Ngamiland farmers┬áhave hit back at accusations that they are failing to pay back┬áthe money they borrowed┬áfrom CEDA under┬áthe Foot and Mouth Relief Fund, saying the blame should be on the Botswana Meat Commission┬á(BMC) ┬áwhich is failing┬áto absorb their cattle for slaughter to enable them to pay back.
This came to light at a recent briefing by CEDA officials┬áto former assistant minister of Finance, Vincent Seretse.
The minister was told that only┬áabout P1 million of┬áthe P500 million┬áthat the agency lent to the farmers has so far been paid back.
A Haina Veldt farmer,┬áKgosi┬áLabanye┬áMeno, said that┬áhe found it very disturbing that┬áthey are now being blamed for failure to pay when the┬áBMC, which is supposed to slaughter the cattle to enable them to pay, is not┬ádoing its duty.
“I have been to the abattoir several times trying to book for my cattle to be slaughtered but I have not been successful┬áand I am scared because┬á it is possible that by the time they want┬á me to slaughter┬á them, they might have died from disease or gone astray and will not be able to pay back.
CEDA must┬átalk to┬áBMC about this┬áand stop blaming us,” he said.
Another┬áNgamiland┬áfarmer,┬áDitiro Pogiso, concurred with Meno┬áand said he finds it very disturbing that┬áthe issue of failure to pay CEDA by Ngamiland┬áfarmers┬ácan even crop up in the mouths of its employees when they┬áare┬áaware of the reason┬áwhy they are not able to pay┬áback what they owe.
“ I did not expect to hear this from them, not at all because they are aware that the┬á problem we are facing is that┬áthe abattoir where we were intending to sell our cattle to pay back┬á BMC┬á is the one failing in its duties of┬á slaughtering cattle so that we can be able to pay CEDA back,” said Pogiso.
Othusitse Gagente┬áalso┬áconcurred with Meno┬áand┬áPogiso, saying that┬áit was not their problem that they have not yet paid CEDA but that of BMC.┬á
Maun BMC branch has never operated to┬áits┬ácapacity of 150 cattle per day since it started operating.
Initially, the problems were said to be related to the fact that┬á the plant┬á was being┬á refurbished, which┬á means that┬á some technical problems had to be sorted out┬á as it┬á was operating, which resulted in delays┬á┬áin slaughtering cattle.
After┬ásome months,┬áthat problem was resolved┬áand another problem┬áof lack of adequate┬áwater at the plant┬ácropped up as the┬áWater Affairs Department in Maun┬ásaid it could only afford to supply them with what they were┬áalready supplying due to supply constraints.
As a solution to the problem, BMC┬ádecided┬áto set its own plant to draw water from Thamalakane River. Currently the plant is still┬áslaughtering below its capacity on grounds of lack of market for the beef.
The failure┬á to slaughter to the capacity of the abattoir recently┬á raised┬á complaints of corruption on the┬ácommittee, which┬áhas been set up to ensure┬á that┬á there is fairness in┬áselection┬áof cattle┬áfor slaughtering┬á in the abattoir.
BMC Public Relations Officer, Tiro Kganela, said that there was┬ánot much they could do as they have been stopped┬áfrom slaughtering by the European Union. He could not say when exactly they will start slaughtering again.
Whilst waiting for the ban to be lifted, he said that they are processing the meat they already have in their refrigerators┬áinto boneless meat, beef stew and other products to be sold in the Ngamiland.