The founding directors of Botswana and JSE-listed retailer, Choppies Enterprises Limited (“Choppies” or “the Company” or “the Group”) backed the Group’s turn-around strategy to the tune of just over P11,000,000.00 million recently.
Messrs. Ramachandran Ottapathu and Ismail Farouk acquired 18 597 724 shares on the open market at an average price of approximately 63 thebe per share on the Botswana Stock Exchange in a slew of transactions at the end of October.
“As a management team, we faced numerous challenges during the past number of years. The retail environment continues to experience headwinds, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. As a significant shareholder and director, I am confident that the worst is behind Choppies and that we’re close to the bottom of the cycle. “Our investment strongly aligns us with shareholders as we now focus on further improving corporate governance and growing profitability,” comments Chief Executive Officer Ramachandran Ottapathu.
The founding directors are currently involved in litigation against the Company’s former auditor and audit partner for delaying the publication of the Company’s audited results following breaches of independence and unlawful changes to the scope of the audit. This resulted in the suspension of trade in the Company’s shares on both the Botswana Stock Exchange (“BSE”) where it holds a primary listing as well as on the JSE Limited (“JSE”).
The JSE lifted the suspension of trade in the Company’s shares, following a similar decision by the BSE in July this year. Botswana based Kwabena Antwi from Kgori Capital says that shareholders will take courage from the fact that the Group is now current on its financial statements, following the BSE’s lifting of the trading suspension.
“Shareholder confidence is usually linked with shareholders returns. Getting Choppies back to an overall profitable position, where they are capable of paying dividends will go a long way in shoring up shareholder confidence. The next phase will focus on implementing governance structures throughout the Group. Some progress has been made, but there is still more to be rolled out,” he says.
At the presentation of the audited financial results for the year ended 30 June 2020, the Company said it has discontinued or disposed of its lossmaking operations in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This resulted in a once-off loss of approximately P371 million from discontinued operations and an increase in negative equity to P467 million for the financial year ended 30 June 2020.
“The board of Choppies considered the 2021 budgets, detailed cash flow forecasts that were stress tested, as prepared by management, banking facilities and covenants, undertakings of financial support by the founder shareholders, the economic outlook of the countries in which it operates as well as the possible future impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Based on the evidence provided by management, the Board concluded that the Group has already taken the necessary steps to remedy the past situation by discontinuing loss making operations the Company and the Group should be a going concern for the foreseeable future.
“As founder shareholders we remain committed to the turn-around strategy of Choppies, and confident of growing profitability in the short to medium term,” says Ottapathu.
The turnaround at Choppies follows implantation of turnaround strategy to improve corporate governance and exit of underperforming operations in South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania
An Intersection between UN International Women’s Month and the ITU (United Nations) International Girls in ICT Day 22 April 2021. The Girls in ICT initiative of the International Telecommunication Union – the UN specialized agency for ICT – is a global effort to raise awareness about the exciting opportunities of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.
As a Telecommunications Regulator, BOCRA is the local partner for the ITU, delivering to the telecommunications development. How interesting that the International Women’s Month, whose theme was #ChooseToChallenge, and the International Day of Girls in ICT – 22nd April 2021, are back to back. Both are female and both have a lot to engage on! In alignment with the 2 themes, we have chosen to challenge the Girl Child that, despite the external challenges, the limited resources, success is a choice they ought to strive for. Hence the theme of this Edition Empowering Girls To Be Future Technology Leaders.
We have reached out to a few notable female leaders at BOCRA, who reminisce their life journeys exploring their teenagehood, to motivate the current generation of girl child that the path is not new but the challenge are as subjective as their inspirations. That previous generations of girls, have walked the same path under less resourceful contexts yet triumphed and are now prominent leaders.
These women are an small example of Batswana women who have thrived in the STEM field, against all odds. They show what girls are equally capable to succeed in the STEM field. . These stories affirm the importance of science in solving human problems and women’s role in the STEM field; and seek to empower girls to be future technology leaders; For years, girls shied away from TECH; Things are changing. Tech is evolving.
