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New broom at BPOPF as Mantswe takes over

For the first time in the history of its existence, the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) has found itself in a calamity of controversy and legal battles, some apportion the blame to the controversial approval by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), for the Public Pension Fund to self-administer.

Some in the pension industry are pointing to the leadership and guidance of the Pension Fund CEO Ms Boitumelo Molefe, who has not found progress and stability since she took reins of the Fund in July 2015, the CEO believes she is fighting a good course and the BPOPF will stabilize with time.

Last week may have been yet another one of a disappointing week for the CEO, as her alleged ally and supporter Mr Tobokani Rari was removed by vote, from his interim position of Board Chairman of the BPOPF to make way for Mr Solomon Mantswe. Mr Rari who is a Member Trustee and also Secretary General of Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSO), took a temporary seating on the Board Chairmanship following the ousting of Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi as Chairman, amid allegations of conflict of interest and corruption.

This was a celebrated development by Ms Molefe and her allies as the CEO believed she had dodged a bullet of being relieved of her duties by the former Chairman. However, sources state that things may not be going as planned for her looking at the recent development of the voting of the Board of Trustees to elect a substantive Board Chairperson.

Out of a total of ten (10), only three (3) Board Members, including Ms Molefe, voted in a vain attempt to substantiate Mr Rari’s appointment as Chairperson. With BPOPF current woes, the biggest one being the P400 million legal battle it has spearheaded against one of the Pension Fund’s investment manager, Capital Management Botswana (CMB); this may mean that the majority of the Board would like to take on a different approach in dealing with and coming up with solutions for the Fund matters.

The newly appointed Chairperson, Mr Solomon Mantswe, has been a BPOPF Trustee since April 2013 and has also held the position of Communications Committee Chairperson of the Pension Fund to date. He is also the Director of Departmental Management Services since 2012. All eyes are on the man with the hope that he may steer the decision making of the Board to a more productive and less confrontational manner; for the betterment of the Fund which is greatly needed at the moment.

In addition to its legal issues, the BPOPF has also found itself in dire need of rescue as its administration problems have caused the Fund to be unable to declare returns for its members for a period of two (2) years since 2016, thus neglecting its administrative duty to its Members as required by regulation. This has resulted in Members not being provided with their Benefit Statements in the two years.

Something which experts in the field wonder why the Regulator, NBFIRA, has not intervened urgently to order an investigative audit by skilled consultants, to assist identify the problems so that they may be rectified and progress be made. In April 2018 Ms Molefe stated that they have had challenges with the Fund’s data which has resulted in their inability to declare returns or interest rates for its Members.

She had also made claims to the effect that the Fund’s Actuaries have uncovered a maladministration amounting to P1.5 billion, of funds lost through Pensioner ghost accounts by the Fund’s former administrator Alexander Forbes. Ms Molefe is however yet to substantiate these claims. This has however, raised the question of authenticity of the maladministration claims, especially that it took a whole two years for the CEO’s office to disclose such implicating information.

This was also following an audited and sequential handover between herself and the former Administrator, Alexander Forbes Financial Services, of which during the process the CEO never cried foul. Alexander Forbes had held the administration and actuarial duties of the Pension Fund for a period of fifteen (15) years from 2001, a period of which was free of administrative scandals.

The remaining question on the matter is, albeit the allegations, if indeed there is P1.5 billion missing from the Fund’s pensioners’ account, where has the money gone and who took it. And this is something which can only be established by an independent audit of affairs on the administration of the civil servants’ Pension Fund. Currently BPOPF Members do not have a clue how much they have saved in the Fund since March 2016 as they have not been given their Pension Fund Statements for two years.

The Fund’s Secretariat cannot confirm how much is in each individual Member’s account in the Fund. And those leaving the Fund due to retirement, retrenchment, death, resignation or dismissal are paid their dues on assumed values. Some going for months on end without any payment of their benefits or explanation for lack of. Another matter that begs the question; for how long will this status of affairs in the Pension Fund continue at the detriment of the Members? BPOPF is expected to address a media conference next week to deal with developing issues.

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ILO Launches Media Toolkit on Reporting on Labour Migration

5th July 2024

Cape Town: The International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration, launched the Southern African Migration Management Project (SAMM) media toolkit on reporting on labour migration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region last week. This toolkit is designed to guide journalists and media professionals in balanced and factual reporting on labour migration, thereby enhancing the quality and media coverage of migration issues within the SADC region.

Furthermore, the toolkit aims to advocate for behavioural changes among migrant workers, employer organizations, trade unions, civil society organizations, governments, and policymakers to improve conditions for migrants and reduce exploitative practices.

At the official launch, Gloria Moreno Fontes, SAMM Project Manager, stated that the toolkit aims to support the United Nations’ “Together, Respect, Security, and Dignity for All Refugees and Migrants” campaign, launched in 2016 by the UN Secretary-General. According to Fontes, the UN Together campaign seeks to promote global action against non-discrimination and address the rising problem of xenophobia against migrants and refugees. TOGETHER is a growing coalition of Member States, private sector entities, civil society representatives, and individuals committed to combating hate speech, changing negative narratives on migration, and strengthening social cohesion between host communities and refugees and migrants.

“Worldwide, migrants are still too often victims of racist, discriminatory, and xenophobic attacks. The media often promotes a toxic public narrative on migration and reinforces stigmatization through the inclusion of xenophobic and discriminatory messages,” Fontes highlighted.

