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A man well acquainted with battles

MBONGENI MGUNI
Pius Molefe PIC: MORERI SAEJAKGOMO
Those who know him describe Pius Molefe as unafraid to engage in a battle over principle. In his near two decades at the helm of BBS Limited, the corporate veteran has skinned his knuckles more than most in various clashes. On Monday, in what could be his greatest test, Molefe will find out whether he will continue at the helm of BBS Limited, or suffer a first and career-ending defeat.

Justice Tebogo Tau delivers a judgement on whether the board was right to dismiss Molefe and company secretary Sipho Showa, a potential legal end to two weeks of highly public sparring between the sides.

Ahead of the judgement, Molefe will remember the other giants he has taken down over the years. Former finance permanent secretary, Serwalo Tumelo around 2005, captain of capital Tim Marsland in 2012, are amongst those who have faced off against Molefe and come off for worse.

“It is not surprising to see him in this battle but whether he is right or wrong, the courts will decide,” says a corporate leader well acquainted with Molefe over the years. “He is not the type to choose the path of least resistance; he goes for the path he thinks is right when it comes to principle. “Personally, Pius is a very nice guy, always ready with a smile and quite straightforward.

“He’s not the firebrand corporate leader or argumentative but he is not one to shy away from a fight.” Molefe’s latest battle sees him pitted against his own board, following allegations that five retiring directors attempted to extend their stay beyond the planned April 30, 2021, AGM.

The board, led by chair Pelani Siwawa-Ndai, dismissed Molefe and Showa last week, then secured an interim ruling before Tau banishing the duo from BBS’ offices. The case before Justice Tau is seen as

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a litmus test for governance in the country. Managing directors report to their boards, which in turn report to shareholders. Molefe says the board is imposing its desires over the shareholders.

The board has cited indiscipline and bringing the BBS’ reputation into disrepute.The layered regulation of BBS does not make matters easier. The building society is overseen by the finance ministry, Bank of Botswana and the Botswana Stock Exchange, to varying degrees. Its shareholding also indicates an explosive AGM ahead, with powerful investors, one parastatal, quasi-government entities and prominent actors in the share registry.

“This saga will set the record on how other boards and executives behave and the winner will be governance,” says the corporate leader, speaking on anonymity for professional reasons. “In fact, governance fights are the types Pius goes for, the big battles that change issues.”

Given his busy schedule and court/boardroom battles over the years, Molefe spends his free time playing golf, a sport which, like his character, involves the player challenging themselves and setting their own achievements. Monday represents a stiff personal challenge.

“In golf, you deal with your handicap and it becomes harder the better you become. It’s a game of self-management and improvement,” says a fellow golfer. Whatever Molefe spends his most important weekend doing, Justice Tau meanwhile, will spend hers finetuning a judgement, which is expected to echo through corporate boardrooms throughout the country.



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