It is evident that the Board of Choppies Enterprises Limited and its suspended Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ramachandran Ottapathu are at loggerheads over a variety of issues that border on financial discrepancies and governance and this could result in a complicated separation of the two parties.
Before the suspension had effected Ottapathu noted that he had already engaged his lawyers to challenge his suspension from the regional grocer. The retail group is embroiled in a financial disarray after it failed to release its full year results last year, owing to previous audits and unreconciled numbers. The former President, Festus Mogae led board suspended the Choppies CEO on Wednesday and installed Farouk Ismail as Acting Chief Executive Officer. Ismail is the current deputy chairperson of the board.
According to a shareholder notice issued by the retailer on Tuesday afternoon, the decision to suspend Ottapathu comes following a board meeting on Monday May 20, 2019. "The board of directors of Choppies hereby informs the Choppies shareholders and the general public that, at a duly convened meeting of the Board held on 20 May 2019, the Board resolved to suspend from duty the Chief Executive Officer of the Company, Mr Ramachandran Ottapathu."
Ottapathu's suspension effected from Wednesday, May 22. Choppies did not say why Ottapathu was suspended but indicated that the suspension is amid legal and forensic investigations announced by the retailer on March 5, 2019. The board will take further action based on the recommendations of the investigation. "The legal investigation is anticipated to conclude by the end of May 2019 – having extended from the end of April 2019. The forensic investigation is anticipated to conclude by the end of June 2019."
In addition Choppies has appointed a chief restructuring officer – Redford Capital. "Redford is a South Africa based firm with over 25 years’ experience in providing business related services that include assisting its clients to resolve challenges and meet strategic and operational objectives," the notice read. As chief restructuring officer, Redford will review the Choppies business and identify action plans to improve the business,” the notice reads.
The JSE and the Botswana Stock Exchange has suspended the trading of Choppies' share as the company is yet to publish its financial statements for June 30, 2018. The retailer confirmed the shares remain suspended until the publication of results. The group fell 76% in one day on the BSE last September, before it was suspended from the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE). BSE CEO, Thapelo Tsheole had expressed hope that the Choppies suspension will not be permanent. Choppies is one of Botswana's signature companies and one of the biggest employers.
RAM responds to his suspension
â€¨Responding to his suspension through a press statement, Mr Ramachandran Ottapathu noted, “I am disappointed by the decision made by the Board of Directors of Choppies Enterprises Limited (“Choppies”) (“the Board”) to implement the precautionary suspension of me as CEO, as taken on 21 May 2019.”
Ottapathu stated that he is the joint founder and major shareholder of Choppies and has committed years of his life to the Choppies business. “… and I have built a successful company in a competitive sector and market. I remain committed to getting the business back to where it should be for the benefit of all stakeholders, including the shareholders, staff, creditors and the business community in all the countries where the business operates.”
He believes that his precautionary suspension is a consequence of personal differences with some members of the current Board; “and the actions of the same in initiating my precautionary suspension are as a direct result of my proposal to introduce a much-needed governance change within Choppies and the Board itself. I feel strongly that all my actions have been in the best interest of the Company and never considered any of my actions to be reckless or without the knowledge of the Board.”
Ottapathu said he has also been accused, but no evidence has been provided, of allegedly entering into certain transactions without properly disclosing them to the Board. “These transactions are the subject of a forensic and legal review by Choppies’ lawyers and consultants. I have been, and continue to be, fully supportive of this process and will continue to participate to the best of my ability to ensure this process is completed. I record that I did not make any personal financial gain from any of the impugned transactions.”
Trading in Choppies’ shares is currently suspended on both the Botswana Stock Exchange and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange due to Choppies’ auditors’ refusal to sign the company financial statements until the investigations are completed. “I deny any wrongdoing in relation to the allegations laid against me and have reiterated to the Board that all my actions have at all times been for the benefit of Choppies and its shareholders,” said Ottapathu.
“I have had an unblemished record while building and leading Choppies and I am proud to have created a national asset in Botswana, and have provided thousands of jobs and created wealth for the people of Botswana, South Africa and other African countries. I remain committed to Choppies and I am confident that I will be vindicated of any wrongdoing,” he wrote in his statement.
Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.
WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.
Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.
This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time. The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.
According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.
“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.
According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.
The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.
Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.
According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.
The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.
According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.
Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.
Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.
Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.
The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.
According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.
“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.
According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.
When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.
“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.
According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.
Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.
“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.
High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.