This is BOCRA WOMEN & GIRLS IN STEM Edition, is one of the initiatives through which BOCRA seeks to commemorate International Girls in ICT – through role modelling; Through this initiative, BOCRA seeks to inspire girls and young women to consider a future in technology, and help students, school leaders and parents understand what a career in tech means today
The centrepiece of this initiative is the documentation of these interviews as Video Podcasts on Social Media, both Facebook and LinkedIn – to help girls visualise fantastic careers in technology; That you can be both tech savy and feminine at the same time;
At the Botswana Communications and Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), Tsaone Ruth Thebe’s chairmanship is not by mistake; She is an accomplished Administrator and Manager, with extensive experience in directing the human resources, finance, administration as well as policies in the public sector for over 30 years.
It is under her leadership as Permanent Secretary – Ministry of Lands & Housing, that Government introduced the Land Administration Procedures, Capacity and Systems (LAPCAS) Programme – encompassing land administration processes, computerisation of land records, land registration and capacity building; She also served as the Permanent Secretary of the then Ministry of Transport & Communications, whose mandate included eGov and supervision of BOCRA, which she now leads as Board Chairperson
She successfully managed large organizations with employees of between 5 000 to 20,000 people. She also managed development and recurrent budgets in excess of P2 billion. At present, Thebe is but a captain of Botswana’s digital transformation strategy at BOCRA. As the Board Chair, her mandate is, among others, to: promote and ensure enhanced performance in the communications sector, the very sector central to the country’s digital transformation.
Further to that, she is mandated to ensure that BOCRA imposes a universal access and service levy on identified operators for purpose of funding universal access to communications as well as promote and ensure universal access in respect to provision of communications services and effective regulation of the regulated sectors.
It is no small task. In this era of the Fourth industrial Revolution (4IR), where the world is racing towards digital transformation, only a strong and visionary leader could be mandated with such a task. Thebe is one of the first women in Botswana to be entrusted with such a mammoth task. It can only prove her as a leader extraordinaire.
She leads a Board that is mandated to, among others; promote and ensure enhanced performance in the communications sector; impose a universal access and service levy on identified operators for purpose of funding universal access to communications; promote and ensure universal access in respect to provision of communications services; and effective regulation of regulated sectors.
Most importantly, BOCRA regulates the entire communications industry, a multi-billion Pula industry which envelopes three giant mobile phone companies; Further, BOCRA regulates private radio stations. The Authority also regulates several. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Botswana. Thebe joined the BOCRA board in March 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thebe’s arrival at BOCRA is rather complemented by her vast experience in governance, administration, management, strategic leadership and most importantly project development and implementation. Having been part of a team that enabled the births of Botswana’s LAPCAS and e-Government projects, her appointment could not have been more relevant.
“I knew that with my experience I would help enhance access to communication in Botswana, which is key in government’s digitization plans,” she opines. It was more so because her appointment came at a time when COVID-19 had just struck. Botswana at that time experienced its first lockdown. The economy was at a standstill, compelling almost all sectors to innovate and run businesses through digital means. Although COVID-19 disrupted BOCRA’s planned projects, Thebe and her team were not discouraged, for they knew, the time to innovate had come.
With the entire communications industry under her stewardship, Thebe and her team, influenced for data and broadband prices to be reduced to enhance affordability. The mobile phone companies obliged, which led to ease of access to information in Botswana, especially during COVID-19 where social distance physical interactions impossible. Mobile phone penetration and data usage soared as a result.
BOCRA PROJECTS IMPLEMENTED DESPITE COVID-19
Thebe says the Universal Access Service Fund (UASF) is a funding instrument designed to achieve universal access through monies collected from identified communications service providers. She adds that the Fund periodically develops strategic plans which guide the development and implementation of specific projects to assist in achieving ubiquitous services.
