The skeletons at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) are difficult to bury, the Feedlotters Association of Botswana has said in a scathing ‘confidential’ report channelled to the Minister of Agriculture and Food Resources, Patrick Ralotsia.
They express shock at the establishment’s attempt to wish BMC problems and alleged corruption away by pushing numerous damning reports under the carpet.
The report titled ‘Overview of BMC 2013-2016’ is uncompromising in detailing how some executives at BMC in cohort with some third parties are ensuring that the BMC is seen as an unprofitable venture. The Feedlotters are of the view that there is a deliberate move to ensure that the BMC remains unprofitable and does not identify new markets.
In their explosive report, they write: The recent “Shambles” that bedevilled the BMC resulting in the institution of two state Commissions of inquiries to investigate the wrongs of the BMC itself does not seem to have solved anything at BMC. They have no kind words for the current management of the BMC; they allege that it is the worst in many years.
“If managed properly, BMC is a sustainable business that can go far in empowering and enriching communal farmers in Botswana. The country as a whole is being deprived of the values and sustainable incomes that could be available through a thriving cattle industry, under the leadership of a viable and profitable BMC,” the Feedlotters write in their report.
They point out that the nation was recently shocked by a government decision to shut down BCL mine in Selibe Phikwe, they fear that the same fate may befall BMC, “and the looters will have a field day, taking ownership of the country’s biggest butchery.” According to the Association of Feedlotters, the Parliamentary Select Committee that investigated the BMC 2013 came up with a list of findings and recommendations that could have been adopted to save the BMC and protect the interests of the many Batswana who depend on the BMC for livelihoods.
“Three years later and as at today, October 2016, the Parliamentary Select Committee’s findings were a mere exercise in futility, carried out at such a cost to the nation but none of their recommendations were considered.”
THE SELECT COMMITTEE’S FINDINGS, CONCERNS The Committee had found that BMC CEOs, with few exceptions, have been chosen from the ranks of retired civil servants not based on merit or their commercial experience. The MPs had also pointed out that the BMC management practiced poor governance and there were bad relations between the board and management. It discovered productions inefficiencies caused by over staffing, declining productivity, and high marketing costs. There was no proper and efficient system of financial controls. The BMC became financially insolvent over the 2009-2012 period.
The Parliamentary Select Committee at the time picked on the issue of BMC marketing, pointing out that “At present BMC’s marketing agent, Global Protein Solutions (GPS) provides for a legal monopoly on exports. The BMC should seek to revise the contract and segments of the global beef export market to hedge against a monopoly of the marketing of the Botswana beef produce.”
Interestingly the Committee also declared that an investigation be undertaken by the Directorate on Corruption and economic Crime (DCEC) into the award of the marketing contract by BMC in favour of GPS and consideration be made for a review and renegotiation of the contract terms to ensure residual contract of the beef export marketing by the BMC. The Committee also discovered a “strong circumstantial evidence of under-pricing of beef to the EU, South Africa, and domestic markets over the period. The recommendations by the committee were never considered.
The Parliamentary Select Committee also decided that Feedlot activities should be undertaken by the Botswana private sector and not by the BMC.
THE BMC SITUATION IN 2016 According to the Feedlotters, “in today’s BMC, management does not seem to have heeded the findings of the Special Parliamentary Committee, one wonders if they even read the report.” They point out that some in the BMC management continue to demonstrate a high level of arrogance, wilful dishonesty, breaches of contracts, and bad corporate governance.
They cite poor financial management as another devil at the BMC, hence the constant failure to pay farmers, agents, or anyone connected to the Beef industry and associated with BMC, on time. The Feedlotters are also concerned that marketing Botswana beef through a monopoly and under suspicious contracts instead of marketing direct to cut off the middleman, in this case GPS.
On the management of the BMC, Feedlotters point out that the organisation currently has the worst management. “This is visible in the dreadful way they treat and handles producers.” According to the Feedlotters, BMC management has developed a culture of ignorance and arrogance whereby producers are talked down to and financially threatened if they complain.
“Managers rarely, if they ever do, answer correspondence and they actively avoid meetings that may be heated.” Feedlotters allege a culture of non-cooperation, non-accountability and secrecy. They also point out that executive management is not proactive, but are prone to sweeping problems under the carpet, in the hope that problems will simply solve themselves and go away.
