Saturday, December 9, 2023

Dr Tombale’s turnaround strategy at BMC should be a benchmark for corporate governance in Botswana

Given his mining background, many of us never believed Dr Akolang Tombale will be able to deliver bed ridden Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) from its death throes and turn it around into a promising enterprise. When cabinet appointed him as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BMC less than three years ago a lot of doubting Thomases, including me, were wondering how a miner could possibly lift a beef exporting entity from the doldrums.

But as history would have, in early October 2014, President Ian Khama, without even noticing, delivered the first peep into what could possibly turn out to be the biggest ever coup by this humble miner.
“BMC has started making profits,” he said.

Despite its current cash flow problems, Dr Tombale is turning out to be exactly what the doctor has ordered for BMC as he is overseeing a remarkable transformation of Commission. Under Dr. Tombale, BMC transformed from a multi-million Pula loss making and scandal ridden entity to a parastatal that recorded a surplus of some P28 million in 2013.

A few weeks ago, renowned economic expert, Professor Roman Grynberg said Dr Tombale has tried to do many of the right things with the Commission. Unlike his predecessors, Dr Tombale seems to be in touch with farmers, precisely the communal ones whose populace is mainly indigenous Batswana. At a commercial level, he has made significant attempts to diversify the export base away from unhealthy dependence on the unpredictable EU market. As it is, BMC is identifying alternative markets other than the EU.
A former Finance Manager at BMC told the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) how its Board of Directors would convene for days on end in order to increase the amount of money they would earn as sitting allowance.

As a Motswana with keen interest in the beef industry and most importantly the progression of the economy of his home country, Dr Tombale cannot afford to avoid auditors. Even after he leaves, Dr Tombale should make sure that the BMC does not make headlines like it did in 2013. In 2013, our nation was treated to shocking revelations by key players’ week in week out. Such players were foreigners who convened with Batswana whose souls are no more. At some point the whole thing was literally reduced to a fiasco of finger pointing, point scoring and blame games from the highest office in the land to the grounds-man at Maun abattoir.

We do not need to mention or remind anyone on how many foreigners came or were brought to the BMC or elsewhere (I am thinking Air Botswana) but still went on to fail this country. Given what Dr Tombale has done at BMC so far, there is no single doubt that we have wasted our precious time thinking that the parastatal could return to profitability under dubious characters whose intention was milk what they saw as a cash cow.

Dr Tombale has led a number of ground-breaking negotiations for the country. These include development of the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Trans-boundary Watercourses and founding of the Zambezi River, Orange River and Limpopo River Basin water commissions. He was Chief Negotiator for talks with De Beers that changed commercial arrangements in diamond mining including the relocation of Diamond Trading Company from London to Botswana. ??He also led negotiations that developed the independent power producers in the country, and guided creation of policies and procedures for establishing Botswana as a centre for the downstream diamond activities. With a wealth of experience in leadership, he has consulted in water resources, mining, environmental impact, diamond marketing, contract negotiations, performance management and productivity.

With this decorated Curriculum Vitae, the critical question that remains to be answered is whether Dr Tombale is currently training someone internally at BMC’ someone who will take over if he decides to leave when his contract ends. While we admit that grooming talent that has the requisite corporate management skills is expensive, we are hopeful that Dr Tombale has put in place a replacement plan, because we cannot afford to go back to the days of yester year.

The #Bottom-line is that gone are the days when most precious institution like BMC, which directly relates to close to 90 percent of citizens, fell through the abyss. We have our people who can efficiently manage our parastatals and it’s high time we gave them the necessary support so they help grow our national economy. We salute you for the good work you are doing at BMC, Dr Tombale. RESPECT.


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