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  • Balopi attaches BMC ‘s entire meat stock worth over P27 million
  • Attached BMC account, vehicles, all assets, staff left stranded
  • BMC CEO says move may shut down BMC
  • Dire reputational damage to international markets
  • Unflinching Balopi says he wants nothing but his cash

TEFO PHEAGE

The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), is according to its Chief Executive Officer, Boitumelo Mogome-Maseko on the brink of collapse, due to a claim by former Cabinet Minister and Speaker of Parliament Patrick Balopi. BMC has revealed that in the event they succumb to Balopi’s instruction to his deputy sheriff to attach all its assets, meat stock and bank accounts to settle the P40 Million debt he is owed by BMC the parastatal will cease to be able to operate.

The High Court on Friday March 15th granted BMC a temporary reprieve by issuing a stay of execution but in doing so has allowed Balopi’s Walgreen to file its opposing papers. The case is scheduled to continue on April 8th, 2019. Balopi through his company, Walgreen Investments has obtained from the Registrar of the High Court a Writ of Execution in his favour and has instructed Deputy Sheriff Ongkopotse Motlhagodi to levy it against BMC.

Court documents indicate that Motlhagodi has attached BMC’s account, livestock vehicles, assets, its entire meat stock, ancillary equipment and that the Deputy Sheriff wants to remove them from BMC and place the assets under his control with immediate effect.

Balopi’s company Walgreen was embroiled in a contentious arbitration with BMC, which BMC lost. Information in possession of The Botswana Gazette shows that the dispute between Walgreen and BMC resulted in an arbitrator awarding Walgreen its claim of P40 million together with costs and interest.

BMC’s Acting CEO Boitumelo Mogome-Maseko claims in her court filing that her organisation failed to challenge Walgreens application to confirm the arbitrators award after BMC had refused to pay Balopi’s company’s claim. The High Court on February 26th, 2019 confirmed the arbitrators award because, according to the allegations by BMC in the court papers, the attorney it had instructed, Kgosi Ngakaagae failed to fulfil their instructions.

Ngakaagae in a written response to this publication has denied that he failed to fulfil BMC’s instructions and indicated that he had saved the parastatal P90 million Pula and launched a Review Application against the arbitrator’s award which is currently pending before the High Court. The outspoken attorney claimed that he did not believe BMC had cast aspersions against him as he had saved the institution from a massive claim.

In spite of the arbitrator’s award having been confirmed by the High Court, BMC has launched two court proceedings to protect itself from the fallout of Balopi’s claim. Court proceedings reveal that Ngakaagae on behalf of BMC challenged the arbitrators award on the grounds that the conducted of the arbitration was overtly prejudicial to BMC and demonstrated a degree of bias against them that would render the decision liable to be set aside by an independent court. The case is yet to be finalised.

On March the 15th BMC launched a further application, now represented by Ramalepa Attorneys for an urgent stay of execution in which it sought the courts permission not to serve Balopi’s company and the deputy sheriff. Documents filed on behalf of BMC claim that because the Deputy Sheriff, even if well intended, tried to enter its refrigeration and storage facilities it would mean BMC would have to destroy millions of pula worth of stock and cause severe damage, within the region and further abroad, to its operations and reputation.

Why BMC faces an unprecedented shutdown… 

The BMC CEO has warned in the court papers that should Balopi get his way, BMC will shutdown. Boitumelo Mogome-Maseko claims on behalf of BMC in its application for Stay of Execution pending the review that currently, the finished product held in storage at BMC amounts to frozen product valued at P21 Million based on various market realizations “European union, (EU), Republic of South Africa, regional and local markets.”

The CEO further says Chilled product is valued P6 million destined for the EU market.

According to her, all the standards defined in BMC’s technical standards as required by local and international regulations and food safety standards that BMC subscribes to will suffer greatly in the event Balopi and his Sheriffs gain control of BMC.
“The value of the product is dependent on the ability to demonstrate compliance,” she revealed briefly outlining countless complications which may arise should Balopi get his way.

The Account seizure…

The BMC account, Mogome- Maseko informed the court in her affidavit, is BMC’s primary means of maintaining its cashflow, for purposes of transacting both locally and internationally, and also to meet its recurrent financial obligations. “The latter include its ability to meet its obligations to pay P 11 million per month to its 1200 staff in salaries and their families.” reads the CEO’s affidavit. Mogome- Maseko warned that should the stay of execution fail and the accounts be permitted to remain under Balopi’s attachment, BMC will be forced into bankruptcy.

The acting CEO claimed that the entire nation will suffer greatly the aftermath of such bankruptcy, “BMC will not be able to make payment to the cattle farmers who have sold their beasts to BMC. It must be recalled that that BMC is oftentimes the sole source of income for its suppliers. The freezing of the account renders BMC unable to meet its obligation to pay P112 million due to its suppliers-P80 million for cattle farmers and P32 million for other creditors.

She said BMC employees 722 Batswana in Lobatse and surrounding areas alone and said the attachment will have a resultant effect on the local economy of Lobatse, but will no doubt also affect the fiscus in general.

“The loss of staff complement, either through retrenchment or resignations will deprive BMC of a valuable resource of staff specifically trained for BMC business.”

The licences…

Balopi’s demands will cause BMC’s hard-earned licenses to be revoked, according to the CEO. “The interruptions of BMC’s operations as caused by the attachment and deputy sheriff’s intended entry into BMC facility for purposes of removing the stock as advised, renders BMC liable to lose the licenses, as it will not be able to meet its regulatory and statutory obligations, let alone being in breach if the same,” complains the Commission ‘s CEO.

Deputy sheriff , CEO clash over sheriff’s demand for entry

The CEO in the court papers alleges that Deputy Sheriff, Motlhagodi advised her that he intends to attend at BMC’s premises for purposes of removing the aforesaid stock.: “This is why this motion is being moved ex parte-in the interests of one side only. The fact is that given BMC’s basic control of hygiene, temperature and environment controls, and quality control, the deputy sheriff, no matter how well meaning, is not at all equipped to access BMC’S facility, let alone purport to move the stock. The attempt to enter the facility will cause us to lose our local, regional and international licenses for the breach of its basic controls.”

The deputy sheriff, she said, has neither the training, the expertise, nor the specialized skills and equipment to move the stock.
She revealed that when the writ of execution was delivered by the deputy Sheriff, BMC was in the midst of a regulatory audit which they can now not complete because all its computer hard ware and software has been removed from its premises.

“BMC was also supposed to be in the midst of processing its payroll, which is due on 25 March 2019 and the attachment and removal of its computer software and account attachment have made it impossible for BMC to prepare for payments. BMC will likely be constrained to retrench its staff complement,” revealed the CEO.

BMC stands to suffer irreparable harm in the event of execution being effected pending the conclusion of the review of the arbitrator’s award.

BMC has also asked that the assets that have been removed from its possession be restored to it, so that it can continue to operate normally albeit under attachment.

On Friday the court heard BMC’s plea and suspended the Execution to allow Walgreen the opportunity to reply to the papers. The execution has been suspended.

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