This story is part of a special report chronicling events that led to the dismissal of Andrew Okai as the CEO of Letshego Holdings. In case you missed it:
…and also advised interim the CEO against accepting the appointment
On 6 May 2022, Parks Tafa, the Managing Partner at Collins Newman & Co, addressed a virtual meeting of asset managers who hold the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) shares in Letshego, lobbying them for removal of the company’s board at its next annual general meeting scheduled for 23 June 2022, Dr. Gloria Somolekae, an independent director of the microlender, wrote in her replying affidavit.
While Somolekae alleged Tafa was acting on instructions of then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Letshego Andrew Okai, the former CEO has denied this. Dr Somolekae was responding to an application by Letshego’s axed CEO, who says he was dismissed unfairly. Somolekae testified that the asset managers who were on that call included Vunani, Botswana Insurance Fund Management (BIFM), Morula Capital and Allan Gray. “Not only did he address the asset managers, he divulged price-sensitive information to a select group of shareholders, contrary to the BSE listing requirements,” the director wrote.
The bone of contention was the constitution of an independent board by Letshego which would assess an expression of interest from a third party for the company’s takeover. Court documents show that Tafa had previously castigated the board, accusing it of being unethical. Letshego documents indicated that Tafa was enlisted by the former CEO who was opposing the transaction. The impasse cost Okai his job as the board resolved to terminate his contract on 3rd May 2022.
According to Dr Somolekae’s account, shortly after 6pm on that day, Okai called the interim Group CEO, Aupa Monyatsi, to tell him not to accept the interim appointment. “He threatened Mr Monyatsi and told him that once he has dealt with the board he would decisively deal with him,” said Dr Somolekae. “He ended the call by informing Mr. Monyatsi that Mr Tafa would call him and he must take Mr. Tafa’s call.”
The independent director testified that Tafa did indeed call Monyatsi at around 8pm on the same day and told him that he didn’t have to accept his appointment as interim CEO. Okai has denied threatening Monyatsi or telling him not to accept his appointment. Infact, Okai submitted that it was Monyatsi who called him to inform him of his appointment as he had no knowledge that he had been so appointed. “I deny that I informed him that I would deal with the board and thereafter I would deal with him,” said Okai. “There was no basis for me to so deal with the board or him.”
But Okai admitted informing Monyatsi that he would be called by Tafa as he had informed Tafa of the decision to dismiss him. “I am not privy to what was discussed between Messrs Monyatsi and Tafa and I cannot comment thereon,” he said. Dr Somolekae averred: “During the course of the same evening the applicant called Mr Neville Perry, the respondent’s Group Head of Technology, after he discovered that he had been disabled from all the respondent’s information technology platforms.”
According to Somolekae, he wanted to know who had disabled him. At this point in time, she said, Perry was unaware that Okai had been dismissed. Perry immediately called his direct superior Moreri Sefako, to find out what was going on. Somolekae said Sefako advised that Okai had been disabled on instructions of Monyatsi who was giving effect to a resolution of the board dismissing Okai.
“Mr Perry called the applicant back and informed him that his removal from the technology platforms was pursuant to a resolution of the board,” she said, adding that Okai had wanted “to know which individuals were responsible for executing the boards’ resolution as he considered this to be insubordination”. According to Dr Somolekae, Okai said he was still the respondent’s CEO. “He said it was now war and there were going to be casualties as a result of people’s divided loyalties. He then hung up,” Dr Somolekae asserted.
Okai denied that he informed Perry that it was now war and there were going to be causalities but admitted “the contents to the extent that they record his discussion with Mr. Perry”. At 2155 hours on the same day, said Somolekae, the former CEO caused an invitation to be issued for a virtual executive meeting of Letshego to be held at 2200hrs. Invitations to the meeting were sent to all Country CEOs and senior managers of Letshego, which has subsidiaries in several countries, most of them with Country CEOs.
At his meeting, Letshego’s files indicate that Okai asserted that he was still the Group CEO and that staff should not listen to anyone purporting to be the Group CEO. According to Dr Somolekae, Okai also accused the board of victimising the company secretary for “doing the right thing”. “He also indicated that anyone who betrayed him would be dealt with decisively,” Dr Somolekae said. Okai has denied accusing the board as alleged or at all, saying what he said was that anyone who betrayed him would be dealt with decisively. However, he admitted the remaining contents.