Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) treasurer and billionaire businessman Satar Dada owns the farm. A crew from Botswana Television (Btv) was also on hand to capture the drama as well as interview the farm's management chiefs.
But the story never saw the light of day after an order allegedly came from the highest office to Btv not to air the news clip if they knew "which side their bread is buttered," The Monitor has learnt. Since the police have declined to talk to us, it is still a mystery as to what prompted the raid. Apparently, after the raid, the police took with them samples of chickens to their forensic laboratories to test for any unlawful substances.
In an unexpected turn of events, Botswana Police Service spokesman Senior Superintendent Christopher Mbulawa, who is often cooperative with the media, declined to share any information on the raid preferring his juniors at Broadhurst Police Station do so. The junior officers on the other hand insisted that it was Mbulawa's mandate to release information to the public, particularly the press.
According to information gathered by The Monitor, Tswana Pride supplies a couple retail outlets in the form of braai packs, and fast food and fried chicken outlets in the country, and each customer prescribes the level of brining for their orders. Contacted for comment, Dada confirmed that they administer brining at his poultry farm and that there was a health inspection at his farm and others, as the MoH officials had wanted poultry producers to comply with the law by labelling their products.
"They were carrying out an inspection on whether we were complying with the law in labelling our products or packages that have undergone brining, and we complied the following day. There wasn't much about the raid," he said. Another raid was reportedly carried out on January 11 at Food Lovers Market at the Rail Park Mall, Gaborone, where chicken pieces were wrongly labelled, thus misleading customers about their origin.
What is brining?
According to Professor Roman Grynberg and Masedi Motswapong of Botswana Institute of Development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA), brining is a worldwide practice in which chickens are injected with brine solution substance to make the meat tender and juicy.
In their report of September 2011, titled "Competition and Trade
Policy: The Case of Botswana Poultry Industry," Grynberg and Motswapong state that: "The brining of poultry and other meats is now a normal part of industry practice worldwide and, with certain cuts of poultry, which are particularly dry, such as breast meat, brining is considered to be a vital part of the preparation and cooking process if the final product is to be tender," they said.
"However, what was once a method of assuring the flavour of poultry has become, in some countries, a method of improving the appearance and increasing the weight of chicken meat. It is for this reason that governments around the world have moved to protect consumers by assuring that packaging is properly labelled so that consumers are aware of what constitute the valuable content of a product," the duo wrote in the BIDPA Working Paper 31.
They state that neighbouring South African government has moved to introduce the Food Labelling Regulations, which will oblige poultry producers to declare content (March 2011). "It is widely expected that most South African poultry producers will declare a brining level of 30%, although some will declare well blow this level. No such similar regulations yet exist in Botswana; and firms are not legally obliged to declare on their packaging the content of the poultry and the level of brine. Zimbabwe has recently set brine limits of 15%," Grynburg and Motswapong said.
Our efforts to get more information from MoH were fruitless at time of going to press. The Monitor had wanted the ministry to state:
* How many other poultry farms have been raided;
* What the findings during the raids were;
* Whether there is a prescribed level of brining in Botswana;
* Whether brining has any health implications for the consumer; and
* Whether there were any unlawful substances found in the poultry meat during the raids.
MoH principal public relations officer (PRO) Keneilwe Motshegwa would not furnish The Monitor with answers, as she had to consult other officers before releasing any information to the press.
What is brine solution?
It is a mixture of water, salt, phosphates, starches, seaweed extracts, spice extracts, food gums, proteins, anti-oxidants and preservatives. It is injected into chicken carcasses to either increase their weight or make the meat tender.