Ending months of speculation, a senior partner has left a marquee law firm to set up his own and is communicating that to the world through a newspaper advert.
Beginning this month, Rizwan Desai is no longer partner at Collins Newman & Co. having established his own law firm not too far from the latter’s offices in Gaborone. Desai took along four junior lawyers with him and now operates from new offices at the new Gaborone central business district. Collins Newman & Co. offices are in Extension 5, a little way off the Nelson Mandela Drive.
The core of Collins Newman & Co was made up of Parks Tafa as Managing Partner, Desai as Senior Partner and Neill Armstrong as Partner. From what Sunday Standard gathers, the latter’s will leave the law firm at the end of the year when his contract ends. Of the various theories that have been advanced to explain this unraveling, one reiterated by most insiders is disagreement over the shareholding structure and decision-making powers. Sources say that with Tafa’s input having been substantially reduced after a long medical leave of absence, the two partners wanted the shareholding structure and decision-making powers to be reconfigured to reflect the new reality. Failing to establish common ground on the issue, the partners decided to part ways. When Sunday Standard published a story two months ago about Desai’s impending exit, such development was expected to come at the end of this month but has come a month before. The latter story noted that Desai, who specialises in corporate law, was unhappy with the firm’s involvement in partisan politics. To an extent, the latter would be a natural outcome of Tafa being a senior member of the Botswana Democratic Party and legal representative of the party’s leaders.
It is unclear what will become of a law firm that has dominated big-money lawyering in Botswana in the last couple of years. In Botswana, where the government is the largest consumer of services and products, the most successful commercial entities are those that do business with it. Collins Newman & Co. did very well in this regard and on its website states: “The firm continues to service the government and a large number of parastatals and state-owned entities such as Bank of Botswana, Botswana Development Corporation, Botswana Investment Trade Centre, Botswana Meat Commission, Botswana Power Corporation, Botswana Railways, Botswana Stock Exchange, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency Structured Finance and Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency.” The website gives pride of place to three multi-million pula deals that the firm was involved in: acting for the Botswana Public Officers Medical Aid Scheme in the acquisition of its assets and business of Bokamoso Private Hospital; acting for Anglo American in the acquisition of the Oppenheimer family interests in DeBeers; and acting for Cathay Fortune Investment in its proposed acquisition of Discovery Metals Ltd.