BMC cash flow problems ignite protests
BMC makes a quick pay-out of 9 Million Pula
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.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”