MPs sure had a lot to say about the Botswana Meat Commission in the current session of parliament but all except one absented themselves from an extensive consultative process that was undertaken by the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia, last year. This revelation was made by the minister himself on the floor of parliament and no MP refuted it.
In yielding to a host of complaints from both commercial and subsistence cattle farmers about BMC operations, the government embarked on a nationwide exercise to consult all interested parties on the ideal BMC they would like to see. Such consultation was done through kgotla meetings and given the importance of this exercise, headlined by the minister himself. Much of Botswana is made up of rural areas and most of the MPs represent rural constituencies. On the basis of the latter, one would think that MPs from rural constituencies would be adequately concerned about BMC’s future to have attended Ralotsia’s meetings. That didn’t happen and when a BMC-related issue came up in parliament, the minister made a by-the-way point that the Gantsi North MP, Noah Salakae, was the only one who participated in this process by attending a consultative meeting in his constituency.
The early-quarter session ÔÇô which is the second in a parliamentary year, typically spotlights BMC in the finance minister’s main budget speech as well as the minister’s own presentation to the Committee of Supply. Salakae also tabled a motion calling on the government to end the Commission’s export monopoly. When the latter occurred, MPs were in a rat race to contribute to the debate and make a suite of proposals. A good number of them pointed out a lot of imperfections about BMC that their constituents wanted perfected. Interestingly, these same MPs would have been able to make those same points at the kgotla meetings they stayed away from. Their input would have carried more weight because it would have been considered in the formulation of the new strategy to restructure the Commission. What they said in parliament doesn’t count in that regard because the consultation is over and cabinet has taken a decision on the matter. Not only would the participation of MPs have impressed upon residents in respective villages the importance of the exercise, it would have availed MPs of a lot more time to comment on the BMC issue than is the case in parliament where floor time is severely rationed out.
It would have been as important for MPs who represent urban constituencies to attend the meetings because their constituents also take substantial interest in how BMC is run.