Monday, July 4, 2022

Rammidi becomes farmers’ new buddy

When Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Kentse Rammidi, tabled a motion on the declining performance of the beef industry alleging irregularities at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), it was no tempest in a teapot.

Predictably, some dismissed him as yet another cattle baron with a mission to serve his personal interest in the lucrative cattle industry that is alleged to have become a cash cow even for some BMC board members.  

But the contrary seems to be true. Rammidi is one of the few MPs who does not own a large number of cattle but knows how important the cantle industry and its contribution are to the country’s economy.┬á The man, who has become synonymous with diagnosing the problems bedevilling the beef industry, by his own account, ranks low in cattle stakes.

“No I’m not a cattle baron. I have less than 20 head of cattle,” he said before the
Parliamentary Select Committee set up to probe maladministration and state of affairs at BMC. That he did probably did not consider the implication of his answer caused much amusement in the gallery.
Rammidi was responding to a salvo by one of the members of the committee, MP Gilson Saleshando, who asked why Rammidi had developed a sudden avid interest in the cattle industry and state of affairs at BMC. 

It was, Rammidi says, the concerns raised by farmers in his constituency that made stirred his interest in the status quo at BMC and the declining of performance of the beef industry. He revealed that he had interviewed some reputable farmers, among them Abel Modimo and Emang Maphanyane.

“I wanted to understand what was going on. I think they are willing to come and appear before this committee,” he said. He revealed that some farmers were disinvesting from the cattle industry, adding that even Minister of Agriculture, Christian De Graaff, was now in the game ranch business.

“A farmer, Clifford Web and some farmers in the Charles Hill area as well as Abel Modimo are disinvesting,” Rammidi said.

He believes those at the helm of the Ministry of Agriculture should take the responsibility and own up to the beef industry crisis. First on the list is De Graaff. “The buck stops with him,” says Rammidi, decrying the lack of productivity in the ministry.

“We do not see the Minister taking us in that direction. We would be reaching desired take off, calving rates if the Ministry was on top of its game. But now I hold a different view. Not that there is nothing that can be done,” he said.

Rammidi said the Minister was a cattle producer, the reason he was appointed the Minister of Agriculture. Now he would be suitable as a Minister of Wildlife because that is the direction he is taking. He added that media reports indicated that De Graaff had a relationship with a company called Pedally and he has never come out clear on that. Rammidi stated that the BMC’s problems had been attributed to failure to appoint a competent Chief Executive Officer.

“But we were told that the Minister appointed a CEO with a flying background. But after sometime we learnt that the CEO had been fired or his contract had been terminated. The Minister did not inform Parliament why he was fired or contract terminated.”

Rammidi implored the committee to find out why former BMC Chief Executive Officer Dr David Falipau’s contract was terminated; there is a mystery surrounding the termination of contract. He also implored the committee to establish if the De Graaff acceded to the suggestion of a forensic audit at BMC as reported in the press.

Further, he took issue with reports that a member of the board volunteered to act as CEO after Falipau’s left the ailing Commission.

“This is surprising because how could the Minister allow someone to volunteer and act in a position such as that of a CEO. The Commission should investigate how legal it was for the Minister take such direction. What contract deals did BMC get into when Thompson was acting CEO,” he wondered.

If Botswana cannot sell to the EU market, Rammidi said, then the country is heading towards the collapse of the beef industry.

“I don’t understand why we should be running around looking for market while history shows that we have never satisfied the quota given by the European Union,” he said.

The questions that Botswana should be asking itself, Rammidi said, is whether the beef meat meet the beef international standards because “if we run away from EU demands believing they are stringent we will also not satisfy the new markets.”

“As a country that has been involved in the meet industry for a long time, how do we found ourselves in a delisting position. There were about 250 million at the time when the BMC was delisted; a time when farmers could not sell their cattle to BMC. They had to feed them due to drought and for those who could not feed they lost their cattle to drought.┬á The question is; could we not have put our house in order. The Minister let the nation down,” he said.

Second on Rammidi’s blame list was Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Marcus Chimbombi. Rammidi said the PS as the accounting officer at the Ministry of Agriculture should be held accountable if anything goes wrong.┬á

Former BMC Procurement Manager, Clive Marshal, also did not escape Rammidi’s blame list.

“You visit many places farmers always complain about Marshal. He is also a feedlot owner,”┬áhe said.
He revealed that the BMC was paying feedlot owners P2000 per head but when a cow dies the feedlot owner does not share the risk with BMC.

“There is no where the feedlot owner shares the risk with the owner. The Committee should look at the feedlot model,” he said.

He revealed that transport at BMC is not paid per head as it is supposed to be but by the length of the truck regardless of the number of cattle that it may carry.

“What kind of a business model is that. It is common knowledge that some Board members of BMC own feedlots and one wonders if they did declare their interests. We requested the EU to delist we were trying to save face. We had no choice because the auditors discovered some gaps,” said Rammidi.
Rammidi also took a swipe the Department of Veterinary and Services (DVS) saying the Livestock Identification Tracing System (LITS) collapsed under the Department’s watch.

“At times cattle had no bolus while some of the cattle’s omang could not be read by the DVS machines. The whole system was a mix up. At times details on the bolus would give information of a cow in the northern part of the country while its owner is based in the southern part of the country,” said Rammidi.

He said authorities would then resort to public relations exercise blaming the EU stringent demands.

“LITS is what caused the mess in the industry and the question is why did the system fail? How come that DVS did not notice that well on time?”

Casting doubts on the integrity of DVS as an authority that plays an inspection role on behalf of the EU, Rammidi sought explanation as to what really went wrong.
He also said there was an issue of tones of beef that was recalled from EU market when it was discovered that it had some antibiotics.

“The committee has to investigate why tones of meat had with antibiotics, if EU banned such antibiotics in 2006. How did it find its way into a feedlot supplying BMC? Because this feed is procured, what contractual agreement did BMC they got into, was it through a tender or what. The answer that was never given to the nation was what the cost of the meat, expenses by BMC, transporting back the meat back and forth, what happened to the meat, who should be held accountable for the meat recalled from EU,” he said.

Rammidi also wondered why Government was not winning the war against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
“We are spending a lot of money; why putting resources and not getting value or the system we are using is not the proper one,” he wondered further.

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