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 .
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.
The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.
The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.
This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.
Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.
The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.
The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).
Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).
The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.
Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.
This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors. Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.
In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.
Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.
In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.
The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.
The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.