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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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Greef reports Madigele to Tsogwane

20th June 2022

Gaborone Bonnignton South Member of Parliament (MP) Christian Greef has submitted a letter of complaint to party chairman Slumber Tosogwane to take stern action against former minister Dr Alfred Madigele for causing chaos in the constituency.

There has been simmering tension between the two in Gaborone Bonnignton South, where former minister Dr. Madigele is said to be busy working the ground with the intention of contesting the constituency in 2024.  Greef is said to have fallen out of favour with the party top hierarchy due to his association with the beleaguered party secretary general Mpho Balopi, something which he says is “unfounded”.  Greef told this publication that “there are some with mischievous attempts here, but I will sort them out.”

Insiders, however, reveal that it is Madigele who has been causing unrest in the constituency as he plots his comeback to parliament in 2024. This is notwithstanding the fact that Madigele has also been promised the position of secretary general, should the party faithful ratify a proposal by the party politburo to reconfigure the position.

However, Madigele does not want to count on the SG position, hence the decision to to contest the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. There are reports that there is a spirited campaign by some party members to reject a mulled plan to have the SG being a full-time employee of the party.  This has irked Greef and has since approached the party structures for redress. “We are writing this letter to issue a complaint regarding misconduct by certain members of the BDP in our constituency.

There are several incidents where these individuals have been causing uncalled-for disruptions during party activities in Gaborone Bonnington South,” a letter penned by Greef, addressed to the regional chairperson, reads. He further added, “The group of people who are causing all these unnecessary tension in our constituency is identified and allegedly known by Madigele’s teams who is said to be campaigning for 2023 primary elections.

As the branch we witnessed the same team with similar misconduct during Bophirima Ward by election which we believe caused the party to lose the ward and continue to bring the image of the party in disrepute.” Lately, Madigele has relocated to the same constituency and that has created anxiety to Greef who is a first-time MP. Greef is concerned about how his rival was accepted in his constituency without his knowledge. If he had his wish, he would kick out Madigele from the constituency.

Greef, in another letter copied to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane, says Madigele has brought the branch into disarray by campaigning for a parliamentary seat contrary to the party’s regulations for conduct of primary elections. “I therefore humbly appeal to you to call Dr Madigele, who is not a member of our branch, to order,” he said.  Party officials in the region are aware of the matter; some say the MP’s complaint is baseless. However, the MP, according to sources, will fight to the bitter end to ensure that his arch rival is purged out.

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Katlholo’s lawyers slap DCEC with bill in its row with DIS

20th June 2022
Tymon Katlholo

Monthe and Marumo Attorneys who are representing suspended Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo in a legal dispute pitting him against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have said that they would submit a legal bill to the agency.

This was after DCEC’s acting Director General, Tshepo Pilane had written a letter to the law firm demanding that some files and documents belonging to the agency be returned.  “We refer to your letter dated 3rd June 2022 wherein you advised of termination of our mandate. In view thereof we have to file a notice of withdrawal as attorneys of record for and on behalf of the Organisation (DCEC),” Monthe Marumo Attorneys said in their letter.

The lawyers also indicated that, “the firm is in the process of finalizing your invoice and upon settlement of same, we will duly release the contents of the file, in so far as it relate to DCEC.”  Pilane had informed the law firm that, “Following the Directorate’s termination of any and/or mandate between the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and your law firm and/or attorney of an Associate law firm of Monthe Marumo and Company on the 3rd June 2022.”

He added that, “I do hereby request that all DCEC documents in custody be returned to the DCEC on or before 12hours today the 6th June 2022. You are also informed that none of this information shall be used by your office under any circumstances.”  Meanwhile Katlholo has told the High Court that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was on the rampage as it continues to act with impunity.

He revealed this in an urgent application in which he seeks among others that Pilane, Deputy Director General of DCEC Priscilla Israel and the agency’s senior legal advisor Edwin Batsalwelang to be committed to jail for contempt of a court. The Court order had directed that a deputy sheriff should collect files and dockets from the DCEC office and place them into the custody of the Court.  “Consequent to the order of his Lordship, the DISS has continued on its rampage and has arrested two officers of the DCEC and detained them in a Hitler style arrangement,” said Katlholo.

