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Ram TKOs Mogae & Co in Choppies boardroom bout

Suspended CEO Ramachandran Ottapathu this week managed to claim back his company after he was sidelined by the board for four months. Ram also got the blessings of shareholders who have a composition of more than 50 percent as he brings new faces to the Choppies board and gets re-elected to serve as a director. With the board which was against him gone, Ram also stands a big chance of getting reinstated as CEO.

A Choppies boardroom could have been mistaken to a wrestling ring in few meetings prior to the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM); a lot of war of words akin to arm grapping. The Choppies boardroom brawl which started few months had all the hallmarks of power play and ended this week with less bonhomie as the suspended CEO Ramachandran Ottapathu emerged the last man standing despite being against all odds. 

Prior to the EGM Ram had proposed a clean-up of the company’s board, maybe bring new faces. “It is the combined view of Mr Ottapathu and the Board that the current Board requires strengthening by inclusion of additional independent non-executive appointees to it. It is for this reason that the Board (including Mr Ottapathu), have put forward the Proposed Resolutions, to allow the Shareholders to elect a strengthened Board (whether it includes current Directors or not) which will direct the proceedings and affairs of the Company going forward,” said circular seen by this publication last week.

In this week’s EGM, Ram had his wishes done as the board was changed and new faces, especially the ones he proposed, were brought on board save for Oabona Michael Kgengwenyane . Ram had proposed that Kgengwenyane, Tom Pritchard and Carol-Jean Harward be added as new faces to the Choppies board.

The shareholders backed Ram’s two choices, making a resolution to vote for Pritchard as a director of Choppies with 77.75 percent against 22.22 percent. Haward was added to the board with 51.25 percent against 48.72 percent.  Kgengwenyane, proposed by Ram, was rejected by shareholders with 98.13 percent votes against him. Ram got 52.06 percent while and Ismail 55 percent.

Four of the previous board members chief financial officer Heinrich Stander, Wilfred Mpai, Dorcas Kgosietsile and Ronald Tamale failed to pass the 50 + 1 threshold and have subsequently stepped down from the Choppies board. Mpai made 47 percent of the votes, Kgosietsile 5.8 percent, Tamale 48 percent and Stander 48 percent. A choice proposed by certain institutional shareholders, Kenny Nwosu, could not pass the threshold too, with 48 percent of votes.

Before the EGM, on Sunday the outgoing Choppies board had met and decided that the EGM be adjourned for two weeks pending Ram’s disciplinary hearing. Ram is yet to face a disciplinary hearing for his suspension. Despite the anti-Ram board seeking to have the EGM postponed, the shareholders rejected the directors wish moving chairman Festus Mogae to approve voting of new board members.

Ram’s triumph

When Ram was suspended he was against the whole Choppies board, save for his friend and longtime business partner Farouk Ismail. Ram was being investigated, accused of mismanaging Choppies affairs and usurping the board in many decisions concerning the company.
Towards the EGM, it was all odds against Ram. His attempt to have an urgent EGM failed as the board stood against him. Even at the recent EGM the board had come with a spirited campaign to have shareholders disregard Ram. A legal report and a damning forensic report, both putting Ram’s managerial competence on the spotlight, were released.

When presiding on the EGM, Mogae gave Ram and his legal representative less than 30 minutes to respond to allegations leveled against the suspended CEO. This is despite the anti-Ram board taking almost the whole day presenting their grievances about Ram.
Mogae admitted that as the board they wanted to remove Ram as a CEO while he remains as a shareholder. He said they were getting tired of Choppies being all about one man, Ram. The former president gave a scenario of Choppies revolving around one person who would usurp the board in decision making.

“We tend to fight as to who is more important and who has more money. Choppies has been a disaster,” said Mogae as he tried to convince shareholders to adjourn the EGM. Mogae who was part of the ousted board that suspended Ram has announced that he will retire after the Annual General Meeting which is billed for November this year. The shareholders were not convinced by the Mo Ibrahim Award winner who said the suspended CEO was not doing things proper but rather decided to vote for Ram to remain as a board member. Mogae’s wish to have the EGM adjourned was also rejected by the shareholders.

Ram who stood before the shareholders, admitted to doing some things wrong, but said he was being scapegoated by the board. While he promised to wait for the disciplinary hearing so that he can clear his name, said he learned his lesson. "Well, mistakes were made and lessons have been learnt….I can tell you that this will not happen again in our lives. This company is great, we can make it greater," the suspended CEO told shareholders this week during an EGM.

Prior to the EGM, Ram only had Ismail’s back. The two together with Choppies employees hold about 46 percent of the retailer’s stake. He is currently faced with a forensic report findings, which he (Ram) called “not conclusive”, painting him as corrupt and lacking adherence to good governance. A legal report said Ram has dealt improperly when doing many business transactions like the acquisition of Pay Less and the transactions involving Fours Group.

All odds seemed to be against Ram given the damning information produced against him at the EGM but he was saved by shareholders who have a composition of about 53 percent of Choppies shares. The shareholders also want Ram to go before the disciplinary hearing to clear his name.

The aftermath of EGM – resignations

Meanwhile after failing to make it back into the Choppies board of directors at the Emergency General Meeting (EGM) on Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Heinrich Mathiam Stander decided to resign on Thursday. His resignation was handed to interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Farouk Ismail on the same day. The understanding is that after he was voted out of the board, he then decided to further resign as an employee of Choppies.

Stander received a vote of 48 percent at the EGM hence failing to clock the 50+1 mark. Those who could not get 51 percent or more were removed from the board.  Indications are that those voted out, were considered to have been on Mogae’s team, and wanted suspended CEO, Ramachandran Ottapathu to face disciplinary hearing, but failed. Mogae has since indicated that he is retiring.

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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