“Although it is overseen and managed by BOCRA, it is an independent Fund, governed through the Board of Trustees. The UASF seeks to ensure that all Batswana have access to a set of basic yet essential communications services at affordable prices.
While guarding against market distortions, the Fund focuses its assistance on areas which are beyond the reach of communications services, enabling underserved and unserved communities to connect with other populations and take advantage of the opportunities and benefits that come with access to broadband Internet and other ICT services,” explains Thebe.
To fulfil this mandate, the UASF periodically develops strategic plans that outline priority programmes or projects that would require financial assistance. This is done in consultation with industry stakeholders. Three key areas previously are schools connectivity, expansion of Voice Coverage and Expansion of Voice Coverage for Private Broadcasters.
Through the UASF Fund, one of the projects which BOCRA implemented was connectivity in 68 schools in the Kgalagadi, Mabutsane and Gantsi area. Currently, BOCRA is busy connecting schools in the Kweneng area. “We expect 119 schools to be connected. Our aim is to ensure that in areas which are beyond the reach of communications services, we bring connectivity,” she notes, adding that connectivity is also extended in some instances to commercial areas like farms.
BOCRA through the fund, according to Thebe, also subsidises private radio stations to ensure connectivity in areas where to the radio stations, there is no commercial value. “What we want to do, which also in line with the United Nations (UN) requirements, is to ensure that in all parts of Botswana, there is a certain minimum requirement of communication.” asserts Thebe.
Home of Table Mountain and Robben Island now has one more four-star national wonder on their list, Cresta Grande Cape Town.
Cresta Marakanelo Limited was proud to support and celebrate its sister company Cresta Hotels, as they opened their doors to the scenic Cape Town hotel, the first time the hotel chain has operated in South Africa’s internationally renowned global tourism ‘capital’.
Cresta Marakanelo Limited operates 11 hotels in Botswana and 1 hotel in Lusaka, Zambia. Sister Company Cresta Hotels, operates 5 hotels in Zimbabwe; making the Cape Town property the 6th Hotel in the Cresta Hotels portfolio The name Cresta Grande Cape Town is reflective of the magnitude and refinement of the 19-story establishment, which is situated in the heart of the Mother City.
“Cresta Grande Cape Town was formally opened on Thursday, April 15, 2021. We as Cresta Marakanelo Limited were very excited to be a part of the unveiling of the new addition to the Group.” stated Mokwena Morulane, Cresta Marakanelo Limited Managing Director.
Cresta Grande hotel has 242 elegant bedrooms, that provide scenic views of the Table Mountain and refreshing oceanic views a stone-throw away. A series of conference and banqueting rooms, a 24-hour café, bar and lounge, gymnasium, sauna and steam room, covered and access-controlled parking area, and outdoor swimming pool with sundeck make it ideal for both business leisure.
Travelers from all corners of the earth can now indulge in the beauty, class and exclusivity of yet another Cresta Group masterpiece. Experience authentic global modern metropolitan experience dovetailed with true African hospitality and bespoke service.
“If you yearn to savor scenic landscape views, aesthetic hotel features and superior service, then, come home to Cresta Grande Cape Town.” noted Jean Pierre Moggee, Cresta Grande Cape Town General Manager.
We are optimistic that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines will provide much needed stimulation of the local and international travel industry. Our priority as the tourism industry is to emphasise safety and get local and global economy firing again. This new addition to the Group will allow for experiences of True African Hospitality, where our guests can enjoy the scenic cosmopolitan Cape Town, enjoy a direct flight to, and stay with us at our Cresta Maun properties; providing the perfect Gateway to the Okavango Delta.
Travelers can further enjoy our Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa, which is situated on the banks of the magical Chobe River. Our Cresta properties will continue to maintain extra cleaning protocols and minimal touchpoint experience and will ensure that staff and guests alike take all due COVID-19 precautions.” concludes Morulane.