There is a simple reason why the country’s multibillion-Pula beef industry is collapsing: it’s because the Agriculture minister Christian De Graaff is so fascinated by lion breeding that he has lost the will to concentrate on the less profitable beef industry.
This is the shocking revelation by Member of Parliament for Kanye North Kentse Rammidi on Wednesday before the Special Select Committee of Parliament conducting an inquiry into the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and the decline of the country’s beef industry. De Graaff, in particular, has lost confidence in the country’s beef industry and has turned his focus on game farming.
Rammidi said the minister is now rearing lions. “I have no confidence on De Graaff,” he said adding that statistics show that the beef industry is losing P2 billion a year but the minister has no clue as to what the problems are at the parastatal. “If we were staying in a realistic country the minister should have resigned because the buck stops with him,” he said.
When reached for comment by Botswana Guardian, De Graaff admitted owning lions as part of “tourism business,” but denied losing confidence in the beef industry. “For me it is not about personal interest. As the minister I am responsible for the nation,” he said, adding that he is much interested in growing the beef industry. “I will do anything to protect the beef industry.”
About lion breeding
Unlike cattle farming, breeders can benefit financially a number of times from the same lion. Cubs are often rented as tourist attractions and visitors pay to pet and interact with them. The fee paid by visitors is then fed back into captive breeding programmes. As adults, the lions are sold to hunters in canned hunting arrangements.
Farmers and hunting operators charge in the region of about $20 000 (P160 000) as a “trophy price” and hunters can expect to pay around $18 000 (P145 000) for other services, excluding taxidermy.
Rammidi also fingered three other key players for the sorry state of the country’s meat industry.
At the apex is Permanent Secretary (PS) Dr. Micus Chimbombi, former Coordinator of the Agriculture Hub Neil Fitt (now PS in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism) and the BMC’ General Manager Livestock Procurement Clive Marshal. All the four men, said Rammidi, should be investigated for their role in the collapse of the beef industry.
As for Marshal, Rammidi accused him of conflict of interest saying he was doing business with BMC while at the same time he is an employee of the organisation. Marshal allegedly owns a feedlot trading as Tholo Holdings, which does business with BMC. “There is something sinister about him,” said Rammidi, appealing to the Select Committee to investigate him.
As for Chimbombi the MP said he could “not escape the blame” because the ministry of Agriculture collapsed under his watch, yet he is supposed to be its Accounting Officer. BMC lost millions of pula since 2009 but Chimbombi failed to advise the minister to come up with a better strategy, he said. The MP said that the BMC delisting from the European Union (EU) market in 2011 was avoidable.
“The delisting was avoidable because there were other audits before the one that led to the delisting,” he said, citing three such audits conducted between 2009 and 2011 whose recommendations the ministry however never acted upon. The World Organisation for Animal Health conducted one of the audits. Rammidi wondered why De Graaff is cagey about the firing of former BMC CEO Dr David Falepau.
“This committee must find out why the CEO was fired.” Meanwhile, the EU inspection committee is expected in Botswana next month. Giving evidence before the Select Committee, former Director of Department of Veterinary Services, who is now Director of Animal Production Dr. Kgosietsile Phillimon-Motsu said the inspection committee is expected in the country in March. The committee identified a number of deficiencies the last time it was in the country, which led to the delisting of BMC.