SABMiller has redeployed the KBL Managing Director to Johannesburg from where he will become the group’s Corporate Affairs Director, responsible for Africa.
Hloni Matsela’s promotion comes against a backdrop of his success in stewarding the brewer’s Botswana operations in the face of deteriorating trade conditions since Botswana government introduced alcohol levy in 2008.
Matsela has been credited with maintaining KBL above water when many analysts predicted that a decision would have to be made to relocate out of Botswana.
That was after the government made a mistake in how the levy was calculated, which was heavily skewed in favour of importers against local producers.
KBL was ultimately able to convince authorities that the levy’s calculation was defective.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Matsela said his new responsibility will involve looking after corporate affairs for the multi-national, with specific focus on Africa.
“It is in recognition of the issues we have been dealing with in Botswana,” he said, referring to how KBL all of a sudden found itself having to grapple with difficult regulatory and legislative frameworks.
Recently, Botswana Government introduced further measures against alcohol, this time targeting, traditional beer. Botswana Breweries Limited, a sister company of KBL that trades in traditional beer has already hinted that the traditional beer regulations could be more harmful than the levy was ever feared to be.
Matsela said while the environment was no difficult, he will always look back with confidence at how, together with his team, they were able to cushion the business against all the shocks.
“It may not be the most enviable, but it is operable,” he said.
He conceded that the changes in legislation were the most challenging in his six-year stay in Botswana.
“Changes have been very drastic. Our business is very sensitive to external shocks. When things are normal we tend to plan on a 3 to five year cycle, but that could not happen when we experience shocks on an ongoing basis. You don’t purchase a line and get it next week. It takes at least 18 months. And that means growth has to be predicted. That was not always the case,” he said.
He said notwithstanding the turbulence, he looks back with pride that KBL was able to continue to invest in the communities through the various corporate social responsibility programmes.
Does he consider it a paradox that he has been promoted on account of how he discharged what has been the most difficult assignment of his professional career?
“In the sense that it would require me to apply my mind to the whole of Africa, I consider the promotion a paradox,” said the soft-spoken Matsela.
He leaves end of August.