Masisi Advisor wants ‘friend’ appointed CEO
Special Advisor to President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Dr Kaelo Molefhe -appointed Director of Governance in the Ministry for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration early 2020 has been fingered as the man causing chaos in the recruitment of a substantive Chief Executive Officer at Letlole La Rona (LLR).
LLR is a variable loan stock company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange on 15 June 2011 and has a market capitalisation of P504 million (approx. USD46 million). It is owned by Botswana Government investment vehicle Botswana Development Coproration (BDC) with 40%, Mauritian based real estate group, Grit taking 30% while the rest of the shares (30%) are held by several different investors in stocks.
What started off in March 2021 as a routine recruitment process for a new Chief Executive Officer for LLR to replace Chikuni Shenjere-Mutiswa who was fired in September 2020, has exploded in the face of the Board, leading to resignation of all except two. The Patriot on Sunday can confirm that LLR Board chairman Frederick Selolwane, O. keabetswe, M. Setlhare and S. Serumola tendered their en masse resignation at a meeting on Thursday to save their integrity and avoid the humiliation of being expelled by shareholders at the upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) next week (on December 14). They resigned when news of their imminent expulsion was delivered at the Thursday Board meeting.
By Friday only two board members, representing BDC and Grit, remain in the LLR Board. They are Bronwyn Knight -a representative of Grit and Oteng Ogotseng representing BDC. The remaining BDC Board member harbours interest to be appointed LLR CEO and has already been interviewed and rejected by the board because of glaring conflict of interest. He was recommended for the position by Knight in a letter dated 27 May 2021.
Even more interesting is that the two remaining board members, together with another-an executive at Debswana Diamond Mining Company, were part of an ad hoc recruitment committee that repeatedly rejected applicants shortlisted by Staffwise Consultants for the CEO job under the pretext that nobody was qualified. A subsequent attempt to shove in the BDC executive in the Board into the LLR CEO post also failed.
Voluminous back and forth correspondence between BDC and Office of the President, LLR Board, Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) and independent legal advisors Armstrongs Attorneys demonstrates a protracted tussle to control over the recruitment process for the CEO. The documents make repeated specific refrences to orders issued by Dr Molefhe -Director of Governance in Masisi’s office, to BDC and LLR Board.
The Patriot on Sunday has it on good authority that when the LLR Board stood their ground and refused to accede to verbal instructions from Dr Molefhe, who claimed to have been sent by his superiors at OP, he employed intimidation tactics. At some point he is said to have told LLR Board Chairman that he will fire them all if they don’t comply. In some of the marathon meetings he uttered words to the effect that OP had intelligence information showing that the LLR Board wanted to appoint former BPOPF Principal Officer Boitumelo Molefe, which they were unhappy about. Therefore, you have to cancel the CEO recruitment process. We have a candidate we want you to appoint. The industry believes she is my ‘friend’. Her name is Bogaufi Ndlovu*, an executive at (a local bank)’ – the OP boss is alleged to have ordered at some stage.
LLR board refused to bow to pressure, including from BDC Managing Director Cross Kgosidiile, to abandon the recruitment process or submit information on the process to OP. Kgosidiile wrote letters to LLR Board explicitly stating that he was acting on instructions from Dr Molefhe at OP, who had an interest in the appoint of the CEO.
Giving a legal opinion Sipho Ziga, a senior partner at Armstrongs Attorneys advised the LLR Board that the provisions of the BSE Listings Requirements on sharing of information with shareholders do not extend to shareholders of shareholders (in this case as the Government of Botswana is not a shareholder of LLR but rather shareholder of BDC). LLR is only obliged to deal with the registered shareholder. “LLR may only share this information with BDC if provided a dispensation by the BSE. An application would have to be made by LLR to the BSE, which would require justification for disclosure of information to some, and not all shareholders, which is a departure from the BSE Listing Requirements,” said Ziga.
Earlier, BSE CEO Thapelo Tsheole had also warned LLR Board about the sensitivity of sharing information with third parties as it could violate section 5.3 (g) of the Equity Listings Requirements of fairness and equal treatment.
By the time the four members of LLR Board resigned on Friday they had already finalised the CEO recruitment process, settling for a Motswana who had come in second during final interviews. The Board had already dispatched an offer letter to the succesful candidate (names withheld) and was only awaiting his acceptance. In a surprising turn of events, the succesful candidate turned down the offer at the eleventh hour (on Thursday) after learning that the entire Board had either resigned or will not be seeking nomination at the upcoming LLR Annual General Meeting next week because of interference from the Office of the President.
The new would-be LLR CEO, who has since chickened out, was one of the six head-hunted and shortlisted executives identified by the international recruitment consultant engaged for the job. It has since emerged that the new recruitment company has a very close relationship with Grit, stretching many years back. Coincidentaly, leading the pack of short listed executives was a young South African -(names withheld), who works for a Grit subsidiary. He had excelled during interviews and was destined to take over the reigns until the outgoing LLR Board pulled the plug and settled for number 2.
Fireworks are expected at the December 14, 2021 AGM where BDC will come face to face with Grit representatives. Each of the biggest shareholders, who ironically acquired LLR shareholding through a share swap deal, have huge interest in appointing their own executive to lead the company.
Dr Kaelo Molefhe
The former UB academic (a senior lecturer in Political and Administrative Studies), who was also a very vocal trade unionist as Secretary General of UBASSU, surprised many last year when he dumped the University of Botswana to become a civil servant. Dr Molefhe, a close ally of the godfather of the labour movement, Johnson Motshwarakgole was the Parliamentary candidate for the opposition Alliance for Progressives (AP) in the October 2019 General eletions in Gaborone Bonnington North constituency against Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President Duma Boko and Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Annah Mokgethi. Mokgethi triumphed.
Dr Molefhe could not be reached at the time of going to print.
*Bogaufi Ndlovu, is a pseudonym to protect the identity of the bank executive because she could not be contacted for a Right of Reply at the time of going to print. Her names are withheld for now.
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