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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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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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