Sunday, July 3, 2022

De Graff says only Khama can fire him over collapse of BMC

The Minister of Agriculture, Christian De Graff, said it would be up to President Ian Khama to assess his performance and later on decide whether he would still require his services or not. ?“I was appointed by His Excellency. He is the only one who can fire me if he feels I’m underperforming. I have improved if you look at my performance. I will not resign,” he said. ?

The comment was a response toward the Special Parliamentary Select Committee’s suggestion that De Graff should be held responsible over the collapse of BMC and decline of the beef industry in the country and calls that he should resign. ?“I would have taken full responsibility if I were the CEO. Even in other parastatals, there are things that are going wrong which you do not know about,” he said. ?Committee members Prince Maele and Gilson Saleshando pushed De Graff to clarify and sought to know why he should not be held responsible as the chief overseer at the Ministry of Agriculture.

?Maele put it to De Graff that┬á since he was the one who appointed the CEO and board members, was he suggesting that they were the people who led to the collapse of the BMC? ?“You appointed a lot of commercial farmers as board members and they were protecting their interests,” said Maele, at which De Graff responded: “At the time I appointed them they were the right people.” ?Saleshando sought to know whether when De Graff was appointed by President Khama he was not informed that the ultimate responsibility for parastatals and departments under his Ministry’s portfolio lies on his shoulder and that some responsibilities are not supposed to be delegated. ?“Indeed the responsibility lies with me, but a minister is not given power to work alone. I’m not going to take the blame for the collapse of the BMC; you can never say it is somebody’s problems,” De Graff said.?But Saleshando was not convinced.

“Once the buck stops with Christian De Graff, he is responsible. Let it be known that he is responsible and accountable for the collapse of the BMC,” he said. ?De Graff insisted that he could not be held responsible for the collapse of BMC because he did not fold his arms but took action to address challenges facing the ailing parastatal.┬á ?Maele echoed Saleshando’s sentiment saying: “BMC crumbled under your watch.”┬á ?De Graff replied: “BMC crumbled long time ago and it continued under my watch.” ?“Haven’t you said that the buck stops with you?” Maele asked. ?At this stage, De Graff was at pains in his attempt to totally disassociate himself from taking responsibility for the collapse of BMC. The result is that he contradicted himself in the process.

?“I have addressed these problems; I don’t see how the buck stops with me,” he said. ?Maele sought to know who should take the blame for the collapse of BMC if the Minister absolved himself from such. ?“The board and the management are to blame. I took the challenges and problems to Cabinet,” said De Graff. ?Saleshando was also to take on De Graff again on who should shoulder the blame. ?“Board members and CEO are appointed by the Minister. The Minister has to be accountable. Would you say you are part of the losses at BMC? Have you felt comfortable since you were appointed Minister up to now,” asked Saleshando. ?

This promoted De Graff to accuse Saleshando of challenging his ability to lead the Ministry. ?“You are driving to a point where you are challenging my leadership. I have a boss; when he feels my performance is not there he can replace me. We have tripled food security in this country and rated number three in Africa. My Ministry was rated number six out of 16 Ministries in the country,” De Graff defended himself. ?Heated exchanges followed as Maele asked the Minster if he was aware of allegations that a company engaged by BMC to sell the commission’s products, GPS Food Group, and the Meat Corporation of Namibia were hell-bent on taking over the BMC. ?

“Yes I’m aware of that but a minister must not be a police officer. I made it very clear that there is a rightful authority to deal with this- there is the DIS,” he said. ?As tension boiled over De Graff lost his cool. “With due respect, it is lot of nonsense that people can conclude that some people can take over BMC. We have to give the allegations to the relevant authorities,” he said. ?If De Graff has his way, board members will no longer set prices but management. Asked by another committee member, Moeng Pheto, if the appointment of former board chairperson, Ian Thomson, who had volunteered to act as CEO after the departure of David Falepau was not a mistake, De Graff said: “I took the issue to cabinet and it was approved.” ?Committee member Gilbert Mangole put it to De Graff that there was no element of objectivity in his dismissal of former BMC CEO Motshodi Raborokgwe. ?“You were a man in a hurry to fire him,” said Mangole. ?“I disagree. Even in my private life when somebody is willing to part ways I will let him go. I don’t think that person will make things right.

I have no problem with his departure. He had done a lot for BMC. When we parted ways I believe he was underperforming and I didn’t fire him,” said De Graff. ?On suggestion that he dismissed Falepau because he was not corporative with white farmers, De Graff denied the allegations as untrue and accused the former BMC CEO of underperforming. ?“I think they are protecting him too much. The guy was being paid huge sums of money. But I got worried after we were delisted and BMC cheques were bouncing,” he said. ?The Minister added: “Falepau has the knowledge of the beef industry but he is not hands one. He also increased the producers’ prices at a time when we were going through recession. He promised me that he would turn around the fortunes of BMC but he failed.”┬á ?On allegations that he favoured white famers over their black counterparts, De Graff said,

“I do not look at colour in my life. We have names. The person I replaced, Falepau, was white but I replaced him because of poor performance.” ?The Minister said he at one stage suggested that they should sell live cattle to South Africa but Falepau overruled him and slaughtered the cattle at Francistown abattoir without his consent. ?According to De Graff, at one stage he also brought the issue of Falepau’s poor performance to the attention of then Vice President Mompati Merafhe “and that even our cheques were bouncing but he did not improve.”

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