Drama unfolded this week at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) when a high level delegation led by the minister of Agriculture descended on the abattoir to terminate the contract of Acting Chief Executive Officer Ian Thompson and his Chief Financial Advisor.
The decision comes hardly two months after Thompson replaced Dr. David Falepau who was expected to guide the loss-making abattoir to profitability. Respected geologist and former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Dr. Akolang Tombale took over on Wednesday on a one-year contract. While details remain sketchy on Thompson’ expulsion, industry sources say a delegation which included Minister Christian De Graff, Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Micus Chimbombi descended Wednesday morning on the abattoir with one thing in mind: to expel Thompson and his Chief Financial Advisor, Siva Prasad Ventaka Subrahmanya Ponange. With his financial background, Indian born Prasad had been BMC (UK) Limited Director until 14 November 2011 according to documents seen by Botswana Guardian.
He was then appointed Financial Advisor in June 2012. Sources within the ailing abattoir said Prasad made a killing from his expulsion, raking in almost P1 million for the two months he was at BMC.
“A contingent of officials arrived this morning, they fired Thompson while he was still on leave.” Dr Tombale who reported to work on Wednesday has an enormous task of reviving the fortunes of the parastatal after posting poor results in recent years. The former permanent secretary in the defunct Ministry of mineral resources takes over at a time when the parastatal is on its knees due to poor management.
BMC communications manager could not confirm or deny the development. However, he said that the parastatal would call a press conference to announce the new changes. Tombale’s ascendance to the top BMC post is also expected to raise questions about his experience in the meat industry.
Dr. Tombale cut his teeth in the mining industry and has been a private consultant and board chairman of BCL limited. His close acquaintances say the bureaucrat- renowned for his negotiations skills in the Botswana/De Beers diamonds sales agreement, which led to the relocation of the Diamond Trading Company from London to Gaborone-will help improve BMC profit margins.
Dr. Tombale told Botswana Guardian this week that what BMC needs is a manager not a farmer to run its operations.
“The problem with BMC has been issues of management. Yes they have been appointing people with the right technical qualifications [in the meat industry] for the job, but that hasn’t changed the fortunes of the parastatal over the years. While it is true that I don’t have experience in the meat industry, I have held senior managerial positions in government and this can help the company,” he said.
He said that after a month he would have identified the real problems behind the parastatal’s poor performance, adding that what is needed at BMC is to empower the junior staff and avail resources to them. While his appointment has been hailed in some quarters, others like the Chairman of Haina Veldt Farmers Association Philip Wright have out-rightly dismissed it.
“If it’s true, it’s a joke.” Wright argued that someone from the mining industry was incapable of solving problems surrounding BMC. He said that as far as the farmers are concerned, Dr. Falepau was the right person for the job not somebody from a mining industry.
“We still don’t know why he was fired,” he said. Mogalakwe Mogalakwe, a member of the Sand veldt Farmers Association in the Central District, hailed the appointment saying BMC does not need a veterinarian to turn it around.
He hoped that Dr Tombale as capable administrator would do away with the purchase scheme, which he said, benefited only the feedlot farmers. The minister of Agriculture Christian De Graaff confirmed the appointment to Botswana Guardian.