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Kanye Buffalo: Death knells for the BMC?

Could the recent suspension of beef exports spell doom for the Botswana Meat Commission, which according to its publicly available financials, had begun to emerge from the doldrums? Just when the parastatal’s turnaround strategy was beginning to bear fruit, and the commission was beginning to realize profitability, the Kanye buffalo appeared.

Consequently, the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) suspended export of beef and beef products, including to BMC’s largest and most lucrative market, the European Union (EU).     

Addressing the media on Tuesday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Boipolelo Khumomatlhare said the presence of buffaloes in the heart of EU export zone called for an urgent need for their immediate removal. “The EU market only allows imports of fresh bovine meat from FMD free countries or zones among other conditions. Thus in the event of a confirmed case of FMD, the EU market may be lost. As a Member State of World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) we are also obliged not to export FMD to other countries or regions, particularly the EU,” he said.

Further, Khumomatlhare reiterated; “Ongoing investigations have necessitated the imposition of movement standstill in the zone. Furthermore, exports of beef to all trading partners have been suspended with immediate effect. Trading partners have been notified and would be updated accordingly once investigations are concluded.”

According to its 2013 financials, the BMC had found its feet after a long time in the doldrums. During the period between 2008 and 2012, the commission lost a total of P727 million. It was accused of corruption and mismanagement, and was closed out of the EU market between 2012 and 2013 for failure to comply with the EU traceability standards.

But in 2013, with the advent of the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Akolang Tombale and the resultant introduction and implementation of a new strategy, the parastatal’s staged a dramatic turnaround. From a P318 million loss recorded in 2012, BMC recorded a P28 million surplus the following year, in 2013. It also recorded over a billion Pula in revenue the same year.  

A number of interventions are responsible for the good showing by the commission. Experts point to a number of factors, re-entry of Botswana beef to the relatively lucrative EU market in 2013 after two years of being blocked out of the market being the most important factor. The second factor was the increase in beef prices after South Africa, long held to be a low value frozen beef market, in 2013 took huge volumes of the BMC chilled beef at prices not far below those of the EU market. The third reason for the turnaround was the price paid to farmers which had more farmers willing to sell their cattle to the commission. The three year turnaround strategy, which lapses at the end of 2016, has not been without challenges as demonstrated by the problems that continue to bedevil the BMC. But the strategy has delivered profitability for the commission nonetheless.

With improved performance, now came the Kanye buffalo incident which stops the commission from exporting beef at all, including to its most lucrative market, the EU.

According to the BMC Communications Manager, Brian Dioka, they have responded to the export and slaughter restrictions by suspending production which entails buying of cattle into feedlots around Zone 11, buying of cattle into the Lobatse abattoir, carrying out slaughter on the same, and exporting beef and beef by-products through the Lobatse abattoir. This Dioka says; “…is in support of Government’s efforts to better manage the latest livestock movement protocols, [and] also to safeguard the global reputation and accolades conferred on the BMC.”

On the issue of financial losses the commission may suffer as a result of the export restrictions, Dioka said it was too early to quantify, but emphasized that BMC has adopted a niche-marketing and production approach where they only produce to order rather than stockpiling. “Therefore, we are managing those orders. Should the situation normalize, BMC management is prepared to work hard to make-up for lost-time,” he said.

Further, Dioka said though their Lobatse abbatoir has ceased operations, the Francistown and Maun abattoirs are in operation. “Our efforts are now dedicated to these plants to see how we can balance the deficit which will be necessitated by the closure of production in Lobatse,” he stated, adding that they remain optimistic that the restrictions will abate soon.

This reporter asked Dioka if the closure of the Lobatse operation could necessitate further staff retrenchments. BMC recently retrenched 153 people at the Francistown abattoir. In response, Dioka was quick to point out that staff retrenchment and the export restrictions were unrelated. He, however, made an assurance that current positions remain safe, despite having gone or going through a restructuring exercise – that unfortunately resulted in transfer of some staff and retrenchment of others.
Dioka pleaded for calm and optimism and asked for the nation to comply with the restrictions.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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