It was another heavy day at the Parliamentary Select Committee that is investigating the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and the cause of the decline of the country’s beef industry as more damning accusations and finger pointing characterised the testimonies on Monday. In a rebuttal to former CEO David Falepau’s testimony last week Assistant Minister of Agriculture (MoA), Oreeditse Molebatsi yesterday told the Parliamentary Select Committee that former BMC Chief Executive Officer lied when he appeared before them via video conference a week ago. Molebatsi Molebatsi said that the Australian – based Falepau is disrespectful of authority and takes advantage of the fact that he has left the country.
In his testimony before the Committee on July 20th, Falepau claimed that of all the people, the Assistant Minister wanted him fi red. He told the Committee that during his time as the head of BMC, Molebatsi addressed Maun farmers, where he told them that the BMC would buy cattle from them, a move that as the CEO, he never knew about. He said he only learnt about it in the media after the address and he approached Molebatsi to tell him that the idea was not good for the beef industry. But in his testimony yesterday, Molebatsi denied those allegations. He told the Select Committee that when he went to Maun, Falepau and Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Micus Chimbombi prepared notes for him to address the farmers in Maun.
“There was no way that I could just fl y to Maun. I was on assignment, assigned by the Minister. Falepau made me lie to the farmers who later crucified me. When I returned from Maun, I met with Falepau to ask him why he lied to me; he said nothing and that is why I said that day Falepau could have been fi red immediately. He is just torturing the truth,” he said. MP for Kweneng East, Moeng Pheto wanted Molebatsi to produce the records of the meeting he had with Falepau after he returned from Maun. Molebatsi said the meeting was not recorded but he has proof that Falepau and Chimbombi were the ones who prepared the key notes for him to address farmers in Maun.
In another issue, MP for Kgatleng West, Gilbert Mangole wanted Molebatsi to clarify on issues that a certain organisation called Meat Co. in Namibia was planning to take over the BMC. Mangole said that there are allegations that the reason why the performance of the BMC is declining was because some people who are within the BMC collaborated with people from the said company and hoped that BMC marketing arms in United Kingdom would close down so the Namibian company could take over. Molebatsi said he was not aware of any allegations that Meat Co. collaborated with some people within the BMC and were planning to take over. “I am not aware of that,” he said.
Former Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) board chairperson Mmapula Modise also took the stand on Monday and told the Parliament Select Committee that the Minister of Agriculture, Christiaan De Graaf disappointed her during her tenure with the board. She said the Minister operated an open door policy that allowed every board member to have too much access to him. She said that made it difficult for her to control abusive board members. According to her, individual board members could go to the Minister’s office to discuss issues without her knowing and having input on the issues discussed. “That made things difficult for me.
I wrote to the Minister trying to show him that the management was not functioning because of the abusive board members. I suggested in the letter that some board members be fi red, but that did not happen. I then decided to quit because I couldn’t work with the board members,” she said. De Graaf has since blamed the BMC management and the board for the decline of the beef industry but Modise does not see it that way. She said she was not in a position to judge anyone but believed that the board cannot be blamed.
“The Ministry also should be blamed as the appointing authority. The management was not able to function because there was no order. People were insulted everyday they reported to work. Issues we not addressed; you would come to the honourable Minister to ask for help and would not get that help. The Minister really disappointed me,” she said. The BMC was expected to turn into a profitable organisation when the turnaround time came but that did not work, she said. The chairman of the Select Committee, Mephato Reatile asked her what she felt about the management of the BMC and she said the management at the time had worked for the organisation for long periods and had their ways of running the BMC.
“It was difficult for them to adapt to new ways of doing things when the turnaround time came. The turnaround wanted vibrant people to run the organisation,” she said. On another burning issue, members of the Committee wanted to understand why the sitting allowance outside the country was high. Reatile said that was the reason why most of the time the CEO worked outside the country. The board sitting allowances in Botswana was P840 while in the United Kingdom it was P3, 500 even though the organisation was still responsible for transport, accommodation and food for board members. In her response, Modise said at the time the fees were seen as peanuts because the organisation was doing well.