Evidence continues to emerge linking the Minister of Agriculture Christian De Graaff to the downfall of the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).
The minister does not take advice from close aides at the ministry but rather allows a few powerful people on the BMC board to use him it has emerged. De Graaff's right hand man, Oreeditse Molebatsi this week admitted that his boss ignored some of his advice on how things should be done at the ailing BMC. The assistant minister told the Special Select Committee of Parliament conducting an inquiry into the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and the decline of the country's beef industry on Wednesday that he had differences with his boss on allowing former BMC board member Ian Thompson to volunteer his services as Chief Executive Officer of the organisation. Following the dismissal of Dr. David Falepau as CEO Thompson offered his services for free as BMC head honcho. "I think that is where my boss went wrong." Molebatsi noted that Thompson dangled a carrot before the minister that he would do the job for free and the minister fell for it. "It was a mistake to appoint Thompson acting CEO. It is not right to think that we have run out of human resources." The assistant minister told the commission that he tried his best to advice the minister on this but his advice was not heeded. "My advice was that he should pay him so that we can control him, and also so that when things go out of control we should be able to take him to task," he said. He added that he insisted on Thompson being salaried and that if he did not want the money he could donate it to Red Cross. He said he made these pleas during the ministry's management team committee meetings. The committee comprises the minister, Molebatsi, Dr. Micus Chimbombi (permanent secretary) and his two deputies. He said he also advised the minister during one-on-one occasions. Molebatsi also advised De Graaff on other issues. "Some of my advices he took them but others he did not." However the assistant minister could not be drawn into discussing-at the urging of committee member Prince Maele- whether the minister is competent enough to lead the ministry. He replied: "I don't think I can answer that question, he is my boss and you cannot say 'your boss is failing,' you always see him as someone who is competent."
See and hear no evil
However one of the things, which might have contributed to the downfall of the BMC is the fact that the ministry seems to have abdicated its responsibilities to the Board of directors. On top of an all-powerful and imposing Board of Directors it appears BMC's supervisors at the ministry of agriculture are not aware of what is going on at the parastatal. It emerged at the hearing that the BMC has taken decisions, which Molebatsi is not aware of.
Here are six things, which the assistant minister is clueless on:
- That BMC has signed a contract with a Norwegian company to sell all its beef
- That Namibia has made strides in its efforts to fight foot and mouth disease using Botswana's purified vaccine.
- That former CEO, Dr. Motshudi Raborokgwe was deemed incompetent. This according to a secret report presented to cabinet.
- That there was once a Ministry of Agriculture Research project based in Motopi near Maun
- That BMC has signed a contract with GPS to market its beef
- Says MPs should help him talk with Speaker of the National Assembly to increase the ministry's budget. (Had to be reminded by Reatile that the Speaker has nothing to do with the budget proposals).
Molebatsi was left red-faced as he heard for the first time information about his ministry during the hearing. For instance it has emerged that the BMC this year signed a contract with Notura (Pty) Ltd-a Norwegian company that Botswana would sell all its beef to it. And also that BMC has a contract with GPS Food Group to handle the marketing of its products in Europe. The assistant minister was hit with the news just when he boasted that his ministry was in the process of clinching an Italian market that would also help Botswana sell its meat to countries such as Angola, Iran and Russia. He said that he personally assembled the team that negotiated the market in Italy. "As we speak I left the Italians with the minister finalising the deal." According to him the deal will see the Francistown abattoir slaughtering for the Italian company. Also he revealed that his ministry is in negotiations with a Durban-based company that wants to buy beef from Ngamiland. The multi-million Pula deal if signed will see the Maun BMC being expanded and slaughtering more cattle than the 100 it slaughters presently. But when quizzed how the ministry was able to source these markets yet the GPS Food Group is the one mandated to do so, the assistant minister said he was not aware of the GPS deal and that it is the only one mandated to market BMC beef. "If that is the case then it needs to be corrected." The assistant minister is also not aware that early this year BMC signed a contract with Notura (Pty) Ltd that all BMC beef will be exported to Norway. But according to committee members they saw the contract during their recent visit to Europe. This prompted Maele to ask, "do you really know what is going on at BMC?"