Choppies Enterprises Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ramachandran Ottapathu has suffered a major setback after his gambit to have former President Festus Mogae removed as the retail giant’s board chairman was met with a suspension on his part.
Choppies Board, under the tutelage of Mogae resolved Wednesday to suspend Ottapathu as the CEO of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed company. According to Ottapathu, the suspension came in the disguise of a recommendation from a certain law firm in South Africa, owing to the recent troubles facing the retail giant. The Choppies supremo however believes what triggered suspension was a proposal he had submitted to the company board to have Mogae removed as Board chairman, and also have new faces with relevant retail experience in the board.
“At his age, he need to know the impact on his productivity level. He was sick also. He has been missing a lot of board meeting until last year September,” Ottapathu said of Mogae this week. The suggestion reportedly irked Mogae and the rest of the board, save for Farouk Ismail, who then moved swiftly to have Ottapathu suspended. Choppies board, which is constituted of seven member, including Ottapathu himself had majority to effect the decision, as only Ismail opposed the resolution.
“I came up with suggestions to the board at the request of the shareholders to have restructuring of the board; issues around chairman’s independence. This was not started by me, but when I suggested changes, some people in the board got annoyed,” narrated Ottapathu.
“They gave me an option, you resign now or we are going to suspend you. I was not prepared to do that. This is the company I started, and they did not even have a replacement. Before I received my suspension letter it was on the social media.”
Ottapathu spoke highly of Ismail, who has since been appointed Acting CEO, noting that the latter is the only one who understands the Choppies business because they are always in touch. “Farouk [Ismail] is the only person who knows intimately and knowledgeably about the business in the board. None of them have ran one day of their own business and made money for themselves,” he said. He was however not kind to other Choppies board members, saying none of them have ran a profitable business before.
“He [Ismail] spends time with me. He makes appointments with me, so that he gets every information about the company. That is why is he does not have any doubt about any transaction or any activity we do,” said Ottapathu. “Other board members, including the chairman, when they get free time, if at all he gets it, he walks in [my office] and meet me for about 30 minutes or one hour. That’s not what you expect from a chairman. It does not happen anywhere in the world.”
The Choppies chief said if it all the decision to suspend him has anything to do with personal vendetta, the decision to suspend him was not in the interest of the company. “They have been reckless. They do not have the interest of the company at heart that one is for sure, because someone reasonably thinking cannot do this.” Ottapathu said one of the key reasons he wanted the board restructured was the verity that the company was growing, therefore creating necessity for change.
“This is one of the fastest growing company in the region. We needed retail or relevant experience in governance, and in the audit committee and in other areas,” said Ottapathu. “I did discuss with the chairman two years ago about relinquishing the power. He said give time, I will think about it, and I will make the right decision. But he did not do that.” Choppies was founded by Ismail in the 1980s and was joined by Ottapathu in 1992. Ever since then, the duo built the company into a dominant player in the country and the South African Development Committee (SADC) region.
Ottapathu said he has since engaged his lawyers to write to company lawyers requesting them to demonstrate valid reasons relating to his suspension. He also indicated that in the coming days he will meet with the company’s important shareholders to brief them on the new developments. Ottapathu, Ismail and Choppies employees collectively owns 46 percent of the company stock. Institutional investors owns about 26 percent, while the rest is owned by the public.
Ottapathu is of the opinion that the Choppies board, which had he said played no role in building the business, are behaving they were they do because they have nothing to lose. “For them they have nothing to lose. They lose this position of board, the can sit in another board. I do not have any other thing to do in my life. I do not want another entrepreneur to have the same experience that is why I am going to fight it until the last end. I want to set it as a example to make sure it does not happen in another board room.”
At its heart is a battle for control of Choppies Enterprises Ltd – an investment holding company listed, but currently suspended, on both Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). The group which operates 260 stores in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Namibia, and employs more than 17 000 people.
Mr Ottapathu joined Choppies in 1992 when it was a single insolvent store in Gaborone. Now, over 50% of Batswana shop regularly in its stores and Choppies is a much-loved household name – or it was until the Choppies Board put Mr Ottapathu on “precautionary suspension” this week and replaced him with the Deputy Chair, Mr. Farouk Ismail.
The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.
Disability in Botswana, like in many other nations, has been characterized by exclusion, discrimination, and stigmatization. Negative attitudes towards individuals with disabilities (IWDs) have led to barriers in education, employment, and access to facilities and information. The lack of disability-specific legislation in Botswana has further perpetuated the exclusion of IWDs from society.
The National Policy on Care for People with Disabilities (NPCPD) in Botswana, established in 1996, aims to recognize and protect the rights and dignity of individuals with disabilities. The policy emphasizes the importance of integration and equal opportunities for IWDs in various sectors such as health, education, employment, and social development. While the policy provides a framework for addressing disability issues, it falls short of enacting disability-specific legislation to protect the rights of IWDs.
In 2010, the Government of Botswana established an office for IWDs within the Office of the President to coordinate disability-related policies and programs. While this office plays a crucial role in mobilizing resources for the implementation of policies, its approach to service delivery is rooted in social welfare, focusing on the care of IWDs as a social burden rather than recognizing their rights.
The lack of disability-specific legislation in Botswana has hindered the recognition of the rights of IWDs and the enactment of laws to protect them from discrimination and exclusion. Without legal protections in place, IWDs continue to face barriers in education, employment, and access to facilities and information, perpetuating their exclusion from society.
In order to address the exclusion of IWDs in Botswana, it is crucial for the government to prioritize the enactment of disability-specific legislation to protect their rights and ensure equal opportunities for all. By recognizing the rights and dignity of individuals with disabilities, Botswana can work towards creating a more inclusive society where IWDs are valued and included in all aspects of life.
DJ Bafana, a talented DJ from Francistown, is gearing up to host his very own one-man show, a groundbreaking event that aims to not only showcase his skills but also empower fellow musicians. This ambitious project is currently in the planning stages, with DJ Bafana actively seeking out potential sponsors to help bring his vision to life.
In a recent interview with WeekendPost, DJ Bafana revealed that he is in talks with two potential venues, Limpopo Gardens and Molapo Leisure Gardens, to host his show. However, he is facing challenges in securing sponsorships from companies, particularly those who do not fully understand the importance of music-related events. Despite this setback, DJ Bafana remains determined to make his one-man show a reality and to use it as a platform to empower and support other artists in the industry.
What sets DJ Bafana’s show apart is the fact that he will be making history as the first person living with a disability to host a one-man show in Botswana. This milestone is a testament to his resilience and determination to break barriers and pave the way for others in similar situations. By showcasing his talent and passion for music, DJ Bafana is not only proving his worth as an artist but also inspiring others to pursue their dreams, regardless of any obstacles they may face.
As DJ Bafana continues to work towards making his one-man show a reality, he remains focused on his goal of empowering and uplifting his fellow musicians. Through his dedication and perseverance, he is setting an example for others to follow and showing that anything is possible with hard work and determination. The date for the show is yet to be announced, but one thing is for certain – DJ Bafana’s one-man show is sure to be a memorable and inspiring event for all who attend.