Sunday, February 28, 2021

What Barclays Bank Botswana did to Pele Moleta is cruelty and unacceptable

Who would have guessed that come November 2015, hardly eight months after the announcement that the “Postman” is leaving Poso House he would again, in short space of time be announced to be leaving his new post. But is has happened. Two or so weeks back, the media published stories top the effect that former Botswana Post Chief Executive Officer, Pele Moleta, who had since joined Barclays Bank Botswana as Chief Operational Officer has parted ways with bank. The bank has not yet made an official statement on what caused this rather short-timed marriage, but it is on record confirming this sudden and unfortunate development.

When Moleta, who was then nicknamed “postman” first, announced that he was leaving his lucrative position at BotswanaPost in early March, the media industry was abuzz with speculation and debate where he could be headed to. By June, Moleta, it was confirmed that he is headed for greater heights as his appointment as Chief Operations Officer of Barclays Bank was made official. Given the central bank’s push for localisation of top posts at banks, to most, the appointment of “postman” as COO therefore put him in good stead to take over as CEO in a few years, as the position is currently held by a foreigner.

But today we say a totally different story. A story that only history shall remain the judge of. This is the kind of story that reminds us of those times, not so long along ago though, that expatriates occupied almost all management positions in both the private sector and even at the government enclave. Then, the salary disparities between local managers and their expatriate counterparts were also shameful. However, over the recent years, government and organisations like Business Botswana (formerly BOCCIM) have done very well to ensure that this shameful trend was reversed.

During those times, every now and then concerns were being raised that local companies are not doing enough to appoint Batswana to senior management positions. Although there are still concerns that managing directors of some of these local banks are just figureheads who have no real executive powers but rather used to just rubber stamp decisions that are made overseas it is a better story to tell than this one of Barclays Bank and Moleta.

Just under two years ago, a citizen Managing Director at this very same bank was forced to resign under a cloud. However following the appointment of Wilfred Mpai, acting of Aupa Monyatsi and subsequent appointment of Moleta as COO everyone thought it was time to pop champagne. But history tend to repeat itself, the anti-climax of Barclays Banks Botswana’s pioneering localisation drive came last week with the dethroning of the banks heir presumptive, Moleta. Media reports were awash in June that Moleta had been head hunted from Poso house to understudy Van de Merwe. So did the bank head hunt him only to drop him like hot potato? What is it that Moleta has done in space of eight months that all of a sudden he is an unwanted man at Barclays house?

I mean here we are talking about a man who despite his professional background as a banker was able to turnaround the fortunes of a post Office ÔÇô a dying form of business model. At the time of his arrival at Poso house, Botswana Post was nearly on its death bed. But Moleta surged on and pinned the future of the government owned entity on technology and innovation. He introduced, among others Poso Cloud, which sought to bridge the digital divide with its offer of public Wi-Fi hotspots. He leveraged on the post office’s national footprint to forge easy access payment agreements with other organisations like cell phone network providers, power and water utilities as well as roads department.

To those who might not have been privileged to have access to his academic & professional background, Pele cut his teeth in the finance industry at First National Bank Botswana in 1994. This was after graduating from University of Botswana with a degree in Accounting and Economics. He took a detour to Old Mutual in 2002 but later retracted his steps back to FNBB in 2005 before joining Botswana Post.

Today, we are proud that young and vibrant sons and daughters of this country, including Moleta who were trained at immense expense to the tax payer are now captains of industry who head key industries in the national economy. It therefore beat us why Barclays bank would want to reverse this beautiful trend. As it stands, Barclays Bank Botswana leadership has been overrun by expatriates and the localisation programme is being rolled back. As said before, and elsewhere, if Barclays Bank Botswana epitomized the citizen empowerment spirit of 2000, now it epitomizes a resurgence of citizen disempowerment. The #Bottomline however remain that what Barclays did not just to Moleta but to all capable Batswana is cruelty and should not be tolerated, not now – not ever. 

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