Thursday, July 2, 2020

Masisi/Ram business deal raises

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s curious business partnership with Choppies’ multimillionaire Ottapathu Ramachandran has sparked fears that the president may have traded his political capital for a sweet deal.Documents gleaned from the Companies and Intellectual Property (CIPA), list Masisi as a 10% shareholder in Arcee Proprietary Limited a company in which the Choppies Supermarket majority shareholder and CEO has a 90% stake.The CIPA records show that the company was incorporated on 1st September 2005 and re-registered on 3rd December 2019.Ram as he is known in business circles became the majority shareholder in the company on 27 May, 2019.

The company ownership trail shows that he replaced the company’s former Director and South African national Chandrakant Govind whose physical address is Meyersdaal, Cape Town, South Africa.The other former director is Indian national Vishin Kottiyattil Ashok whose residential address is Gaborone. President Masisi and the duo were appointed as directors on 12 April 2017.The CIPA records also reveal that Masisi holds 10 percent stake in Arcee Proprietarywhile Ram is the major shareholder with a 90% stake. On March 26 Arcee Proprietary registered six trading names with CIPA: Klenzol, Germ Off, Feather Glow, Silky Fresh, Detox+ and Rinze.This has touched off a social media row, with conspiracy theorists speculating that the trading names were for companies targeting COVID-19 government business.Ottapathu however told Sunday Standard that the names were not company names but brand names.

He explained that Arcee Proprietary is engaged in the manufacturing of detergents and the six names were reserved for the detergents that will be produced by the company. Accord Consultants Proprietary Limited has been listed as Arcee Proprietary’s company secretaries.The Directors of Accord Consultants Proprietary Limited are Indian nationals. They are Santhosh Ramachandran whose physical address is Boyei Ward, Maun (since 13 December 2006), Bindu Madhu Menon, whose physical address is Phakalane, Gaborone, Joseph Kattukaran George, who stays in Gaborone, Ramnath Kudua, Gaborone and Dileep Kallazhy also staying in Gaborone.Masisi joins high profile and influential political figures who had been Ram’s business partners both in Botswana and the SADC region.

Some of the influential figures who were Ram’s business associates are former President Festus Mogae and former Zimbabwean ambassador to Botswana and later Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko. Former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi.The Zimbabwean rich and powerful Mphoko family disinvested from Choppies retail business in that country following a fall-out with Botswana shareholders amongst them Chief Executive Ramachandran.The relationship between Mogae, who is former Choppies Chairperson, did not end well. At the time, while Ram accused Mogae and other directors of intending to steal Choppies from him, Mogae also accused Ram of shooting down any moves towards better governance at the regional grocer and of wielding his financial muscle over other directors.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.