Several farmers in the Ghantsi Administration District recently spent a night at the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) offices in protest of late payment of their slaughtered cattle as the cash flow of the beef exporting commission remains in the red.
The BMC had to make a quick payout of 9 Million Pula the following day as more farmers arrived the following morning demanding payments, further, mounting the pressure.
“BMC paid out nine Million Pula in two transactions, the first was made in the morning (5 Million) and the next was made in the afternoon (4 Million) on Wednesday 24 June to assist some farmers who had requested for their pay-outs that day. Beyond this, BMC has further increased its deposits to varied accounts for farmers to cash-out their vouchers on continual basis. The latter is still ongoing,” explained the Commission’s Public Relations Manager, Brian Dioka this week in response to WeekendPost questions.
On the 22nd June farmers were expecting payments, but a week leading to the set date the Commission sent out text messages and called the affected farmers informing them that their payments will be delayed or pushed back by five days due to unforeseen circumstances that needed urgent attention. This consequently meant, payments for the week 15-19 June were pushed back by a week and therefore were to be honoured as of 22nd June onward considering who supplied first.
However on the 22nd June, no payments were seemingly coming forth and farmers were getting agitated. Several of them refused to leave the BMC offices at closing time and spent the night there.
“We were reliably informed by our Extension Officers that about seven individuals spent a night at BMC offices, and this was not all Ghantsi Farmers but some,” Dioka confirmed and added that, “unfortunately some farmers came to BMC Ghantsi Offices, even though they were not first on the line to be paid-out, this therefore required BMC to adjust its payment plan to now cater for all outstanding balances regardless of prioritising according to supply, to discourage any further inconveniences.”
BMC does not only owe Ghantsi farmers, but even farmers and suppliers in other parts of the country that supplied cattle to its three abattoirs from both the commercial holdings and field-buying. However Dioka and the current Minister of Agriculture, Patrick Ralotsia, maintain that no special dispensation was done for Gantsi farmers as the payments were an already existing plan.
“No special dispensation was made to favour Ghantsi Farmers, the Commission took a decision to address the issue of some farmers in Ghantsi who at that time seemed stranded or challenged to go back to their homes given the emergent challenges of going back home. BMC has continued with its plan from June 22nd to clear all outstanding balances, and this is currently ongoing. BMC has never failed to pay its suppliers or honour payments. The only issue here is the delay, noting the above-said. Even as we speak Farmers in other parts of the country are currently being paid on a daily basis,” Dioka further explained.
The BMC liquidity has been publicly profiled and it is a well known factor that it is still recovering. This is also largely part to the outdated current operative model, which BMC has motivated for its reforms and asked for all stakeholders to be supportive of it.
The referred operative-model is designed in such a way that BMC buys non-compliant cattle from the fields or communal areas and transfers them to feedlots for a stay of 90 days (3 months), then slaughter and sell to markets which takes about 8 week, making the total waiting period of realizing sales-proceeds for such production to be 5-6 months.
Dioka says even with knowledge of the latter, some beef cattle suppliers, requires that they be paid within 21 days or even less.
“It must be noted that while at feedlots, BMC alone foots the bill for cattle feed, occupancy, transport and other logistics, further tying-up immediate cash to honour farmers payments within the shortest possible time. This is done to get the cattle to comply with slaughter and market requirements amongst other, so in simple terms, cattle bought from communal areas (which makes about 70 percent of supply to BMC) have to wait for 3 months to be slaughtered,” Dioka contended.
However the Ghantsi South Member of Parliament, Noah Salakae is of the view that communal farmers are being exploited by the Commission because they do not have an alternative market.
“People’s cattle are taken from them because they are hopeless, they do not have any other place to sell them other than BMC. They wait up to two months and even beyond for payments. Just recently the Ghantsi farmers had to spend a night at the BMC office as a last resort and they were paid the following morning. Is this what BMC has become? Is this what it takes for people to be paid for their cattle?” Salakae rhetorically commented.
Meanwhile the Minister of Agriculture, Patrick Ralotsia is optimistic that the Commission is in the right path of recovery as its cash flow has significantly improved since the take-over of new management in 2013.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.