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Ram mulls fresh faces for the Choppies board

Suspended Choppies CEO who is also one of the company’s major shareholders, Ramachandran Ottapathu, has made a proposal that the company’s Board be strengthened at the highly anticipated upcoming extraordinary general meeting (EGM).

Ram in his capacity as a shareholder has further proposed that Oabona Michael Kgengwenyane, Tom Pritchard and Carol-Jean Harward be added as new faces to the Choppies board. On the other hand, certain institutional shareholders with further consent from the Choppies Board have suggested that Goleele Mosinyi and Kenny Nwosu be enacted to the retailer’s board of directors.

According to a Circular released by the Botswana Stock Exchange(BSE), Ram’s proposal suggest a complete clean-up of the entire Choppies Board as shareholders are allowed the discretion to elect a strengthened board of directors. Ram also suggested the strengthened Board may include the current directors or not, it all to the discretion of shareholders at the EGM to decide who is fit to be appointed to the board. This is despite all the old directors, save for Mogae, offering themselves for reappointment.

 Ottapathu, Farouk Ismail and Choppies employees collectively own 46 percent of the company stock while institutional investors owns about 26 percent, while the rest is owned by the public. “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 communication seen by this publication last week.

Choppies current board included former president Festus Mogae, acting CEO and shareholder Farouk Ismail, executive director Ottapathu, chief financial officer Heinrich Stander, Wilfred Mpai, Dorcas Kgosietsile and Ronald Tamale. In a cleanup, according to the proposal prior to the company’s EGM, none of these heads will be spared except maybe for the executive directors.

While Ram proposed a fresher board, Choppies long-term chairman Mogae announced on the same circular that he will be stepping down before the EGM. Mogae who turns 80 years next week Wednesday attended only two board meetings out of the four in the last financial results which were published Choppies in 2017. According to the Choppies circular, Mogae had notified shareholders at last year’s Annual General Meeting of the company at which the 2018 Audited Financial Statements are received and approved by shareholders. The former state leader will retire just before the upcoming EGM.

On 4 September the shareholders will hold an at the Grand Aria Hotel and Conference Centre situated at Plot 32943, Block 3, WestGate, Gaborone, Botswana on 4 September 2019 at 10h00. This week Choppies published a circular for its shareholders on the BSE and this communication comprised of important information in connection with the audited annual financial statements of the group for the year ended 30 June 2018. This circular also contained a notice convening an extraordinary general meeting.

At the 4 September EGM Ram’s proposal of electing directors will be considered. A forensic investigation conducted by Ernst & Young Advisory Services (Proprietary) Limited, an auditing firm based in South Africa which probed certain transactions to which the group was party  in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe will be presented. Also a Legal Report issued by Desai Law Group into certain matters which were referred for investigation, analysis and advice, and which involved a number of commercial agreements to which the Group was party in Botswana during past years will be presented before shareholders.

Also to be discussed is Ram’s suspension which is said to be pending disciplinary charges and investigations. According to the latest circular by Choppies, Ottapathu has not had an opportunity to respond in writing to their respective contents nor have disciplinary charges been put to him after he was suspended. The Board is however in the process of instituting such disciplinary proceedings and Ottapathu has reserved his rights in respect of such proceedings, according to communication by the retailer.

 According to Choppies circular, if disciplinary charges are put to Ottapathu as arising from the Legal Report or the Forensic Report, he will be afforded the right to defend himself fully. “Such right includes, but is not limited to, the right to respond to the Legal Report and the Forensic Report so that his side is on record. Mr Ottapathu has been afforded the right to record a written reply to the Legal Report and the Forensic Report, which reply shall be circulated on X-News and SENS (JSE news platform) by the Company on or before 27 August 2019,” said the Choppies circular.

Board composition

As according to the Choppies constitution, the existing board members have offered themselves for reappointment to the board, save for the outgoing chairman Mogae. Other new members have been nominated by shareholders to join the board. One of the resolutions to be considered is resolution 1 is to resolve to reappoint Farouk Ismail as a director of the company by ordinary resolution in accordance with the provisions of clause 20.3 of the company’s constitution.

