombale said this at the last meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises.
According to Tombale, liberalising the meat market will allow more players into the industry and they will be pivotal to the government’s diversification strategy. He is of the view that Botswana should take a leaf from Namibia and invite more players into the industry. BMC management is not amused by developments at the BMC abattoirs at Maun and Francistown which negatively impact on the parastatals’ financials.
“Run commercially, BMC cannot operate both Francistown and Lobatse together especially for European Union (EU) market. BMC Francistown and Maun now solely depends solely on BMC Lobatse for financial support,” Tombale said at the time. According to its 2014 Audited Financial Report, BMC has a total deficit for the year of P9 million (2013; a surplus of P26 million and P28 million respectively). The total liabilities of the group and commission exceed the total assets by P109 and P248 million respectively.
Gov’t pumped P279 million into BDC
Meanwhile the Auditor General has said the value of investments of P1 617 286 584 is overstated by inclusion of P279 000 000 which is the amount of Government equity contribution to Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) which has to be adjusted from the Public Debt Service Fund accounts; as well as P545 000 000 representing capital contribution to two other parastatals, and not transactions affecting this Fund.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.