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Sikalesele survives the storm, reveals Bona Life plans

Botswana’s first citizen owned company, Bona Life still on course to list on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) in future, Chief Executive Officer, Regina Sikalesele has revealed.

Speaking to this publication this week, Sikalesele said, despite the problems that have besieged the company recently, Bona Life has accumulated some intrinsic value embedded in the company, and that it has established a good reputation, very strong brand in the local market as well a sizeable client portfolio. “We working towards listing Bona Life on the the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) to open up ownership to more Batswana,” said Sikalesele.

Recently, one of the directors of Bona Life, tried but failed to sack her from the company following a dispute arising allegedly from Sikalesele’s decision to report the battle between company shareholders to the regulator, Non-Banking Financial Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA). “I am not going anywhere. I am here. The letter was a breach of agreement. The author does not have authority to represent CMB which is under statutory management and can only be represented by the Statutory Manager,” she indicated.

The attempt by CMB to terminate the CEO failed, because according to Sikalesele, it was unlawful. Sikalesele remains employed at Bona Life and are currently navigating the challenges and to oversee the clients funds. The decision to remove Sikalesele from the CEO position was sparked by her decision to report to regulating authority, following the development involving shareholders, which were likely to affect the business negatively.

“Bona Life was receiving inconsistent reports about its P133 million investments with CMB which affected the validity of the financial statements of Bona Life and the security of the assets,” she said. Sikalesele also became aware of the petition to liquidate CMB Fund which Bona Life has interest in. This was not helped by the fact that CMB was under investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) for possible criminal offenses relating to the BOP.

“It is the role of NBFIRA to protect the interest of Bona Life clients. NBFIRA appointed a Statutory Manager to look into the operations of CMB to determine if there were any breaches of the law or other practices that could expose the clients and take such steps as necessary to protect the public,” she said. This appointment has been contested by CMB and is currently before the Court of Appeal.

Bona Life is the first citizen-owned life insurance company. It started initially trading as Bramer Life Insurance, with Regina Sikalesele as the founder in partnership with a company of Mauritian origin in 2014. Unfortunately, in 2015, its mother company in Mauritius was hit by a huge scandal, forcing Bramer Life to be placed under the Statutory Manager Nigel Dixon-Warren. In a transaction approved by NBFIRA, the company bounced back under Bona Life brand, under the following shareholding arrangement; 40 percent stake as owned by Botswana Opportunity Partnership (a partnership between BPOPF and CMB), 25 percent CMB, 10 percent employees while the remaining 25 percent was Sikalesele.

Essentially, Bona Life was citizen majority owned company, considering that the 40 percent stake owned by BPOPF on BOP represent thousand members of the fund, Sikalesele noted.  “Bona Life represents the dreams and the aspirations of Batswana. It has a broad shareholding of Batswana through BPOPF,” she said.

However, the dispute between BPOPF and CMB, shareholders in Bona Life threaten the pride that the company enjoys as the “citizen owned insurance company.” This is so because CMB has sold BOP, which has 40 percent in Bona Life to CMA, a foreign owned company. The dispute on the transfer of the ownership of the company is subject of the courts.  While Sikalesele continue to ride the storms, she assures the clientele of Bona Life that they have little to worry about.

“NBFIRA was created by parliament to protect the clients of non-bank financial institutions and to maintain stability in the financial services sector,” she said. “Bona Life has candidly reported challenges to NBFIRA and is keeping NBFIRA updated to enable it to perform its role of protecting the clients of Bona Life in accordance with the law.”

Sikalesele however, admitted that other matters are beyond her control, citing the battle between other shareholders as a classical example. The company has been unable to make important decisions owing to the stand-off between CMB and BPOPF. Part of the problems that faced the company was failure to appoint a board, something which according to Sikalesele stalled progress as far as giving company direction was concerned.

“We are now working on that, we will soon appoint the Board. This is also the reason why I could not be removed from my position because only company board can make such resolution,” she said. According to the initially agreement, BPOPF was supposed to appoint two people, BONA Life one, CMB one as well, making the board constitution to be a minimum of four members. Such has not happened due to the disagreements involving other partners.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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