Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Masire blasts gov’t for leasing out state farms

Former President Sir Ketumile Masire has joined a growing army of farmers and other political leaders who have criticized the government for leasing its farms to foreign farmers.

At the moment those who are renting the farms are mostly reputable farmers from South Africa while a local has taken the matter to court seeking a review of the allocation of the farms.

Government decided to privatise Banyana Farms following cases of reported maladministration, theft and other bad practices. At one stage 114 cattle went missing from the farm and no action was taken to recover them.

Reports indicate that the government was accused of neglecting the farm because it was not appropriating money to it; some speculated at the time that it was a deliberate move to push it to the brink of privatisation.

Giving evidence before the Parliamentary Select Committee conducting an inquiry into the BMC and the decline of the country’s beef industry, Masire said the leasing of Banyana Farms to foreigners has made Batswana angry.

“What is it that these foreigners are going to do which Batswana cannot do? Leasing of these farms to foreigners makes Batswana angry,” said Masire.

The former President, who is, by his own account, a successful cattle baron, revealed “that there is a rising tide of Batswana who want to be farmers”.

“But we have already subdivided Banyana Farms, some to private farmers. Banyana Farms should have been leased exclusively to Batswana,” observed Masire.

As part of its effort to make the farm manageable the board undertook a restructuring exercise and also agreed that a portion of the 149 000 hectares of the farm should be leased out to make it manageable by reducing the element of spending.

Since Government announced through the Government Gazette its intentions to lease Banyana Farms to interested business people, the process has been surrounded with controversy.

Residents of five villages near the farm had at the time vowed to petition President Ian Khama before 23 December 2010 ÔÇô the deadline for submission of applications for those interested in renting the farms. They claimed a portion of the farm belonged to them.

According to tender documents floated by government at the time of advertising the farms, one portion that is classified as high (this is according to developments carried on the portion) will cost a lessee over P200 000 per annum. There are about nine portions available for rent and the lowest portion in terms of rent costs is over P77 000.

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