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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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Transgender persons in Botswana live a miserable life

23rd November 2020
Transgender persons

An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.

In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.

In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.

Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.

More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.

At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.

The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).

Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).

International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.

In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”

The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”

According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.

In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.

The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.

LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.

“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.

Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.

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Khato Civils fights back, dares detractors

23rd November 2020

CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”

Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.

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UDC petitioners turn to Saleshando

23rd November 2020
Dumelang Saleshando

About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.

For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.

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