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Sikalesele survives the storm, reveals Bona Life plans

Publishing Date : 11 June, 2018


Botswana’s first citizen owned company, Bona Life still on course to list on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) in future, Chief Executive Officer, Regina Sikalesele has revealed.

Speaking to this publication this week, Sikalesele said, despite the problems that have besieged the company recently, Bona Life has accumulated some intrinsic value embedded in the company, and that it has established a good reputation, very strong brand in the local market as well a sizeable client portfolio. “We working towards listing Bona Life on the the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) to open up ownership to more Batswana,” said Sikalesele.

Recently, one of the directors of Bona Life, tried but failed to sack her from the company following a dispute arising allegedly from Sikalesele’s decision to report the battle between company shareholders to the regulator, Non-Banking Financial Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA). “I am not going anywhere. I am here. The letter was a breach of agreement. The author does not have authority to represent CMB which is under statutory management and can only be represented by the Statutory Manager,” she indicated.

The attempt by CMB to terminate the CEO failed, because according to Sikalesele, it was unlawful. Sikalesele remains employed at Bona Life and are currently navigating the challenges and to oversee the clients funds. The decision to remove Sikalesele from the CEO position was sparked by her decision to report to regulating authority, following the development involving shareholders, which were likely to affect the business negatively.

“Bona Life was receiving inconsistent reports about its P133 million investments with CMB which affected the validity of the financial statements of Bona Life and the security of the assets,” she said. Sikalesele also became aware of the petition to liquidate CMB Fund which Bona Life has interest in. This was not helped by the fact that CMB was under investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) for possible criminal offenses relating to the BOP.

“It is the role of NBFIRA to protect the interest of Bona Life clients. NBFIRA appointed a Statutory Manager to look into the operations of CMB to determine if there were any breaches of the law or other practices that could expose the clients and take such steps as necessary to protect the public,” she said. This appointment has been contested by CMB and is currently before the Court of Appeal.

Bona Life is the first citizen-owned life insurance company. It started initially trading as Bramer Life Insurance, with Regina Sikalesele as the founder in partnership with a company of Mauritian origin in 2014. Unfortunately, in 2015, its mother company in Mauritius was hit by a huge scandal, forcing Bramer Life to be placed under the Statutory Manager Nigel Dixon-Warren. In a transaction approved by NBFIRA, the company bounced back under Bona Life brand, under the following shareholding arrangement; 40 percent stake as owned by Botswana Opportunity Partnership (a partnership between BPOPF and CMB), 25 percent CMB, 10 percent employees while the remaining 25 percent was Sikalesele.

Essentially, Bona Life was citizen majority owned company, considering that the 40 percent stake owned by BPOPF on BOP represent thousand members of the fund, Sikalesele noted.  “Bona Life represents the dreams and the aspirations of Batswana. It has a broad shareholding of Batswana through BPOPF,” she said.

However, the dispute between BPOPF and CMB, shareholders in Bona Life threaten the pride that the company enjoys as the “citizen owned insurance company.” This is so because CMB has sold BOP, which has 40 percent in Bona Life to CMA, a foreign owned company. The dispute on the transfer of the ownership of the company is subject of the courts.  While Sikalesele continue to ride the storms, she assures the clientele of Bona Life that they have little to worry about.

“NBFIRA was created by parliament to protect the clients of non-bank financial institutions and to maintain stability in the financial services sector,” she said. “Bona Life has candidly reported challenges to NBFIRA and is keeping NBFIRA updated to enable it to perform its role of protecting the clients of Bona Life in accordance with the law.”

Sikalesele however, admitted that other matters are beyond her control, citing the battle between other shareholders as a classical example. The company has been unable to make important decisions owing to the stand-off between CMB and BPOPF. Part of the problems that faced the company was failure to appoint a board, something which according to Sikalesele stalled progress as far as giving company direction was concerned.

“We are now working on that, we will soon appoint the Board. This is also the reason why I could not be removed from my position because only company board can make such resolution,” she said. According to the initially agreement, BPOPF was supposed to appoint two people, BONA Life one, CMB one as well, making the board constitution to be a minimum of four members. Such has not happened due to the disagreements involving other partners.



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