Friday, July 1, 2022

Masire speaks out against BMC racism

Former President Sir Ketumile Masire has painted a bleak future of the ailing Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), saying the legacy of monopolisation of feedlot business by a few individuals at the Commission will continue to disadvantage the majority.

Appearing before the parliamentary select committee this week chaired by MP Mephato Reatile, Masire likened the monopoly of feedlots business at BMC to South African economy after the dismantling of apartheid laws.

“Those who benefited from the BMC monopoly will always be ahead; it is like South Africa, those who benefitted from apartheid still call the shots; they ┬áare better financially, they received a better education and you must admit that you will not catch up with these people,” said Masire.

Falling short of accusing former BMC Livestock Procumbent Manager of institutionalised racism at BMC, Masire said Clive Marshall was as racist as former South African Prime Minister, Hendrick Frensch Verwoerd – the architect of apartheid.

“Marshall was only diplomatic about it (racism) while Verwoerd came out clearly and tell you that you are a Kaffir,” said Masire.
┬áHe added: “Feedlot is a monopoly of the few. In the wisdom of Marshall, he decided which people should have feedlot for BMC. I only know four feedlotters out of seven and three seem to be some whites somewhere in the bush.” ┬á

The former President said he only received a single payment for his feedlot business from BMC, which was done in phases. He said he had never had luck to be given free cattle from BMC and added that the feedlot business is run in a manner that frustrates the unfortunate.

“At one stage, I was told that I could not account for some of the cattle. There is no transparency in the manner in which you are paid. You do not know whether those who are running the monopoly are getting something under the table,” said Masire.

He added that he approached Marshall enquiring about requirements for an individual to do business with BMC as a feedlotter. He said he broke into the feedlot business, which was monopolised by whites, by accident and added that he had never been given cattle by the BMC.

“When I told them that I was ready, they told me that I was not because ‘we do not know you as a feedlotter’. That was in 2010 after being encouraged in 2009. And boy, I struggled. I realised that there was some monopoly and I strived harder to break into this monopoly until 2011; thanks to God for the failure of bolus,” revealed Masire.

He said the BMC had bought cattle in large numbers and they decided to offload some to his feedlot.

“They offloaded the cattle to us that they had bought from a few who could not handle them. It took a year for BMC to allocate me cattle; I was a feedlotter by accident. I’m still fighting that battle,” said Masire.

Still on the monopoly of feedlots, Masire said people should not be discriminated against.

“If Satar Dada sells Toyota and somebody wants to sell Toyota, so be it. If there are inadequacies that hinder that person they must be spelt out. People should not be discriminated against,” he said.

Answering a question from one of the Committee members, Gilson Saleshando, who wanted to know whether famers in communal areas could set up feedlots and compete with commercial famers, Masire said feedlot business is viable in the communal areas if it is done in a small scale.

It was also at this juncture that Saleshando wondered if Marshall could discriminate against Masire by refusing to give him cattle; was it possible for a communal farmer to break into the monopoly of feedlot business.

“Modesty aside, I’m one of the most successful black farmers in Botswana. By blocking me, you are blocking everybody,” said Masire.┬á He added that there was no reason why the commercial farmers should be in control of the BMC, saying there is no legal basis for that and added that poor administration at BMC was to blame.

“Accreditation as a feedlotter is in the laps of the Gods. I took my proposal to Marshall and he said there were things that were wrong in my draft. To this day, I have not seen it,” Masire said, adding that his farm GM5 wrote several querying letters to Marshal.

Another committee member, Prince Maele, put it to Masire that feedlot model at BMC seemed not to be sustainable. But Masire is of the view that it’s sustainable and said it was ill administered.

“The problem with BMC is administration and lack of transparency. I condemned Marshall for refusing GM5 cattle,” he said.
Asked how he could describe Marshal, Masire said Marshal was arrogant and rude.

“He himself knows what he is doing. At some stage, he made the government, through the Department of Veterinary Services (DVC), to pop up P3 million so that there could be bolus for cattle coming to the feedlot,” said Masire.

Masire also agreed with one of the committee members, Frank Ramsden, that the beef industry is generally on its knees.
“I think you are right, it has come to its knees. We are on our knees but we should not give up,” he said. He added that while he was still the President, there was no monopoly on feedlot business.

“”We do not need a prophet to see that in the future, we will have nowhere to sell cattle. The inconvenience is going to arise as we fall on two stools, the ear tags and bolus; the Ministry of Agriculture will have a problem with upgrading new system. They are just talking about it and we see nothing on the ground,” said Masire.

He added that there should have a period to phase out the bolus traceability system rather than doing away with it right away.
“How many times are we going to be told stories; no trucks to go to your farms, govt does not allow veterinary officers to ride in private vehicles, how many times are going to be told that farmers should take their cattle back because they have not been sold,” Masire wondered.

Answering a question from another committee member, Taolo Habano, who wanted to know if BMC could be rehabilitated, Masire answered in the affirmative.

“Yes it can be rehabilitated in particular areas; Veterinary Department, administration of BMC, the board and Chief Executive Officer, livestock officers. That can be put right and if the Ministry of Agriculture cracks the whip,” said Masire.

On the widely held view that no Motswana is capable to run BMC, Masire laughed off the suggestion saying, “We have run the country and I don’t see how a small aspect can be a problem; what is needed is finding talent and what it takes to run BMC.” ┬á

Asked by another Committee member, John Toto, why the country finds itself in the situation of declining beef industry and problems at BMC, Masire attributed the problems to personnel in overseeing positions; the Minister, the Permanent Secretary, Veterinary Department and BMC itself.

Masire also said unless Botswana finds solutions to problems identified by the European Union, new markets would wonder why the country was running away from the EU market.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper