In anticipation of the transformation of the local beef industry, Government is at an advanced stage to shut down and sell the Francistown abattoir.
Currently the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) enjoys the monopoly of being the only exporter of Botswana Beef to the overseas market, especially the lucrative European market. However, the BMC has over the past decade been faced with maladministration issues, alleged corruption and huge financial losses. Lately, there have been calls and pressure on government to privatize the entity, end its monopoly and allow private entities access to the foreign markets as well as transform the whole beef sector.
Speaking at consultative meeting for Central District Farmers Association on Tuesday, the Minister of Agriculture Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia revealed that his ministry has recommended to cabinet that expressions of interest be invited for the disposal of the Francistown abattoir. Ralotsia said all evidence from the abattoir’s poor performance proves that the entity is no longer economically viable. According to the Minister the abattoir was bleeding BMC coffers and consequently taxpayers‘s treasury as government had to keep on bailing out the commission to stay in business.
He said the abattoir was a loss making entity as cattle were not reaching it. Minister Ralotsia revealed to attendants that since 2006 the highest number of cattle slaughtered was 57 211 against the 85 000 of full capacity, while the lowest was 10 000 in 2011. He said the low number of cattle slaughtered meant that employees at the abattoir were under employed and literally paid for no work as sometimes they went for months without tangible labour required of them. “It is for these reasons that BMC had to retrench workers last year because the entity is not making profit,’’ he said.
Minister Ralotsia said government can no longer accommodate anymore bailout and injection of operating capital into an abattoir that is perennially running at a loss. He said that even though the Francistown abattoir had good infrastructure, it carried more risk than the Lobatse abattoir because of its geographical location and closeness to Zimbabwe, which is grappling with Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
If government does get rid of the Francistown abattoir, BMC would remain with the one in Lobatse, which is said to be currently doing considerably better in business terms. Reports indicate that the abattoir could however be privatized in future. The Lobatse abattoir is currently the best in terms of number of cattle slaughtered and marketing and also safeguarding the lucrative European market.
Minister Ralotsia also revealed that in a bid to transform the whole beef industry government has appointed consultants, KMPG to undertake the Beef Market liberalization study. KMPG is expected to further consult stakeholders on the proposed ending of the BMC monopoly, carry out scientific research and studies to determine the model through which the government can best dispose its stake and control of the beef sector and give more business operation functions to the private sector. At the end of the study KPMG will produce a report that will guide government on privatization of BMC and implementation of the study recommendations will commence subject to parliament and cabinet approval.
This week, Assistant Minister in the same Ministry, Kgotla Autlwetse told parliament that the BMC problems were now worsening as it is currently experiencing cash flow challenges due to low supply of cattle during the months of April to June 2017, which also spilled over into early days of July 2017. He revealed that this led to failure by BMC to pay farmers who supplied cattle to organisation. He emphasized that the Francistown abattoir was the worst affected as it only managed to slaughter less than 1000 cattle between January and March 2017 against an expected breakeven supply of 6 400.
Still at the Central District Farmers Association consultative meeting, Minister Ralotsia warned farmers against the increasing cases of measles, saying that the disease threatened the beef market. He urged farmers to be mindful of the vaccinating periods and regulations regarding the European Union (EU) market in order for Botswana to safeguard the multimillion pula market. He said after convening consultative meetings around the country to consult all key stakeholders on the future of the BMC, he would revert to cabinet with final recommendations.
Farmers against closure of F/town abattoir
However it emerged from the minister’s meeting that farmers are against the closure of the Francistown abattoir. Disagreeing with the proposition, farmers said government should wait for the Beef Market Liberalization Study that is yet to be conducted by experts from KPMG to give guidance to make an informed decision on the beef sector. The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security proposed that the Lobatse abattoir be privatized, with its shareholding split between government and private investors.
Furthermore farmers commended the government’s proposal to retain the Maun abattoir as a government entity. It was reiterated at the meeting that the envisaged privatisation of the BMC should be compliant with the policy utmost citizen beneficiation and be made in a way that would benefit farmers. Botswana National Beef Producers Union chairperson, Mr Madongo Direng said the union supported the proposal to privatize BMC, adding that farmers had long advocated for a regulatory body. “The government cannot be a player and referee at the same time,” he said.He said the government should involve farmers throughout the process until the final stage. “We as farmers want to have a stake in the transformation process because there is no BMC without us,” he concluded.
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”