General

Barclays Bank in boardroom purging row

By: Khonani Ontebetse

At least four Batswana executive managers who were expected to ascend to Barclays Bank Botswana Managing Director position have been fired by the bank’s Managing Director Reinette van de Merwe since he took over the leadership of the bank.

The latest purge involved Van de Merwe’s understudy of Pele Moleta who had been head hunted to take over the bank’s top post.

Moleta was head-hunted by Barclays Bank’s recruitment agency based in Dubai.

But hardly three months later Moleta finds himself without a job after a change of heart by Barclays Bank Botswana.

At the time that he was recruited, Moleta was Chief Executive Officer of the government owned Botswana Post.

The corporate sector is rife with the true reasons behind Moleta’s forced exit from Barclays after a decision by the current Managing director that she was finding it difficult to continue working with Moleta.

Sources at Bank of Botswana say Moleta found it impossible to fit in a culture of governance dominated by vested interests at Barclays.

Moleta also refused to sack a number of bank executives who were viewed not to be on the good books of authorities at Barclays Bank.

Among those that Moleta was instructed to sack but declined is Ediretse Ramahobo who has previously acted as Chief Operations Officer.

Another issue that worked against Moleta becoming a member of the herd at Barclays Bank Botswana is that he is said to have continuously expressed and questioned ethical propriety of having the Board Chairman who is also a senior partner of a law firm that provides legal services to the bank.

The Chairman of the Board of Barclays Bank Botswana is Rizwan Desai who is a senior partner at Collins Newman & Co.

Moleta’s fears were predicated on one incident when Barclays Bank Botswana responded to a tender floated by Botswana government to provide advisory services for Independent Power Supplies.

On a last minute it was discovered that Barclays Bank could not use Chairman Desai as a signatory in its bid because his law firm had partnered with Stanbic Bank, through its parent company, the giant standard Bank of South Africa.

An effort was made to replace Desai with another board member, Lawrence Maika. But it was too late as the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) closed Barclays out saying they did not meet the deadline.

In the end, only Standard Bank of South Africa and First National Bank, through the Rand Merchant Bank, submitted their bids in the multi-million Pula independent power supply tenders.

“It was a big issue in the bank. The ABSA wanted to be Government advisor, but our Chairman was involved with another bank. The Group simply did not understand how such a glaring governance issue could in the first place have been allowed to happen when we had our Chairman effectively playing for another team,” said the source.

But by that time Moleta’s fate was sealed.

A decision to drop him was announced when the Managing Director and the Chairman arrived from Zambia where the duo had attended the Chairmen’s conference.

Moleta’s departure means that all the powerful interests at Barclays remain intact.

It also means that the process of delocalisation has effectively gone full steam.

Almost all of the eight positions in the executive management at Barclays are now held by expatriates.

The Managing Director is a South African as is the Director of Banking Business, Andre Potgitier. The Finance Director, Mumba Kalifungwa is a Zambian national. Risk Director is Davidson, an American. Consumer Director is Brighton Banda, a Zimbabwean national as is the Communications and Marketing Director, Racheal Mushaike.

This is a far cry from a few years ago when almost all position in the executive were held by Batswana. But upon arrival, the current Managing Director embarked on a process that amounted to a purge. Peo Motshegare who was Consumer Director was sacked and replaced with an expatriate. Seseti Mogami who was Head of Corporate Banking was also axed as was Boitumelo Komanyane who was responsible for Risk.

The only citizens to remain are Kgotso Bannalotlhe who heads Corporate Investment Banking and also Richard Malikongwa who is Director for Human Resource.

But neither is considered ready by colleagues at Barclays Bank Botswana to assume the position of Managing Director.

Moleta’s departure also means that the Managing Director who was due to leave next year will have all reason to continue her stay in Botswana and in her job under an excuse that no citizen in the executive mananagent is ready to take over the helm at Barclays Bank Botswana.

It is not easy to make sense how the latest developments will play with Bank of Botswana which has in the recent past been steadfast that positions of management should be localised.

The Head of Public Affairs at Bank of Botswana, Andrew Sesinyi said The Bank of Botswana was “not privy to appointment of any individual who “was due to take over as bank MD”. Indeed the Bank is on record imploring banks to localise senior management positions with requisitely qualified and competent persons. This is in order to have the right balance between citizens and equally qualified and experienced expatriate personnel. The fact of the matter is that the ultimate responsibility for appointment of staff lies with the leadership of banks, while the role of the Bank of Botswana is to ascertain that all appointees are fit and proper. “

Responding to Sunday Standard enquiries, the bank’s Head of marketing & Corporate Relations, Racheal Mushaike said “Barclays can confirm that Mr Moleta has left the employ of the bank.”

Mushaike who stated that she was also responding to another questionnaire sent to Desai, said, “With regards to other questions, regrettably we do not comment on the terms, conditions or circumstances of our employees. Further, we cannot comment on speculation. Suffice to say that Barclays remains committed to being an employer of choice in the market.”

This publication has learnt that before he resigned from the bank’s employ, Moleta “was made to take forced leave days” a fortnight ago.

Sunday Standard has also unearthed information indicating that the bank’s Human Resource department led by Richard Malikongwa was unaware of Moleta’s “forced leave.”

The bank was unable to respond to allegations raised by this publication that Moleta’s resignation is part of the bank’s hatched plan to thwart Bank of Botswana’s localization drive of executive positions.

The bank also refused to respond to strong allegations that its Chairman Desai has promised to lobby the Board that the Bank’s Managing Director van der Merwe’s contract should be extended while in return Van der Merwe has also promised to lobby the Board to ensure that Desai’s stay at the bank as its Chairman is also prolonged and the result is that Moleta was pushed out.