The Assistant Minister of Agriculture has implored Ngamiland farmers to rally behind him when he re-tables the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Amendment Bill in the coming session of parliament (November session) which starts on November 7 with President Ian Khama’s third State of the Nation Address.
The bill seeks to abolish the BMC monopoly in the exportation of live cattle and beef.
It (bill) was deferred in the February budget session after the Members of Parliament in exception of Kgosi Tawana asked for its postponement to allow them time to consult with their constituents.
Addressing Ngamiland farmers at Maun main kgotla on Thursday, Oreeditse Molebatsi, who bore the brunt of incessant attacks from the farmers who accused him of misleading them into believing that the BMC Maun abattoir was ready to accept their cattle for slaughter with the beef being exported to Angola, made an impassioned plea to the farmers to rally behind government when the bill is re-tabled.
“If the bill is passed, the BMC monopoly would cease. You then as farmers would be able to sell as individuals or syndicates to whoever you choose. At the moment you are confined to selling to the BMC because of the monopolistic BMC Act. It is therefore important that you support government when the bill is re-tabled,” said Molebatsi.
The minister made the pleas when confronted by the farmers on how much they would be paid for the sale of their cattle to Angola. He explained that because of the monopoly, the farmers would be selling their cattle to the BMC which would in turn export to Angola and Zimbabwe.
“The agreed price is P8 per kg for life weight except weaners. CMD weight is P16 per kg. There is no prime price in this region,” said Molebatsi who added that Zimbabwe will buy live cattle for slaughter at their Cold Storage Commission while Angola will buy beef except for the 650 heifers for breeding purposes.
The buyers are also footing the transport bill.
On fears by the farmers that if Angola is sold breeding stock, that posed a threat of undermining Botswana’s exports to that market in the long term, Molebatsi replied that although such fears were realistic, government was exploring other potential markets, including the Middle East in countries like Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
He explained that had it not been for the outbreak of the Foot and Mouth Disease that rendered the whole country a red zone in terms of the OIE, negotiations with those countries were at an advanced stage.
The minister assured the farmers that BMC would pay them immediately they released their cattle.
While apologizing to the farmers for the inconsistent statements and failure of the Maun abattoir to accept their cattle on the 17th as scheduled, Molebatsi agreed that there was no consultation with the farmers’ associations.
The minister, who admitted his weakness as a result of Christian orientation, vowed that it was never his intention to mislead the farmers and would never do so in the future, adding that whatever he told the farmers was truthful in that the Department of Veterinary Services and the BMC had assured him that they were ready for the job.
“If somebody at BMC and the Department of Veterinary Services said they did not know, they were not telling the truth. Even the president knew I was coming here to tell you that your cattle are ready to be slaughtered with effect from the 17th. What do I benefit from misleading you?” asked the assistant minister.
He added that when he came to inform the farmers he was in a jubilant mood because he was aware that for a long time they had been suffering without selling and at long last a market had been secured for them.
“It is those officers who told me including Dr Falepau. The officers are the ones who sent me to deliver the good news. For them to turn around and turn me into an idiot is not right. I am normal. It’s not true that Dr Chimbomobi and Falepau didn’t know. I told you what the ministry and the BMC had agreed. They turned me into an idiot,” said a visibly embarrassed Molebatsi.
He maintained that it was unfortunate that his officers told him one thing and told the farmers a completely different or contradictory statement and lambasted the officers’ failure to implement what had been agreed and then say it was his personal agenda.
The minister further asserted that the BMC was not slaughtering for the EU market as the farmers had been told.
Molebatsi threatened that action would be taken against the relevant officers for their failure to implement what had been agreed, adding that he was shocked by the contradiction offered by the officials.
Asked whether the officials intended to sabotage government in some way and if heads would roll, the minister answered that the issue would be looked into to ensure that similar mistakes do not recur.
In his vote of thanks Kgosi Letsholathebe Moremi asked the minister to clean his house so that there are no contradictions made to his people in the future. He also said it was clear that there was no consultation with the farmers’ associations and urged the ministry and associations to work together.