BY BONNIE MODIAKGOTLA
Letshego’s group CEO has abruptly resigned, less than six months after he assumed the top post at the leading microfinance provider, with his exit as mysterious as the other top executives who have been leaving the company.
On late Friday, Letshego announced to shareholders that Smit Crouse, Group Chief Executive and Executive Director of the Group Board has resigned. The statement said Crouse will step down from his role with immediate effect. It was not revealed why Crouse resigned.
“While the Board conducts its search for a successor, Dumisani Ndebele has been appointed as Group CEO for the interim period. Dumisani, who will report directly to the Board, will commence his position following necessary approvals from relevant regulatory bodies,” read part of the statement.
Ndebele, the now acting Group CEO, recently joined the company (March 2019) as Company secretary, replacing Lawrence Khupe who stepped down hardly over a year since he was appointed. It was Ndebele’s second return to the company after he parted with it in 2016 when he was Group Head of Governance and Compliance. His first stint at Letshego was in 1999, a year after the company was formed.
“It is an honour and a privilege to step into the role of interim Group CEO at Letshego Holdings Limited, especially as it enters its third decade of operations,” said Ndebele, reacting to his temporary appointment.
“Working closely with, and supported by, Group and Country Leadership as well as our 3,000 staff members across Africa, we will drive our core objective of improving access to finance across Africa, and generating sustainable growth for all our stakeholders.”
The statement released to shareholders disclosed that the Letshego Group Board has initiated a search to identify a new Group Chief Executive, and an announcement will be made in due course.
Letshego has been bleeding top executives since last year in what has turned to be a fast revolving door. In early August 2018, Chris Low, then Letshego Managing Director, also abruptly resigned from his role after five years at the helm. No further explanations were given on his resignation. Instead, Letshego announced that Colm Patterson, the Group Chief Financial Officer of Letshego, will lead the management transition team, with Low remaining in the shadows for a time being as an advisor to ensure smooth transition.
In late September, Letshego unveiled Crouse as their latest catch to steer the ship as the Group CEO, and it was revealed that with his extensive international and regional experience gained across multiple sectors, he will lead the company in its pursuit of providing customers with compelling value propositions, whilst creating stakeholder valueÔÇô making him the right man for the job.
“The Board is confident that with Smit’s extensive experience, and more specifically, his unique strategic approach, thought leadership and drive for operational excellence, will enable the Group to be well positioned in realizing its full potential,” said Enos Banda, Letshego’s Group Chairman, at the time of announcement.
Letshego was later hit by another resignation from the top management, as Patterson, the man who led the transition team also called it quits, just about five months working with Crouse. Patterson had been with Letshego for more than 11 years, and his exit shifted the focus on the exodus of senior management from Letshego, with questions abound as to whether the new CEO’s management style was rubbing certain people off.
When Crouse joined Letshego, one of the major things he did was to cancel the banking licence application that has been made to Bank of Botswana, insisting that he has to relook at the company’s operations before a decision could be made. This surprised many as Letshego, under Low, has tried unsuccessfully before to obtain the license, and the latest application was expected to be successful as the company said it had put a solid proposal to the central bank.
News then started to trickle out on how people are being pushed out at Letshego, and mounting concerns that for a native company, there were now only two Batswana at the Group executive. Moreover, Letshego’s staff were also told to brace for retrenchments.
Now with Crouse’s shock resignation, it has become clear that not all is well at the pan-African financial institution. Efforts to get comment from Letshego proved futile as the announcement of Crouse’s resignation was made public after close of business.