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BPOPF caught in double standards?

STAFF WRITER
Bakang Seretse. PIC. MORERI SEJAKGOMO
When flamboyant asset manager Bakang Seretse was arrested in connection with contract by government contract to procure military equipment, the then chairperson of Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOF), Carter Morupisi immediately instructed BPOPF to terminate Kgori Capital’s management contract.

Fast-forward two years, Investec Asset Management Botswana which manages billions on behalf of BPOPF is in a similar situation but thanks to its foreign ownership it is being subjected to different rules. James Hatuikulipi, Managing Director of Investec Asset Management Africa has resigned amid a fishing scandal in Namibia. Hatukulipi to whom the local Botswana Managing Director Martinus Seboni reports to was a board member of Investec Asset Management Botswana.

Hatuikulipi was arrested late November 2019

Hatuikulipi is accused of spearheading a fishing scandal to which over US $10m of kickbacks were paid to officials. He was also chairperson of the Fisheries Commission in Namibia. Two senior government Ministers have also been implicated in the scandal. The two Ministers Bernhard Esau and Sackeus Shanghala are father in law (Hatuikulipi’s cousin is married to Esau’s daughter) and best friend to Hatuikulipi respectively. James also traces his relations to Botswana being engaged to Kelly Sibisibi, daughter to Jeffrey Sibisibi, former Kweneng District Council chairperson and former campaign manager for President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Seretse and Kgori Capital were not given this preferential treatment nor was any court process allowed to terminate before their contract with BPOPF was terminated. Seretse said they were targeted because “we were a fast growing threat”  - and should not have been because “we were advancing citizen empowerment”. 

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and other government agencies harassed Basis Points Capital (BPS) because it was growing too fast for the liking of its competitors, one if it’s founders Seretse told Mmegi.

“We were targeted after getting mandates in which foreign players had an interest but couldn’t compete in. BPS Capital was appointed as transaction advisor to the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security on the Tshele Hills National Storage Project. The appointment set tongues wagging within the banking space and advisory space. The P4 billion project has since been re-advertised by government. No reason has ever been given to BPS Capital by government on why they chose to not continue with them after having successfully executed the mandate,” Seretse said.

He added that: “We are being targeted because we were radical to the believe that Batswana should be at the forefront of their economy. We are rebellious to the thinking that Batswana cannot do anything and services have to be procured outside our country. We were educated by our government and attained international experience. This experience should be given an equal opportunity in our economy. We refuse to be left out of the economic table of our country”.

He said the BPS Capital was the

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fastest growing financial advisory firm in Botswana having successfully completed numerous monumental projects for government such as Project Meepong in which to government of Botswana increased its stake in Morupule Colliery mine, the Ministry of Education Support Fund, raising the first Green Bond in South Africa and the Gautrain Project to name a few. “We taken as a threat to foreign players and they are now trying by all means to keep us where we are.”

Just like with Kgori Capital, a company that Seretse co-founded and was Managing Director, Seretse is of the strong believe it was an economic, political hit on the company for it to be criminally charged. Having been exonerated by the Court of Appeal of wrongdoings, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has stubbornly continued to take the company to court. “This is all to ensure that the company doesn’t compete.”

Kgori Capital was founded in 2013 and started to grow rapidly attaining assets under management of P7 billion within five years of its operation. Despite its growth it was a fraction of the market share enjoyed by foreign investment in Botswana who manages pension funds. No local, citizen firm manages Bank of Botswana foreign reserves even after 53 years of independence.

Said Seretse, “I still don’t get the treatment we have received because we were breaking the ceiling for Batswana on ventures mainly done by foreign firms. And whilst we provided these services, not a single client has sent us a complaint about our services. Our crime remains being asked to make payment on behalf of government of Botswana to Israel, a request we didn’t bid for or request to do. In return we were treated like petty thieves. We were dehumanised. Accusation upon accusation has been levelled upon us. Prior to the “Butterfly” frenzy the state claimed we knew were the missing billions in Bank of Botswana were and that the NPF case will reveal a lot. The Ministry of Finance nor any government agency has ever apologies to us over that malicious accusation”.

The National Petroleum Fund (NPF) case is expected to start in earnest next year. The defence team has asked key figures in government including President Masisi to appear before court in a matter involving restrained assets. Meanwhile the State has asked to submit another application in which they allege that Isaac Kgosi lied to the Botswana Defence Force in order to complete the NPF procurement of drones and other surveillance equipment. The accused have also called for a review of their charges before the High Court.



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