He added that, quite clearly the “DISS with the assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents seeks to conceal all the evidence by obstructing Judicial process.”  He said his latest current application has been brought at the earliest opportunity following defiance and acts of obstruction at the instance of the respondents. Katlholo saidthe conduct of the Pilane, Israel, Batsalelwang and DIS are an aggression on the rule of law, the Constitution of Botswana and the Judiciary in general.

“The DISS clearly has every intention of continuing to defy my rights and with the due assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Pilane, Israel and Batsalelwang). To refuse an interdict, thereby allowing the perpetration of an ongoing wrong is an anathema to the principle of legality,” said Katlholo. He said, “The DISS cannot be allowed to continue acting in contravention of the law, and to fragrantly invade an act of Parliament.”

He reiterated that the files or documents or dockets remain vulnerable and there is need that they be removed from the office and placed in the custody of the Registrar. There can never be a safe place than Court, said Katlholo.  “Should the matter not be heard as urgent, the likelihood of the files concerned and the information therein dissipating or being interfered with is high and once the evidence of the concerned files has been compromised or contaminated there is no other relief in law that fix such, there is therefore no alternative remedy,” he said.

Katlholo added that, “Most importantly, any unwarranted access to the files may compromise the integrity of ongoing investigations and expose informants and whistleblowers. Once they have been compromised, no court action may restore such.”  He said it was necessary and extremely urgent that the Court steps in to protect the rule of law against the respondents, more particularly the DIS and its agents.

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US monitoring Thuso Tiego arrests

20th June 2022
Thuso Tiego

The United States through its State Department’s annual report on global religious freedoms is keeping tabs on Botswana’s decision to arrest of controversial pastor Thuso Tiego by the police.

The report was released a week ago.  Tiego was re-arrested this week by the police after he allegedly attempted to spearhead a campaign aimed at shutting down some shops that are run by foreigners. The US’ State Department report says Police arrested a pastor from the Bethel Transfiguration Church September 7 when he tried to deliver a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi demanding his resignation over what the pastor said was mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pastor, Thuso Tiego, also criticized the government for restricting religious gatherings at a time when he said that individuals turned to churches for counselling and support during the pandemic,” the report says.  It says Tiego was held overnight at a police station and released without charge.  The report cites media reports saying that several of his supporters were beaten by police when they gathered outside the station demanding Tiego’s release.

“The national police service did not announce any disciplinary action against the officers involved,” the report says adding that, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion, with certain exceptions, and protection against governmental discrimination based on creed.”
On other related issues, the report said the government continued to pursue court cases involving unregistered churches (sometimes called “fire churches”) coming into the country to “take advantage of” local citizens by demanding tithes and donations for routine services or special prayers.

“The government required pastors of some of those churches to apply for visas – even those from countries whose nationals were normally allowed visa-free entry.  The government said in June 2019 that it was reviewing the visa policy for these foreign pastors, but by year’s end had not released the results of this review or announced any changes,” the report says.   According to the report, former members of one of the most prominent unregistered churches forced to close in 2019, the Enlightened Christian Gathering, subsequently formed their own smaller, independent churches with local leadership that was ultimately registered by the government.

The report says, under the COVID-19 state of emergency that ended in September, the government limited attendance at religious services to no more than 50 persons at one time and limited services to twice a week.  The government also banned all religious gatherings during “extreme social distancing” periods.  Although the limits on religious gatherings lasted 18 months and prevented some individuals from fully practicing their faith, most religious groups did not say their freedom of religion was being restricted and stated that the extraordinary measures were necessary for public health

The report says the US Embassy officials engaged with Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other religious representatives to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. “Topics included government tolerance of minority religious groups, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on religious expression, and interfaith cooperation to address community challenges,” the report says.

The report says under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance.
It says the constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.

The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.”   “The state of emergency imposed from March 2020 to September 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which capped the size of regular religious gatherings and meetings, was the first time the government ever exercised this provision,” the report says.

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