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Public servants may lose P500 million

The case between Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF) and Capital Management Botswana (CMB) has now taken a legal turn, with BPOPF dragging CMB before the court of law. The case was before the Gaborone High Court on Friday and it is likely to be a marathon case.

At the centre of the case are attempts by the BPOPF to recover P477 million from CMB in the form of assets and cash. It is arguing that the investments made are not in tandem with the agreed investment policy. The most recognized local face behind CMB is Rapula Okaile and he has partnered with South African businessmen. CMB is determined to fight off suggestions by the BPOPF, if the case does not go in the latter’s favour, public servants will be the biggest losers.

But CMB has forced BPOPF to start arguing preliminary matters first. In the active case, the applicant BPOPF is seeking a verdict that they be determined the rightful party to terminate contract with CMB and take over the assets. And on the other hand CMB contends that they are the right party to terminate the contract, not the other way round. This followed an exchange of letters of termination of contract between the two parties a month ago.

BPOPF had three weeks ago written to CMB terminating their contract for persistent breach of the obligation in managing and handling of the funds which they labeled as negligent and an act of misconduct by CMB. They also summoned CMB to return all documentation and assets. In response to this, CMB wrote back to BPOPF a week later that they were actually the ones terminating the contract. Their reason was that BPOPF did not honor the Drawdown notice of Lobatse Clay Works.  CMB then deposited P50 million into BPOPF account citing it was net cash. And BPOPF argument was that the money was short of P420 million.

Should the court grant BPOPF the verdict, BPOPF will then get hold of the records from CMB; get the assets back which are at Bona Life, Wilderness Holdings and Cell City;  do the audit and get to see the valuation of the record as they are of the view that CMB has misused the funds.  BPOPF is also questioning the assets which CMB says they have invested with three other companies namely Kawena, Makuba Airlines and Ajine University. BPOPF says it is not even sure of the existence of the said companies. Kawena was supposed to be a chain of stores competing with Choppies stores according to the records. In the case CMB wins the case, BPOPF will then get nothing from CMB.

The background of the case is that BPOPF entered into an agreement (Advisory and Management Services Agreement 9AMSA) with CMB as the fund of P500 million on 3rd November, 2014. BPOPF at the time committed P500 million. Two years later, BPOPF questioned the way CMB was handling the funds, accusing it of breach of the investment policy. It was then that BPOPF terminated the contract on 30 October, 201, leading to the case before court today. BPOPF also wants all documentation relating to the Fund and to each of the Fund's Investments that are in its possession and which ought to be within its possession in terms of the Partnership Agreement both as its General Partner and Fund Manager.

MOLEFHE HAD SEEN THE SMOKING GUN

This publication learned that when Boitumelo Molefhe joined BPOPF in July 2015 she expressed concern that there were so many loopholes in some of the contracts BPOPF had entered into. She is said to have written to the Board in August 2016 making members aware of the anomalies and the need to take action but she was not successful. Molefhe is said to have asked for a proper valuation of CMB.

Weekend Post is informed that at the time, CMB had only invested in Bona Life. Unfortunately indications are that Molefhe was in her own world as many board members discouraged her from going ahead with the valuation. Board members were convinced that everything looked well and urged Molefhe to let sleeping dogs lie.  Sources point out that some went to the extent of scaring Molefhe by telling her that she was putting her position at risk.

“She demanded that her advice be put in writing as a record that she once demanded that this be done but the board was not willing to do so,” said a source close to the developments.  At some point Molefhe was accused of being trigger happy because every season she was firing one of the Fund managers.  Molefhe is said to have insisted that the board must be vigilant because it was dealing with public money which has to be accounted for. “It is only until recently that she decided to take the bull by its horns and fight this issue of CMB,” said the source. 

“People should understand that these are public funds, it is not somebody’s kitchen where they can do as it pleases them,” said a concerned citizen close to the BPOPF on goings. There was an initial back and forth on the subject of whether to terminate CMB or not. But common sense prevailed and the termination was agreed. On the issue of taking the matter to court the Board unanimously agreed.  A total of P477m was invested in all the six disputed companies and BPOPF wants it returned. BPOPF is represented by Werkmans Attorneys through the local law firm Minchin and Kelly.

A STAND OUT BREACH

BPOPF is taking a strong exception of the breach of the Provisions Relating to Fund Expenses. It notes that Fund Expenses should be reasonably incurred and duly evidenced and should expressly exclude any placement agent fees. It is said that on 3 March 2016, the General Partner drew down an amount of P12,500,000 representing 2.5% of the Total Commitment which BPOPF understood were in respect of Fund Expenses and Organisational Fees. The Drawdown Notice breached the provisions of the Partnership Agreement by not setting out the allocation to each item.

Fund Expenses must be actually incurred by the General Partner before they are reimbursed.  No evidence was provided with the drawdown that such fees were indeed incurred. BPOPF notes that there are caps of 0.25% on each of Fund Expenses and Organisational Fees. It Its concern is that this covers the entire term of the Fund. The capped amount was therefore P2,500,000 over the life of the Fund. Beyond that amount, any expenses of the Fund are to be borne by CMB. The amount drawn down exceeds the capped fees by P10,000,000.

The drawdown was also supposed to cover Management Fees. These are not separately enumerated in the notice but it is noted that the amount of P10,000,000 represents 2% of the Total Commitment whereas the Fund Manager was entitled to 1.5% as a fee. The difference cannot be explained by the reference to cash reserves .

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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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