Former minister Vincent Seretse was recently a crestfallen man as he came face to face with creditors of the liquidated Bluthorn Fund Managers who sought to establish how he acquired free shares him a 15 percent stake in the company.
Seretse was also grilled by the creditors after it emerged that he received payments from the liquidated company when he never provided any services to any companies associated with Bluthorn Fund Managers. The court was informed that Seretse resigned from Bluthorn Fund Managers (at the time it was called Exponent Asset Management Limited) and later received payments from its subsidiaries. The former minister was appearing before the Master of the High Court, Chipo Gaopatlwe.
Under interrogation by attorney Sipho Ziga for the liquidator Kopanang Thekiso, Seretse said he was not familiar with Bluthorn Fund Managers and its associated companies such as Bluthorn Holdings, Bluthorn (Pty) Limited and Prime Employee Benefits but was familiar with Exponent Asset Management Limited. Ziga explained to Seretse that this was the company that subsequently changed its name to Bluthorn Fund Managers. Asked what his association with Exponent Asset Management Limited was, Seretse answered that he was “approached by colleagues” around 2013/14 about forming a company and asked him to be a part of it. These were former Chairman Kweneng District Council Geoffrey Sibisibi and former director of Bluthorn Fund Managers Eune Engelbrecht.
“After some time, I agreed to be part of that company, which to my understanding was to be an asset company,” Seretse continued. “And it interested me because we had few asset companies in the country. My understanding of asset management then was that they would be probably dealing with companies trying to grow their revenues or something like that.” He said he resigned in July of 2016 and did not transfer any shares. Whereupon Ziga asked him how he could leave without transferring his shares. “Basically, I bequeathed them to the organisation because I had not paid for anything when the company was setup,” came the answer. Seretse added that he had been given shares in a company that “was starting, basically to say you can have 15 percent, to which I said yes that is fine”.
Seretse said he only provided consultancy services to a company called Practical Housing. Ziga informed him that the liquidator had gone through some of the records of the companies and it appears that in 2019 Seretse received some payments from Bluthorn Procurement Services. “There is also on the 24th of March 2019, it was a payment of P25 000,” said Ziga. “Then again on the 31st of May 2019. The narration in the statement says board member fee. That was in 2019. And then there are other payments, about five of them made to a company called Galileo which we understand from the CIPA records (that) you own. Can you just explain what those payments were for?”
Seretse said all payments due to him were for consultancy work he did for Practical Housing. However, he also noted that from court records these payments were not from Practical Housing. Seretse said he did not know the source of the money. “The explanation that was given by the executive was that all payments were coming from Bluthorn; that I was not aware. I was dealing with Practical Housing,” he insisted.
This prompted Ziga to ask if Seretse was “paid by a company” that he was not providing services to. “All I wanted to establish is that you received payment from companies that have been liquidated and that you did not provide any services to those companies,” he pressed on. “That is all I wanted to establish. And I think that is what you are confirming, unless I’m mistaken?” Responding to this, Seretse stated: “I am very clear, and I think we are together that I am saying in terms of the money arriving for me I was not at liberty to know where it’s coming from.” Ziga wanted to know if Seretse didn’t ask why Bluthorn would pay for services for another company. “No, I did not ask,” Seretse answered. “No, I did not find it odd. When it was explained, I was not privy to the model that they use for the payments for the services.”
Ziga disagreed, saying Seretse was “privy to it because you were a founder, shareholder and director of this asset management company”. He pressed on: “And I assume you know that asset management companies take money from people and then invest that money. Wouldn’t you then under those circumstances be concerned that an asset management company is paying for services of another company?” Seretse answered he was was not aware of that and that he did not have any contract letter to show that he was engaged to provide services for Practical Housing. “No,” he emphasised. “Everything was verbal.”
Ziga countered: “So, your service contract was basically that you would be paid P25,000 a month for having all those meetings and you are not obliged to produce any report? No memo, nothing? Nothing you can show that ‘I have been doing consultancy services?’” Seretse agreed: “Nothing that I can show save to say that it can be confirmed by the principals who engaged me.” At this stage, representing Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) which is one of the creditors, attorney Kabo Motswagole asked Seretse if he issued an invoice after he had done a feasibility study for Practical Housing.
“Paid and agreed some that I did not have to issue invoices for the same,” Seretse answered, adding that he was paid P25 000 per month and that he could not remember the duration of the contract. Motswagole’s rejoinder: “You showed up there and you made an oral agreement and you left? The agreed sum was not written anywhere? So, is there anything that we can … we can look at as evidence of your relationship with Practical Housing? Anything that is written except these payments we have?” Again Seretse said there was nothing he could produce since it was an oral agreement.
Representing another creditor, Ghanzi District Council, attorney Onalenna Otlaadisa took Seretse to task on his relationship with Sibisibi and Engelbrecht. “You confirmed earlier than that you were approached by Mr Eune and Mr Sibisibi sometime in 2018,” Otlaadisa began. “And if I recall well, you referred to them as colleagues. Please explain to me what you meant by ‘colleagues’. Where did you work together with Mr Eune and Mr Sibisibi?” Seretse answered: “I didn’t know that ‘colleagues’ means I’ve worked with somebody somewhere.” Whereupon Otlaadisa asked Seretse to explain to her what he meant “when you said ‘colleagues’”. Seretse: “I choose to retract the word ‘colleague’ and say by Mr Sibisibi and Mr. Eune.”
Asked how he came know the two men before they approached him, Seretse answered: “I didn’t know Eune. Sibisibi is from Molepolole where I come from.” Otlaadisa then asked Seretse why he was approached by Sibisibi and Engelbrecht, to which Seretse replied that he was in the dark as to why he was approached. “Did you ever question why you were given shares without paying for them?” she asked. “No, I never did,” came Seretse’s answer.