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Choppies’ Ram takes 43% salary Chop

The Chief Executive Officer of Choppies Group, Mr Ramachandran Ottapathu has a new employment Contract as Chief Executive Officer – and it his pay cheque is down 43%. The employment contract of Mr Ottapathu was reviewed following advices from Advocates Hoffmann SC and Redding SC hance ‘appropriate clauses inserted in the employment contract’.

According to a Choppies circular, “In accordance with current best remuneration practises as advocated by King IV Code on Corporate Governance, the current guaranteed portion of the Chief Executive Officer’s remuneration has been reduced by 43% to facilitate the introduction of short-term incentives.”

The circular, released this week, states that upon the lifting of the suspension of the Company’s share trading on the BSEL and JSE, the Board will consider the introduction of long-term incentives as part of the remuneration of the Chief Executive Officer as well as the quantum of overall remuneration. The reviewed employment contract between the Company, and the Chief Executive Officer was effective as of 1 March 2020.

In addition Choppies has appointed a Chief Financial Officer. A South African Chartered Accountant has been appointed CFO with effect from mid-April 2020. This appointment is subject to the issuing of a work permit by the Botswana authorities. “The individual has extensive JSE listed company experience including group accountant of the Nampak Group for six years and more recently senior financial positions within the retail group Edcon.”

Furthermore the Group has recruited a Deputy Chief Executive Officer. According to the circular, a suitable candidate with over 25 years of grocery retail experience in Southern Africa including very senior executive position and proven retail track record has been identified and he will commence duties with the Group, as soon as his current commitment comes to an end, during April 2020.

Loans and injection of capital by founding shareholders

As of 19 September 2019 loans of an aggregate of approximately BWP680million were outstanding to the Lenders. According to Choppies, in terms of a facility agreement concluded between the Company and CDC and certain of the Lenders, the capital of majority of loans was repayable, over a 5-year period of time, commencing 1 July 2020, with interest payable on a monthly basis.

“Because of various instances of default, the main instance of which was failure to timeously deliver and publish the audited consolidated financial statements in respect of the year ended 30 June 2018, the principal balances of or the borrowings, became payable in full, on demand.”

The circular notes that the Lenders agreed to hold off making demand for immediate payment and proceeding to recover the full amount of the aggregate of the capital of the borrowings provided that there be an immediate reduction in the capital outstanding of the loans and sales of non-performing businesses of the Group, particularly those in South Africa, be proceeded with, with an agreed time frame.

“The Company agreed to a reduction of the capital of loans in the sum of BWP150million payable as to (1) the amount of BWP 100million by 10 October 2019 and (2) BWP 50million by 30 November 2019, and required that the Founding Shareholders guarantee the payment by the Company of the total aggregate of BWP 150million, on the due dates.” The Choppies Founding Shareholders have agreed to undertake that guarantee and as of the 10th of October 2019, the Company was not able to effect the reduction of capital of the loans outstanding to the Lenders in the sum of BWP 100million.

Accordingly, in terms of the guarantees, the Founding Shareholders effected the payment of BWP100million, Mr Ottapathu effecting a payment of BWP 80 million and Mr Ismail effecting a payment of BWP20million thereof to the agent for the Lenders, thereby causing the outstanding capital balance of the loans due to the Lenders to be reduced by the required BWP 100million, reads the circular.

“The Company and the Founding Shareholders agreed that, subject to compliance by the Company of the requirements of the BSEL, as set forth in the BSE Equity Listing Requirements for a related party transaction based on the size of the contribution made by the Founding Shareholders relative to the size of the Company, the payment of BWP 100million by the Founding Shareholders on behalf of the Company, to the Lenders, in reduction of the capital outstanding to the Lenders, would be considered a loan by them to the Company on the basis that:- such loan would accrue interest at a rate, comparable to current market related rates of interest; the claims of the Founding Shareholders for repayment of the capital of the loan be subordinated to the claims of the Lenders and trade creditors of the Group,” the circular reads.  

They further agreed that the capital of the loan will be repayable provided that: a debt reduction plan in respect of the capital outstanding to Lenders has been approved by the Lenders; the Company and CDC are in compliance with the terms of the debt reduction plan including all debt reduction milestones; there is no default by the Company or CDC under facility agreements with the Lenders and the terms of securities granted in favour of the Lenders; no payments of interest or capital are outstanding to Lenders; neither the Company nor CDC are in arrears with any amount due and payable to Lenders; A repayment under the loan can be made from free cash flows which, in this context mean the net cash of the Company and CDC available for distribution after making provision for amounts due to Lenders and trade creditors.

The BSEL has confirmed that the contribution by the Founding Shareholders on behalf of the Company, in reduction of the capital outstanding to the Lenders may be considered a loan, by the Founding Shareholders, and a loan agreement in this regard entered into by the Company and the Founding Shareholders as related parties to the Company, provided that there be an independent professional expert opinion in respect of the fairness and reasonableness of the terms of the loan.

The second instalment in reduction of the outstanding capital of the loans (that of BWP 50million which was due and payable on the 30 November 2019) was paid, in two tranches (with the approval of the Lenders) of BWP 20million on 20 December 2019 and BWP 30million on 14 January 2020, from the resources of the Group generated over the 2019/2020 festive season. The Company and the Lenders are in advanced discussions to agree on a Debt Reduction Plan which is expected to be finalised by the 31 March 2020.

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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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