Sunday, October 1, 2023

Mpai leaves under a cloud

The business community in Botswana was Wednesday afternoon treated to a shock as news filtered in that Barclays Bank Botswana Managing Director, Wilfred Mpai, had resigned from the bank with immediate effect.

Circumstances surrounding Mpai’s departure have not been made public.

What is clear though is that his departure has nothing to do with results as the bank’s performance improved during his tenure.

He had only been the substantive Managing Director for a little less than a year.
Mpai tendered his resignation to Board Chairman, Rizwan Desai, who was accompanied by a Johannesburg-based senior executive from Barclays Africa.

Investigations by Sunday Standard show that there have been some back stabbings, including reporting the Managing Director to the regional head office.

Mpai’s departure has canny similarities with circumstances under which his immediate predecessor, Tuli Johnson, left the bank.

Although the decision to resign was ultimately his, insiders say Mpai’s position had been rendered untenable by an avalanche of leaks and backbiting he had suffered at the hands of one of his closest aides who had caused a stir by contacting the regional head office on events at Barclays Bank Botswana behind Mpai’s back.

In an interview, Mpai dismissed rumours doing the round that he had to march after he was found to have favoured a certain group of employees over others in promotions, bonuses and general career progression.

“I have heard the rumour for over a year now. The truth is that as Managing Director I had neither the influence nor the power to promote anywhere in the bank other than the people who reported to me. And my time as Managing Director there has not seen a single promotion of anyone reporting to me,” said Mpai.

While there have been attempts to link Mpai’s departure to his tussle with the bank union, investigations have revealed that the union was not in any way involved.

Contrary to popular opinion, Mpai had behind the scenes fought for the unions. He especially was very vocal against his superiors over the disparities between the severance packages between Barclays Bank employees in Botswana compared to their counterparts in countries like Zambia, where the perks almost double those of Botswana, despite the fact that in the entire Barclays stable, especially in Africa, Botswana was by far the most profitable outfit.

There are fears that the loss of two citizen Managing Directors in a space of less than two years could compel Barclays plc to delocalize the position of Managing Director.

On bonuses, Mpai said he could not have influenced the outcome, even if he had wanted since the process is closely monitored by Barclays Africa office.

He dismissed all gossip surrounding his departure as hearsay.

“There is no doubt that during my time as MD, Barclays Bank Botswana has gone through challenging times – some good.”

He paid credit to the board members and also the wide initiatives to win back customers and also engage the employees so that they became part of the broader strategy.
But just why did he resign so abruptly?

Mpai says he wants to spend more quality time with his family, a thing he says he has not done in a while because of the demanding work schedule that comes with being a Managing Director at Barclays Bank.

“I think I will take a break, nurse my health and also spend more time with my family.”
Meanwhile, the bank’s Head of Communications, Esther Norris, has also left.

“After what has been happening, it will be almost impossible to accuse the London head office of bad faith if they decided to delocalise the position of Botswana Managing Director. At the behest of the Bank of Botswana, Barclays plc has gone a long way, against their wishes to localize and also empower the country Managing Director. But it turns out that their efforts have not been met half way. We will not as a country have a reason to complain if the shareholders decided to send in a Managing Director from London. The Bank of Botswana in particular will be on a shaky ground to argue their case to localise,” said a financial analyst.


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