According to Choppies constitution, Wilfred Mpai can also be retained as a director by ordinary resolution 2. Ordinary Resolution 3 to be considered at the EGM is that Dorcas Kgosietsile also be retained. Ronald Tamale (ordinary resolution 4), Heinrich Stander (ordinary resolution 5) and Ram are also up for reappointment to the board. Suggested to join the board are; Kgengwenyane, Pritchard, Harward, Mosinyi and Nwosu.

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Two of a kind emerge

1st March 2021
Letsile Tebogo and Maungo Matlhaku

Events that recently unfolded in the athletics world locally point only to possibility – Letsile Tebogo and Maungo Matlhaku are well groomed to receive the baton from Isaac Makwala and Lydia Jele respectively.

The two athletes sprinted to new local track records, smashing those set by their seniors.

As it is the norm in athletics, the biggest mistake these two athletes could make is to drop the baton. The two youngsters must not look back, they must steeplechase – clear all the hurdles so they may surpass the feet achieved by their seniors.

Letsile Tebogo announced his arrival in scintillating fashion recently. Barely two years after smashing Thebe’s 200m national record of 21:25 during Gaborone Games in 2019, this past weekend the young lad obliterated yet another 100m national record of 10.20 seconds. For a long time the record was held by the country’s iconic athlete Isaac Makwala.

Tebogo set a new record, completing the race in 10.14 seconds. Tebogo, who is currently under Lefika Athletics Club, came into the meet, organised by Sports View Runners Club, with a personal best of 10.49 seconds.

However, the new national record was not good enough for Tebogo to qualify for the Olympic Games as he needed to clock 10.05 seconds; which is the Olympic qualifying entry under the 100meters category. For his efforts, he received P1 000 cash and a trophy.

Under the women’s category, Leungo Matlhaku also stole the show after clocking 11.24 seconds to replace Lydia Jele’s national record of 11.39 seconds which she set in May 2019.

When speaking to local media after the race, Matlhaku assured the nation to expect the best performance at the upcoming events as she aims to qualifying for Tokyo Olympics and World Championships.

The sensational 100m sprinter said: “Even though after almost nine months without training, performance was testimony of the fact that the best was yet to come.”

Matlhaku noted that setting new national records was an indication that athletes were at their peak performance and that the upcoming national meets would be appetizing with the positive performance.

This week WeekendSport caught up with Tebogo, who expressed his gratitude to the national team athletes as the pillar behind his strength since they encouraged him to work hard. He agrees that he needs to habituate himself to hard work.

He said Saturday’s performance helped him realise his dream of qualifying for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was postponed last year due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

“For me to qualify for the upcoming Olympics under 100 meters category, I will have to clock 10.05 seconds which is qualification entry while under 200meter is 20.24 seconds,” he shared.

When quizzed how Covid-19 has affected his preparation he said: “It has affected us badly as preparation training for the competition was halted, but the lockdown imposed was however useful as I used the period to work out on my strength which are necessary for a sprinter.”

Tebogo started seriously taking part in athletics in 2016 when he was still at primary school. At the time he was under the guidance of former national team coach, Mogomotsi Otsetswe.

In 2016 during Botswana Primary School Sports Association (BOPSSA) competitions, he won three gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays.

Despite not winning anything the previous year, 2018 saw him come back well prepared and went on to win two gold medals under the 200m category and 4X100m relays. He also won a silver medal after a sterling performance in the 100m race during the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) national finals.

Tebogo went on to win the gold medal after clocking an impressive time of 21:12, qualifying for under 20 World Athletics Championships which was to be held in Kenya last year but was postponed yet again due to corona virus.

Over the last 10 years, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has been famed for its consistency when it comes to producing the country’s top athletes, who are dominating and widening the competition gap with other sporting codes.

The code success expresses itself in elite talents the likes of Baboloki Thebe, Nigel Amos, Amantle Montsho and Karabo Sibanda to mention but a few.

These top talents made sure athletics remain at the top in this country.

 

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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SEZA’s P126 million tender heads to court

1st March 2021

Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.

SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).

In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.

In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.

“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said.
“The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”

SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements.  In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.

“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.

He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide.  He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.

“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.

He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.

A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.

The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages.  The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.

Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.

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