BMC new 'vultures' unmasked

The plan to take over the operations of Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and its subsidiaries by Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) was hatched close to ten years ago with the help of white farmers in Botswana and senior government officials.

These findings are contained in documents seen by Botswana Guardian recently. According to a report that was authored by the former BMC CEO Motshodi Raborokgwe in 2008, email communications between senior beef industry players and minutes of one BMC (UK) board meeting efforts have been ongoing to take over the once mighty BMC since 2005. The names that keep on appearing from the documents are those of the Meatco CEO Kobus du Plesssis, Philip Fischer a successful white farmer in Botswana, Brian Perkins managing director of GPS Food Group, Professor Loubser, Meatco board member and former Botswana Government economic advisor Nico Czypionka.

Despite prior warning the government allegedly sat on a report that may have saved BMC from collapse. With BMC UK operations now under the hands of GPS Food Group – a company with strong links to Namibia’s Meatco, observers are already saying that Meatco has partly achieved its goal of taking over the limping BMC. Recently Botswana Guardian established that some of the founders of GPS Food Group are also board members of Meatco UK.

The conspiracy
Documents seen by this newspaper show that while the rumours have been persisting since 2005 that efforts were afoot to wrestle BMC from the government of Botswana, in 2008 a more spirited fight was launched by a cartel of beef industry officials in the United Kingdom, Namibia and Botswana to take over BMC. This is how it happened: Dawn Meat, a company that was engaged by Meatco to market its beef products in Europe suffered a major split in 2008 with its sales director Brian Perkins leaving the company to start a rival company GPS Food Group. When he left the company he was joined by at least six members of Dawn Meat. Dawn eventually collapsed and was closed down in 2008.

According to email communications seen by Botswana Guardian du Plessis – Meatco CEO may have been aware of the developments within Dawn Meat. In fact some have suggested that du Plessis may have played a part in the creation of GPS Food Group. Former Dawn Meat senior officials have also admitted during their meetings with BMC officials that the two have been very close for some time. Email conversations show that even the day that Perkins resigned from Dawn to form GPS, du Plessis was aware of it. This is contained in an email he sent to former BMC UK Managing Director Tom Ray.

Fischer: The Fixer
A former BMC board member, Fischer is considered to be one of the most powerful players in the whole plan to take over BMC. The Raborokgwe report points to Fischer as the head of Afrikaners in Botswana who are planning to take over BMC. Raborokgwe said in the report that following allegations that Fischer and other Afrikaner farmers were working around the clock to take over the BMC and incorporate it with Meatco, he acted swiftly and approached the Minister of Agriculture Johnny Swartz, his deputy and Agriculture permanent secretary for guidance. He said that the meeting resolved to monitor the situation. The report, which was highly critical of Fischer, observed that for many years Fischer has been attacking the marketing of BMC beef with an aim of discrediting the organisation. “…these constant attacks came under the saying, ‘say it long enough and often enough and you will be believed whether or not you are correct.”

Raborokwe also said in his report that Fischer was constantly chasing the government officials to try to further his view. “ all points to and forms part of the softening up of BMC although this is purely supposition,” read the report.

Raborokgwe’s report established the following about Fischer;

Mr. Fischer had a marketing study carried out in the UK without even contacting BMC or AMI, which certainly indicates that he has his own agenda.
Mr. Fischer organised a meeting with the Minister, Mr. du Plessis and Brian Perkins from Dawn Meats in the name of Meatco, and this was deliberately arranged to take place at a time when he knew that the PS, the Chairman and CEO were out of the country.
BMC has been informed by the PS that Meatco wishes to buy the Maun abattoir.
Mr. Fischer is constantly trying to influence the Australian consultants (GRM) to his way of thinking.
Fischer’s role in the BMC Meatco affair is extraordinary and at times puzzling to the BMC board. In one of the meetings in 2008 board members discussed his apparent influence. Former BMC CEO Oke Nielsen who was then BMC UK director questioned Fischer’s influence in Botswana. “After all, if I am sitting in Botswana and I want to speak to a farmer in Europe it would take me a bit of a while to find out who the hell I speak to and for Brian Perkins all of a sudden to find Philip Fischer in Botswana and say ‘Ah he’s the man I need to speak to because he can set up a meeting with the Minister.’” questioned Nielsen sarcastically during a board meeting. Repeated efforts to talk to Fischer this week were unsuccessful.

Perkins – controversial character
The collapse of Dawn in 2008 meant that Perkins was able to win the UK contract for his newly established GPS Food Group a few months following the collapse of his former organisation. Where does BMC fit in all these? When BMC lost the Meatco contract to Dawn Meat in 2006, Perkins was fingered as the key person behind the development. At one point BMC was marketing Meatco products in the UK until 2006 when Perkins together with some Meatco officials engineered a move that left BMC without a major contract. Now with his own company Perkins was powerful enough to go after BMC contract. With the help of du Plessis and a Botswana farmer Fischer, Perkins was able to travel to Namibia and allegedly also to Botswana to meet government officials. While in 2008 the government and BMC officials were hostile to him, the situation changed a few years later.

In 2012, Perkins' company GPS Food group finally managed to lay its hands on BMC after it won a contract to market BMC products in Europe. A month ago BMC UK closed down its offices in UK for the first time since it was incorporated in the United Kingdom in 1966. The operations of BMC UK are all handled by GPS Food Group. As it stands GPS Food Group markets meat products for both BMC and Meatco. “This is a dream come true for Meatco and GPS officials. They have achieved what they have long wanted,” commented a source close to BMC.  CEO Akolang Tombale has downplayed the move maintaining that the change does not present any issues of conflict of interest. He added that BMC is closely monitoring the work of GPS. But more worrying is why BMC allowed itself to be under the very same person who robbed them millions in the mid-2000s?

Czypionka’s role
The report also came hard on the role of the former government economic advisor Nico Czypionka. According to Raborokgwe’s report it has been established that both professor Loubser and Kobus du Plessis have been communicating directly with Czypionka in Botswana, “whom they evidently have known for some years.”
“This also seems to link well with the statement that Mr. Czypionka made at a meeting by Nielsen to the former President Festus Mogae in September 2006, when Czypionka said in a factual way, ‘that BMC was going to lose the Meatco contract anyway’. When challenged on this by Nielsen and asked ‘where do you have this information from?’ Mr. Czypionka refused to say.

Did the government ignore the report?
Impeccable sources this week told Botswana Guardian that when the report was first authored in 2008, it was not only sent to the BMC board but also to former vice president Mompati Merafhe, Minister of Agriculture Johnny Swartz, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime. Sources say that the government authorities failed to act on the report and dismissed it as a rumour. This week Raborokgwe refused to comment on the report.
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Last modified on Monday, 26 August 2013 15:21

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