Some cattle farmers in the North Region have called on the Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), Dr Akolang Tombale to resign from his position saying he is failing BMC.
The farmers were responding to his speech during a North East District Pitso held at Francistown City Council hall on Monday.
Dr Tombale was addressing farmers on the challenges that are currently haunting Francistown BMC saying that there was need for urgent measures to be taken as the organization was running at a loss.
One of the suggestions he made was that the abattoir needed at least 800 cattle per week for it to be able to sustain itself.
Giving a brief overview and challenges faced by Francistown BMC, he had indicated that since it was commissioned in 1989, it has never reached its capacity of slaughtering at least 400 cattle per day. He said the Francistown abattoir needs at least 85 percent of its capacity to stay afloat.
He revealed that after its commissioning in 1989, at some point it was concluded and a proposal was made to government to mothball Francistown abattoir.
“However government did not agree with the mothballing of Francistown abattoir at the time mainly that there was some livestock study that was on-going at the time. They opted to stay the mothballing until the said study was concluded and offering to reimburse BMC for Francistown losses,” said Tombale.
He also said that in 1984, through a memorandum done by an expert, O.K Nielson objected to the sizing of Francistown abattoir at 400 cattle per day based on an estimated offtake of around 300 000 cattle a year which was also based on the presentation from the then Ministry of Agriculture. He said in reality operating both Francistown and Lobatse serves only to ensure that both plants run under capacity and hence accumulate losses.
“For an example on average from 2006 up to now Lobatse has been running at around 429 cattle a day whereas Francistown was slaughtering around 166 cattle a day, which were 66 and 42 percent capacity utilization respectively or an overall capacity utilization of the export abattoirs of around 57 percent,” he said.
He said in 2007 the Francistown Abattoir slaughtered around 57 000 cattle which is only about 67 percent capacity utilization which was much lower than the 85 percent capacity utilization required to operate optimally. He said even then the abattoir was slaughtering some cattle from Ngamiland as Maun Abbattoir had been closed. He said currently Francistown BMC is running at a loss because farmers are not bringing cattle for sale and the numbers have continued to dwindle.
“We agreed with farmers to address among others issues of late payments, increase prices for their cattle. We even engaged Bank ABC to help us with issues of payments to farmers. But sadly farmers are still not bringing forth cattle for slaughter to the abattoir hence this problem,” he said.
But commenting, some of the farmers accused Tombale of only narrating the challenges facing BMC without helping to come up with solutions as the Chief Executive Officer.
First to demand to call for Dr Tombale’s head was a farmer based in Francistown, Basiame Rakgomo. He said it was unrealistic for Dr Tombale to demand 800 cattle per week for slaughter from farmers before doing any research with regard to challenges which the farmers in the region are facing.
“Somehow I think Dr Tombale is enjoying the predicament that our abattoir is going through. He should have made a proper research to establish why farmers are failing to bring cattle to the abattoir rather than demanding that we should simply bring 800 cattle per week. You should have followed certain processes to see how farmers can be able to raise such numbers and bring them to the abattoir looking at existing challenges,” he said.
He added that “You should also bear in mind the circumstances that farmers in the region find themselves in to see how they can be helped to meet the numbers BMC is requiring. I think you are failing this organization and there is need for a new and energetic young leader who will drive this organization to greater heights.”
He was supported by another farmer, Lesego Tlhalerwa who said that Dr Tombale has often failed to act swiftly in addressing problems be-devilling BMC.
“I also think that you should exit this organization because you are only narrating problems and failing to help come up with solutions. I think we need a new leader to bring about change,” he said.
Among others, farmers also accused BMC for not living up to its promises to farmers. They said the organization only cares about the welfare of its employees ignoring the plight of the farmers. However defending himself Dr Tombale said when he assumed his position at BMC, the organization already had its challenges and hence his plea with the farmers to make an input to make sure that BMC is sustained. He emphasized that as Francistown BMC was running at a loss, there was serious need for it to be restructured to be able to survive.
In conclusion the farmers agreed with Dr Tombale to come up with resolutions to try and sustain the abattoir and revive it.