Saturday, December 3, 2022

BMC remains perfectly viable

It will take a lot of hard work and commitment to turn around Botswana Meat Commission to the levels where it used to be.

Whoever is tasked with doing that will need resources to do so.

A lot of money will have to be put into the Commission.

The person so tasked will also need a strong Board to provide strategic guidance, advice, oversight and leadership.

Crucially the top guys at BMC will need a strong executive management that is upright, ethical and transparent.

Going forward, what BMC will also need is a political leadership that is not commercially conflicted.

But above all else, there has to be demonstrable political will to get BMC back at work.

If any of the above items is found to be lacking or for whatever reason in short supply, then we can be sure that the best thing to do would be to unbundle BMC, strip and sell whatever assets can still be salvaged.

As we speak BMC is on its knees.

To stand up, BMC has to win back the trust and goodwill of farmers – and here we are talking about the small farmers – a thing it currently lacks.

Batswana don’t sell cattle for the fun of it. They do so because they need cash immediately to settle a debt or pay their children’s school fees, for example.

At the moment farmers are not selling their cattle to BMC because BMC takes too long to pay them.

Instead they are selling to private butcheries and feedlots – many of these owned by the South Africans domiciled here but with strong political connections among our political leadership.

Unless it improves its payments, BMC will not be able to compete.

Today there are private feedlots across the country that pay farmers just as they drop their cattle.

No farmers will today be willing to wait for a month to get paid by BMC.

Yet we know that to get a payment from BMC takes a lot longer than just one month.

We note that a new Chief Executive Officer has been appointed – or so a formal official announcement will be made soon.

We congratulate David Tsheboeng on his appointment.

This is not an easy job. But it can be done.

Tsheboeng’s appointment has elicited mixed reactions from across the farming fraternity.

Tsheboeng should take heart from this because it shows, as this newspaper has pointed out again and again that BMC is one parastatal that the biggest number of Batswana are able to relate with and want take active interests in its wellbeing.

This might be a result of the fact that Tsheboeng is known as a property man and not a farmer.

We have no doubt about his confidence that as a businessman he knows what to do.

The more uncharitable view floating around is that he has specifically been called so he could preside over the sale of BMC properties here at home and also broad, especially in Cape Town where the Commission owns a premier facility.

We note the comments but do not buy into such insidious allegations even as we acknowledge that we live in strange times.

Any such sale would be tantamount to self-dealing and criminality.

BMC needs all its assets – here, in Cape town and in Europe to get back on its feet.

In the past some BMC land here in Gaborone was sold surreptitiously.

The previous Boards and past management are well aware of this.

BMC remains the best vehicle to serve and service small farmers scattered across the country.

To do that it needs to change its business model and make itself nimbler.

BMC has to avoid getting into expensive side deals with cattle barons at the expense of small subsistence farmers.

It has to become the farmers purchaser of choice.

If that is achieved overnight BMC will become profitable.

The key is on getting farmers back.

BMC has to work with banks, shareholders and others creditors to get its finances in order.

Without a strong cashflow BMC can never expect to come back and compete.

More importantly BMC should at all cost avoid spending on those things that are peripheral to its business.

It should operate like a true commercial entity, and not some employment bureau that is saddled with huge wage bills and people that are not needed.

As we speak the amount of money getting into the country and out of the country as a result of live exports is overwhelming.

That money is simply the market lost to BMC.

BMC should aim to recoup that market.

If it wins, the biggest number of Batswana wins.

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