She further noted that the press often portrays migrants as criminals, illegals, and as “stealing jobs from national workers.” She emphasized that migrants frequently become scapegoats during economic recessions, making it essential to change negative perceptions and attitudes through evidence- or fact-based journalism that helps eliminate public misconceptions.

Discussing the importance of balanced reporting and combating hate speech, United Nations Information Center (UNIC) Director Masimba Tafirenyika remarked that journalists hold the power to shape public opinion and influence societal norms. He continued, noting that the practice not only ensures a well-informed public but also upholds the democratic values of fairness and justice.

“Alongside balanced reporting, the rise of hate speech, especially on digital platforms, presents a growing threat to social cohesion and democratic values. Hate speech undermines social harmony and can incite violence, discrimination, and prejudice,” Tafirenyika noted.

According to the UNIC Director, balanced reporting builds public trust in the media as audiences perceive journalists as fair and unbiased, thus making them more likely to trust the information presented. He added that this trust is crucial for the media to uphold democracy, as it empowers citizens to engage in informed debate and hold their leaders accountable.

However, Tafirenyika pointed out that the media landscape in Southern Africa, with a few exceptions, is often marred by political interference, economic pressures, and, in some cases, self-censorship. “These factors can lead to biased reporting, where certain voices are amplified while others are marginalized. When media outlets become mouthpieces for political agendas, the public’s trust in journalism is eroded, and the democratic process is undermined. Therefore, it is essential for journalists and media organizations to adhere to ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, and impartiality,” the UNIC Director noted.

He further highlighted that hate speech poses a significant threat to social cohesion and stability, especially in Southern Africa. “The digital age has amplified the reach and impact of hate speech. Social media platforms, while offering opportunities for free expression and civic engagement, also provide a breeding ground for hate speech,” Tafirenyika concluded.

 

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CEO Africa Roundtable: Mnangagwa advocates for technological embrace

17th June 2024

The CEO Africa Roundtable has emerged as a pivotal platform for shaping national, regional, and international development dialogues through public-private engagements. At the annual CEO Africa Roundtable event held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa exhorted business leaders to embrace technology and leverage indigenous solutions to stimulate Africa’s economic growth.

Mnangagwa highlighted that the presence of delegates from across the continent signifies the business community’s confidence in Zimbabwe’s trade and investment environment, as well as in the broader regional (SADC) and continental markets.

Addressing the theme, “The Future of Africa: Modernize, Reshape, and Grow,” President Mnangagwa asserted that this theme aligns with Africa’s developmental aspirations, emphasizing the need “to innovate in order to increase production and productivity, as espoused in the African Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.”

He remarked that the Roundtable provides its members with a valuable platform for networking, gaining expert insights, sharing experiences regarding the local business environment, and proposing policy recommendations aimed at enhancing the business operating environment.

The President lauded the CEO Africa Roundtable and its partners for organizing focused discussions, dialogue sessions, and innovative platforms tailored to various key economic sectors as part of the event.

“Innovation and the use of information communication technology are critical enablers as we traverse the journey towards modernizing and reshaping the African continent’s economic landscape,” Mnangagwa stated.

According to Mnangagwa, the world is on the cusp of a technological revolution that is transforming how “we work and relate to one another.” He noted that this shift involves a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

This technological disruption is affecting every industry, hence Mnangagwa urged business leaders and policymakers to capitalize on the fourth industrial revolution, which holds the potential to elevate global income levels and enhance the quality of life for populations worldwide.

President Mnangagwa challenged African business leaders to be innovative, embrace their identities, and devise homegrown solutions. He asserted that Africans possess the platform and intelligence to elevate the continent’s economy to greater heights.

Earlier, CEO Africa Roundtable Chairman Oswell Binha indicated that the platform is expanding across Africa. He welcomed the addition of three new chapters in Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia. He further noted that more chapters will be introduced as part of efforts to foster collaboration among African businesses, harnessing the principles of the Africa Free Trade Area and regional integration. Over 300 delegates from across Africa attended the CEO Roundtable event in Victoria Falls.

 

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BOTSWANA PARTICIPATES IN CEO AFRICA ROUNDTABLE SUMMIT

16th June 2024

At the prestigious CEO Africa Roundtable Summit held in Victoria Falls, Botswana was represented by the Chairperson of the CEO Africa Roundtable Botswana Chapter, Tryphinah Dongwana-Kenalemang, and her deputy, Aubrey Lute. This annual convergence, themed “The Future of Africa: Modernize, Reshape, and Grow,” drew luminaries from across the continent.

Over 300 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and business Executives attended the Summit.

Dongwana-Kenalemang elaborated on the significance of Botswana’s attendance, emphasizing that it served as a benchmarking exercise in preparation for hosting a similar event in Botswana. She underscored the imperative for African nations to collaborate and exchange trade insights, thereby unlocking a wealth of opportunities.

The CEO Africa Roundtable is dedicated to fostering economic growth and sustainable development across the continent. Its objectives include promoting intra-African trade, driving innovation, and forging strategic partnerships. The platform enables business leaders to share knowledge, engage in high-level dialogue, and influence policy-making.

The genesis of the Botswana Chapter’s relationship with the CEO Africa Roundtable dates back to their initial encounter at the US-Africa Business Summit in July 2023, held in Gaborone. This seminal meeting laid the groundwork for ongoing collaboration and mutual support in advancing Africa’s economic future.

 

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