On 18 January 2022, Chandra Chauhan, Managing Director of Sefalana Group, quit his directorship at Grow Mine Africa. He did that together with his right hand man, Mohamed Osman, who is Finance Director at Sefalana. These two men are among the elite corporate executives in this diamond led-country. Infact, they are the top two executives at Sefalana, a multi-billion pula retail empire owned in majority by pensioners in Botswana.
At Grow Mine, Chauhan and Osman were also not ordinary. Their directorships represented the interests of Sefalana which sits on the largest shareholding at Grow Mine, a whopping 40 percent stake in the lotto company. At least for now. But it does not end here. Chauhan was at some point Chairman of the Grow Mine Board and the most powerful in that company. His source of power was Sefalana’s money. Through Sefalana, which is owned over half by pensioners, Chauhan and his right hand man were the largest investors in Grow Mine.
They were also the financial guarantors for the rollout of the national lottery after the Gambling Authority announced Grow Mine the Preferred Bidders. Grow Mine needed at least P100 million to finance the rollout. Knowing that only Sefalana within that consortium could cough up such a staggering amount illustrates the power that the Sefalana directors held on that board. Infact, the success of Grow Mine was at one point pinned on Sefalana’s financial undertaking and, although there are other larger retailers than Sefalana, Grow Mine also banked on its retail network for a wide distribution of the lotto. But things seem to be crumbling at Grow Mine.
According to records at the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA), Chauhan and Osman withdrew their directorship from Grow Mine on the 18 January 2022. The remaining directors are Carthage Ringo Matlhaga, who replaced Chauhan as Chairman. There is also the Chairperson of the Botswana Chinese Chamber of Business Association Bin Liu, former G4S MD Fredrick Selolwane and former Puma MD Mahube Mpugwa. However, while these are the only directors, there are other high profile figures who chose to remain but only as shareholders.
At 13 percent, a company named Citizen Money Makers (Pty) Limited, is owned by Boipuso Molatlhegi, Cinderella Molome, Boatametse Mpofu, Thato Raletsatsi and Kebobonye Pabalinga. Idlehill (Pty) Limited, which belongs to Managing Partner at Collins Newsman & Co, Parks Tafa and owns 10 percent. Matlhaga, through his company Carthlee Inventions Propriety Limited, which owns 10.5 percent in Grow Mine. Magapa, who directly owns 3 percent in Grow Mine Africa. This lot, are part of the consortium which made up Grow Mine.
The resignations of Chauhan and Osman are not the only one that occurred. A director in Grow Mine Africa, Dale Seretse Ter Haar, resigned earlier, effective 21 October 2020. Ter Haar is former president Ian Khama’s nephew. Together with his twin brother, Marcus Patrick-Khama Ter Haar, they are shareholders in a company called Colmar Enterprises (Pty) Ltd which owns the second largest stake in Grow Mine Africa, at 23.5 percent. They co-own the company with other names of Botswana’s high-flyers, one of them being former Chief Investment Officer at Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), Moatlhodi Lekaukau, who has also resigned as director, as has former MD of Grow Mine, Percy Raditladi, as a director. Through Homec Investments Propriety Limited, Raditladi is a shareholder in Grow Mine together with Boitumelo Paya and Larona Makgoeng.
Before the Sefalana honchos resigned as directors, they first revoked their financial undertaking. The Business Weekly & Review has seen a letter written by Max Marinelli, Board Chairperson of Sefalana Group Holdings, notifying all Grow Mine Africa (Pty) Ltd shareholders of their decision to withdraw their financial support to Grow Mine. The letter is dated 6 May 2021 and is addressed to all Grow Mine shareholders.
“Sefalana also advised you of our intention to revoke its financial support within 60 days of that letter dated 12 January 2021,” Marinelli wrote in the letter. “In an attempt to assist Grow Mine in progressing with its negotiations with the Gambling Authority, this support was extended to 30 April 2021 and then again to 31 May 2021. During this combined notice period of over 6 months, Grow Mine was required to obtain replacement funding support.”
He also noted that that has always been the reason for the extension mentioned. “Unfortunately, we are not able to extend this any further and this letter serves (as a) formal notice of our support being withdrawn on 30 May 2021,” the Chairman of Sefalana Board wrote to Grow Mine shareholders. Significantly, Marinelli asked Grow Mine shareholders to notify the Gambling Authority of Sefalana’s decision by the 7 June 2021.
Investigations show that in the aftermath of Sefalana withdrawing its financial support to Grow Mine Africa, the other Grow Mine shareholders have been struggling to raise the necessary funds to meet the Gambling Authority’s requirements for issuance of a national lottery licence. Grow Mine needed to have P100 million or at least a financial guarantor to meet this requirement of the Gambling Authority. The failure to secure financial guarantor, or raise the P100 million required, was a key reason that the Gambling Authority terminated Grow Mine’s licence.
However, Grow Mine appealed to the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI), Mmusi Kgafela, for the decision to be reversed last year. An interview with Matlhaga, the Chairman of Grow Mine, has revealed that he is not aware of exactly when Grow Mine will receive a response from the minister following their appeal. Asked whether they are now compliant with all licence requirements, including raising the required funds, Matlhaga answered: “I am constrained to comment on that because we cannot even do anything before we hear what the minister has to say.”
However, Matlhaga confirmed that Osman and Chauhan have resigned as directors of Grow Mine. The Business Weekly & Review has been told that after the resignation of the two men, Sefalana withdrawing its financial undertaking, and consequently resigning from the board of Grow Mine Africa, it is only a matter of time before Sefalana exits Grow Mine as shareholders.
Asked why the two resigned, Matlhaga said they did not share their reasons. Notably, he said he was not aware that Sefalana may be planning an exit at shareholder level. Chauhan and Osman did not respond to an inquiry sent to them on Tuesday this week, neither did they respond to phone calls to their mobiles. However, this publication understands that Minister Kgafela is expected to give his verdict by the end of this week.