Former Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) executive chairman Dr Martin Mannathoko last week gave recommendations to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the ailing parastatal. Dr Mannathoko recommended that to breathe new life into the Commission there should be a complete restructuring with clear roles of accountability set for the minister (of Agriculture), the board, and management. “There should also be a complete restructuring of the feedlotting model and move quickly away from weaners to yearlings. External marketing should also be revived, we should not have our beef being sold through agents,” he said. According to the former BMC chief, feedlotting is a good model but there should be a purpose for doing it and at least with a reliable supply and this should not be a replacement for direct supply by farmers.
Mannathoko observed that the current model is riddled with corruption when it comes to transport and logistics and he does not think it is achieving its intended purpose. He further called for the liberalization of the livestock industry, live animals, breeding stock and genetic material. “If people can protect their songs why not protect our livestock?” he asked. He stressed that the role of the Director of Veterinary Services (DVS) should be clear and be made very independent. Mannathoko added that Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) especially in the Ngamiland region could be eliminated only if the director has powers and responsibility to do his job. “We should have proper coverage and effective measures and controls in place and further, there should be compartments in all our risky areas so as to create a solid buffer,” he said.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Ngami, Taolo Habano, asked what Dr Mannathoko thought of the BMC delisting from the European Union (EU) market. In his response, he said he was shocked at the relationship between the regulator and the BMC. He further said both the BMC and DVS have their own laboratories to continuously look at the quality of meat. “Before you start slaughtering, you have to be sure that the health conditions in the abattoir are right. I, therefore, do not understand how the meat left the BMC without having identified the residues,” he said. The former chief executive also mentioned that during his time BMC used to conduct annual shutdowns to correct all the problems/faults so that they could operate for another year without encountering any hicups.
MP for Kgatleng West Gilbert Mangole asked if the former executive chairman believed there is a scheme intended to kill BMC. Mannathoko said, “There are things that I saw as one-sided and irrational such as appointing board members who benefited alone. From an organ that was very reputable, had good balance sheet and has now steeped so low, somebody should have stopped this,” he said. “The board members do not have the qualifications and the integrity to be board members. Hence the industry does not deserve to be run by people of their calibre. It seems you have to be a white and of Afrikaner blood to be a board member,” he observed.