As Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) scampers to clean up its mess, which has seen asset managers haemorrhaging pension holders millions of Pula, all eyes are on the Principal Officer Boitumelo Molefe to see how she wriggles out of the conundrum. She is a marked woman. Despite warnings from those inside the operations of Capital Management Botswana (CMB), the controversial private equity asset manager currently embroiled in an ugly legal brawl with the regulator NBFIRA and BPOPF, the latter continued to inject millions of Pula to the detriment of pensioners and civil servants. Insiders claim that daggers have already been drawn agitating for Molefe's removal by some trustees among the voluminous 40 member board, despite that the same board and its investment committee rejected her advice on the risky venture. "I was not there when they (CMB) were appointed. I have subsequently been made aware of warnings, but nothing is formal or in writing. I have also heard that the board was warned before but nothing was in writing, so we cannot confirm anything," Molefe said. Before the press on Friday morning in the company of Chairman of the Communications committee Solomon Mantswe, her giggles and beautiful smile defied the cancer eating away the core of the richest multi-billion pula pension fund in the land. Mantswe was quick to come to her defence, saying the CEO was hired by the Board of Trustees and therefore nobody can fire her, except the board. "The firing and hiring of the CEO of BPOPF is the sole prerogative of the board of trustees of the pension fund and it is never and has never been a responsibility of an individual or trustee. The chairman is just a trustee, nominated and appointed by colleagues in the board," Mantswe said. Molefe revealed on Friday that a new general partner has already been engaged to replace CMB in the BOP fund where BPOPF remains a limited partner. Viltri replaced CMB, who were terminated late last year, following recommendations by Werksmans Attorneys – a Cape Town-based specialist law firm on private equity, after uncovering numerous breaches to the partnership. Werksmans Attorneys and Minchin & Kelly are representing BPOPF in the on-going lawsuit against CMB. Notwithstanding her boldness and decisiveness in the cases of Flemming Asset Managers, Kgori Capital and CMB, Molefe clearly has a soft spot for domestic investment. She paints a picture that despite failures by some local asset managers the problem is not widespread and perhaps is exaggerated by the infancy of industry in Botswana. She almost tenders an apology on their behalf. Almost justifying the failures, she gives examples of asset managers that have been around for over 100 years like Old Mutual, Allan Gray etc. "We are relatively young, at only 50 years of independence; we still have a long way to go. Asset management is a long drawn out and risky industry. Even with the high risk Incubation project it is not going to be a significant part of our portfolio. But we must encourage incubation to grow the local industry," she said. To allay fears of embezzlement and ever confident, Molefe declares matter-of-factly: "We are still liquid. We are still functional and fully operational. We continue to see growth and have now reached the P60 billion mark in assets".
Two weeks ago CMB boss Rapula Okaile put advertisements in local newspapers, in which he made reference to an instruction Rhys Carr gave to FNBB to "remove viewing rights privileges" to five deposit accounts belonging to BLIL. In the advert Okaile complained that FNBB unilaterally closed one of the accounts cited in the letter, which belongs to CMB (not BLIL). Asked why he included the contested account in the instruction he gave to the bank together with the other four that belong to BLIL, Carr is enraged. One of the breaches by CMB, identified in the BOP fund by Werksmans Attorneys – a Cape Town-based specialist law firm on private equity – was that Carr's departure was not approved and drawdown notices continued to be issued and investments made without the approval of the Advisory Board during a time when the Investment Period should have been suspended. Carr is one of the founders of CMB, who relinquished his shareholding in December 2015. "The failures to deal with the Key Person Event properly are material breaches of the partnership agreement," Werksmans advised. On December 01, 2017 BPOPF Board Chairman, Carter Morupisi, who recused himself from a meeting of 22 February 2018 discussing his alleged connection to Capital Management Botswana (CMB) vehemently denied any such relationship when quizzed by The Patriot on Sunday. Fuming over the indifference of CMB when his name was associated with them, Morupisi dismissed the allegations made by Bakang Seretse of Kgori Capital as hogwash, baseless and an attempt to tarnish his name. In a letter dated December 11, 2017 Seretse alleged receiving information from a prominent Gaborone businessman -a shareholder in Flemming Asset Management, that Morupisi enjoys direct benefits from Capital Management Africa (CMA) – a company wholly owned by Timothy Marsland, who is a majority shareholder at CMB. Mantswe also defended Morupisi expressing concern that the continued negative allegations against the latter could cause reputational damage to BPOPF. However, Mantswe confirmed that the board will in their next meeting discuss a letter written by a trustee complaining about Morupisi's association with controversial asset managers, CMB and Kgori Capital. On issues of conflict of interest, Morupisi has refused to step down after forensic experts from Nexus – appointed by Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) in 2014 – recommended his removal after concluding that his employment as a civil servant in Government creates conflict of interest and contravenes the Rules of the BPOPF Board. Although he defended Morupisi, saying his nomination and appointment is done by fellow trustees, Mantswe promised that the board will review the status of its chairman by April when the new Retirement Funds Acts takes effect. The new RFA has ordered a reduction in the composition of the board from 40 trustees to just 10 plus one independent trustee.