As a result, these very problems are invariably never to be seen by those who should know what is going on and are authorised to take appropriate action. “It is our experience that the Chief Executive Officer, Dr Akolang Tombale seems not to be aware of what is happening within the BMC, and unfortunately reports on issues are usually manipulated to hide the actual truth at BMC.”
Feedlotters accuse Tombale of placing blind faith in everything said or presented to him by his executive managers. “Most of these executives do not report the truth but distort facts to provide the impression that all is well within the BMC where as in actual fact all facets of the Value Chain of the BMC are complaining bitterly about various vitally important functions of the BMC.”
According to the report by the Feedlotters Association, the executives report to the CEO to impress him, but not to inform him of the true position which then leads him to misrepresent the situation at board level, Cabinet and ultimately Batswana. “Of particular concern is the influence and seemingly vast control that is exercised by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The Feedlotters Association says the CFO is the only person who knows the basis of contracts with the marketing company, GPS, and how they operate. They point out that his influence is unhealthy for the BMC.
“The BMC has no ability to market because no capacity has been built in Botswana and the BMC is now more dependant than ever on the relationship with GPS which is under the control of the CFO. The unhealthy relationship with GPS ensures that this single agent of the BMC has complete control of all of Botswana’s external markets. Thus GPS through the CFO control the BMC and decide how the BMC gets paid which leads to continuous failure to manage BMC cash flows.”
Frustration over the GPS contract has seen top executives leave BMC in the recent past, the Feedlotters say. “The Internal Auditor, Distribution Manager was transferred to Capetown, Marketing Manager was turned into a plant manager and banished to Maun, The Finance Manager and the Chief Accountant both left.” In a period of three years, the BMC has lost two financial managers and chief accountant all reporting to the CFO.
The Feedlotters Association is concerned that GPS which markets Botswana beef also has a similar arrangement with competitors such as Meat Corporation of Namibia and Woodhead Brothers United Kingdom. “The whole conflict of interest issue comes to the fore when one is aware of the fact that Meatco of Namibia has recently entered into a supply contracts with both the USA and China. Whilst at the same time no new markets have been structured and or created for the BMC.”
The Feedlotters Association further observes that GPS is also associated with the Woodheads Brothers United Kingdom. They are one of Britain’s biggest food manufacturers. The Feedlotters are concerned that the BMC does not know its customers; everything is secretive and managed by the CFO and GPS. “This makes it difficult for the BMC to decide to terminate the GPS contract, or to demand transparent marketing picture. The Association want this matter to be looked into as soon as possible. The BMC is said to have recently dismantled an internal marketing team and handed everything to GPS.
“It is known and reported fact that GPS buys more than 40 percent of all EU bonded meat. This it is believed is at a cheaper price. GPS then gains a commission from the BMC for selling this meat but it now also benefits from later selling the same meat at a higher price for their own profit. This is a question many senior Financial Managers have asked only to lose their positions within the BMC, by either being banished, resigning of their own accord due to frustration…” writes the Feedlotters Association of Botswana.
They are concerned that GPS does not allow BMC to find other markets and thus forces the BMC to sell meat at a loss to the South African markets just to satisfy the GPS commission. “Interest was exhibited by a group in Norway, who were introduced to the BMC by the Feedlot organisation, but was immediately turned down by the CEO and CFO, citing contractual obligations with GPS.
A further example was a group representing a very reputable American organisation, MI, introduced to the BMC by a well-known personality in the beef sector of Botswana, who wanted to market BMC beef in China but were also turned down. GPS has made it clear that no one is allowed to market Botswana beef. The Angolan market, which is said to be profitable, was also turned down after internal lengthy discussions.”
WASTAGE AND SABOTAGE The Feedlotters Association allege that in 2014/2015 the BMC embarked on a destructive and aggressive cattle buying spree, believed to have been engineered by the CFO in order to capture the whole market in Botswana. They further say the aggressive buying resulted in overstocked feedlots and overstocked back grounding farms. They point out that thousands of cattle died as a direct result of this reckless move by the BMC against the very industry that the BMC act was designed to protect and nurture.
“The losses of the huge numbers of cattle due to DCP decision, seems to have escaped prudent and well-structured financial accountability when the internal auditor was released. The BMC lost millions of Pula during this crusade,” wrote the Feedlotters Association.”
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.