Government is well aware of a Completion Authority (CA) market study that reveals competition concerns in the Botswana’s Poultry Industry.
The abuse of a dominant position by key players in this sector has ensured that this market is nearly, the exclusive preserve of a racially identifiable cabal that runs the ruling and has colossal influence in the high echelons of power.
It is fair to say that if government was serious about levelling the playing field in this sector, they would long have done so. This issue has been on the public agenda for decades and no meaningful action has been taken to resolve same.
Batswana have been bullied through the “Halaal”, requirement. Modest efforts were made by the last President to ensure that this religious condition does not constitute a hindrance to the many Batswana who only plead for fair competition, in this sector. Retailers were required to have non-Halaal shelves in order that those who are obligated, by virtue if their faiths, are not prejudiced. Looking back, one wonders whether that was intended to achieve meaningful reform, or it was just tokenism meant to have palliative effect on the suffering small-scale chicken farmer.
The intervention fell far short of addressing the root cause of the problem, being the control of the value chain, from hatchlings to feed. The study can be found at the CA website; https://www.competitionauthority.co.bw/.
Firstly, it is significant that the authority, itself has done nothing about the problem, so far. It only goes to confirm the authority’s impotence, in the face of the bigwigs that control this sector.
The country has a problem, when a referee acknowledges a penalty, but chooses to look the other away. The institutional protector of Batswana, in ensuring market fairness is impotent. Either they are afraid of the market players, or of those that protect them. It is the indigenous Motswana who suffers in the process.
When discussing this issue on social media, I was greeted with pitiable, self-hate excuses such as the employment role, these key players perform in our economy. I dare say that Batswana would employ even more people, if we were to unlock the value chain and allow all to play.
Employment creation, is not the exclusive citizen duty of these players. Besides, why should Batswana be employees where they can also play? Batswana deserve the same dignity that comes with being self-employed, and being employers. The market dominance to which I make reference ensures that shop shelves are only filled with produce from these players. The KFC, the Chicken Licken, the Nando’s we eat, have nothing to do with the indigenous Motswana.
Chicken is enjoyed purely at the pleasure of this cabal and for them. In anti-trust law, there is such a thing as abuse of a dominant market position. Fair market practices require that bullies be cut down to size. It is not about bullying the bully, but simply ensuring that all players have a fair shot in
Regrettably, the people we have employed for this role, are in the back pockets of the bullies. Our government is working against citizen economic empowerment in this regard. It will be foolhardy for the government to suppose that this cry shall blow off steam. We will not tire. If government does not do something, and do it in a hurry, this issue shall be a key reference point in 2024. We will tell them, that they shall obtain a further mandate from those that they protected, and who bullied our people under their watch. Batswana want to supply the retail market too, including the fast food franchises I have already mentioned. The unfair domination and racialisation of the poultry sector, cannot be allowed to go on unchecked. The situation is downright unacceptable. In fact, it is deplorable.
Government’s inaction in addressing this problem confirms fears of State capture, that are forever denied by the uncritical defenders of the status quo. The value chain must be unlocked. We do not need a Citizen Economic Empowerment law to do this. There is already a competition authority that ought to have done something about the problem, but which is simply grinning and showing sponge teeth. Its duty cannot be all about mergers and acquisitions, when lower rung players are involved. There is a genuine problem, and the CA must advise Batswana what they have done since the market study to which reference has been made.
The poultry sector is unique in that it is a traditional market for Batswana. It is no wonder that our countrysides are littered with abandoned poultry sheds. Batswana are poultry farmers. It is market dynamics, in particular, corporate bullying, that have edged them out of their traditional source of income. The abandoned poultry sheds, stand as monuments of Batswana’s attempts to self-empowerment, and government’s callous disregard of their efforts and the betrayal of their cause.
To be sure, the poultry sector is not the only sector that is in critical need of reform. The problem is widespread. But it is important to focus on one problem at a time. More must come, and more, surely will. The challenge of citizen economic empowerment is not all about economic growth. That constitutes selling Batswana some pie in the sky. There is need to demonstrate commitment by addressing this issue. Government cannot look away, and neither, will we. Each time the President and cabinet ministers speak of Citizen Economic Empowerment, we will remind them of this betrayal. Their promises shall ring hollow, until this problem is resolved.
Mr President, we demand the fulfilment of your party’s manifesto promises. We do not want to be told about COVID-19 and the economic resuscitation and recovery plan. We are suffering in the immediate moment, and not in the future.