FRANCISTOWN: Farmers in the northern part of the country are contemplating using political pressure to arm-twist President Mokgweetsi Masisi into opening the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) abattoir in Francistown.
The BMC closed its operations here at the beginning of the year citing low supply of cattle from the farming community, hence it was losing millions of Pula to keep the Francistown BMC operational. If the big round of applause and murmurs of approval were a measure of how the farmers felt during their meeting to brainstorm on how they may compel the government to re-open the Francistown BMC, then it’s safe to state that the farmers have embraced the idea of using political capital to push their demand of the re-opening of the facility.
This happened after a farmer from Matsiloje, Simon Lephalo, put a proposal before the cattle farmers to include their Members of Parliament (MPs) to fight in their corner in their bid to re-open the Francistown BMC.
Lephalo, who is also a former long-serving councillor for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in Matsiloje, said he was dismayed at the “silence of our MPs in Parliament about this very important issue that has far reaching consequences in our lives”. Lephalo said he had observed that the MPs who were representing voters who supply cattle to the Francistown BMC in the northern parts of the country have been silent in Parliamen about the issue of the closure of the abattoir.
“We come from different places in the northern part of the country, but we are here talking about a sensitive issue concerning our lives alone. I am wondering where our MPs are. We should include them in meetings like these in order to better amplify our concerns at the highest office in the land, otherwise I am afraid that our voices will not carry any weight when we take it to President Masisi without the involvement of our MPs. We did not vote them to go to parliament to do nothing,” clearly worried, Lephalo thundered.
Asked to clarify his position on the sidelines of the meeting, Lephalo argued that government recently stated that it would open the BCL Mine following intense pressure from some MPs in Parliament, especially Dithapelo Keorapetse of Selebi-Phikwe West, who he said was very vocal about the re-opening of the BCL Mine.
In the same vein, Lephalo stated that there is no use to vote MPs who are not vocal in Parliament about issues concerning farmers in the northern part of the country. He added that he was and still of the view that if farmers can pressurise their MPs to speak on their behalf about the re-opening of the Francistown BMC, then the government will finally relent and re-open it.
“If our MPs don’t toe our line but pursue their own political interests, then they must as well kiss our votes goodbye,” Lephalo warned matter-of-factly. Although Lephalo’s opinion seemed to have curried favour with many farmers who came to the Civic Centre Hall, some farmers cautioned against the inclusion of politics in what they said was purely a farming matter which they can manage to handle alone while still remaining apolitical.
Supporting Lephalo, another farmer from the Zone 6 area Mpho Buzwani, said that the Office of the President (OP) could have listened to the farmers had they from the beginning included all their MPs in the affected northern parts of the country to convince government to re-open the Francistown BMC.
The Civic Centre meeting was called by the delegation that the farmers sent to OP two months ago to brief President Masisi about the problems they are encountering since the government took a decision to close the BMC facility. The farmers said that they decided to send a delegation to Gaborone to meet the President because the reasons advanced by the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia about the closure did not convince them.
Earlier, Patrick Mazwiduma, who was part of the delegation that went to the OP informed the meeting that President Masisi was equally unhappy about the closure of the Francistown BMC. He stated that after they met Masisi and Ralotsia at the OP, the President promised to
give them feedback in two days, but two months have since passed without receiving the promised feedback.
Mazwiduma was however, hopeful and trustful that the President would revert to the farmers as soon as he has found solutions to their problems.