Paul Smith, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mineral Development Company Botswana (PTY) LTD (MDCB) has been fired with immediate effect.
MDCB is wholly owned by the Botswana Government. It was formed in August 2015 to help government manage all its mining assets. The company is mandated to provide effective management and optimisation of the government mineral investment portfolio in the mining industry.
Smith’s relationship with almost all the stakeholders and his principals is said to have been wanting. This led to many of them complaining, among them a key stakeholder, De Beers, who is said to have threatened to act if nothing was done. BG News can reveal that Smith received his marching orders via a letter from Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Advocate Sadique Kebonang on Wednesday. Kebonang’s decision was informed by MDCB board recommendation that Smith should be fired. The board made the resolution at its Monday meeting.
Kebonang confirmed to BG News that he has fired Smith. “The MDCB board had a meeting on Monday and made a recommendation that Smith must be fired which I have acceded to”.
Signs that Smith was not going to last in his lucrative job which is believed to carry a package of between P2 and P3 million per annum have long been visible. Late last year, the board summoned him for a disciplinary hearing where he was asked to show cause why he could not be fired. Kebonang saved him when he asked to hear both parties to try and reconcile them. Smith’s disciplinary process started with the Board writing a letter and giving him 10 days to respond. It was not clear who constituted the Disciplinary Committee that summoned Smith, but what is clear is that the date of hearing was set for first week of December 2016.By then the Board wanted Smith to go because he had allegedly acted outside the mandate of the Board in some occasions, or disregarded their recommendations. At other times Smith allegedly kept or failed to share vital information with the Board, but instead passed it to higher authorities without approval from the Board. He has allegedly compromised the reputation of the Board in the way he deals with other stakeholders, such as the former BCL Board which he allegedly did not give the best cooperation. Amongst those who were reported to be unhappy is Debswana Board following their series of meetings late last year.
But the decision to fire Smith started to build up when government decided to sell the BCL mine assets to the Emirates Investment House (EIH) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following his alleged lack of cooperation and ‘disrespect’ for his employers and key stakeholders at large. He allegedly tried to frustrate Minister Kebonang’s efforts to have the due diligence process on BCL mine done by EIH. That’s when Kebonang put his foot down by ordering Smith to cooperate with the process or face the chop.
Government shares recalled from MDCB
It is said his general conduct led to Minister Kebonang to recall all government shares from MDCB allegedly because many stakeholders were complaining about Smith’s conduct during official meetings.
Reliable sources told BG News that Kebonang wrote letters to all stakeholders amongst them Debswana, Diamond Trading Centre (DTC) Morupule, Soda Ash Botswana, as well as a South African based Company holding government shares on De Beers, informing them about his decision to recall government shares from MDCB. BG News has it on good authority that the BCL shares were transferred to MDCB just a day before the company was put on provisional liquidation. All along the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development had been refusing to do so advancing reasons that they could only make the transfer once Parliament had sanctioned the move. When Smith took office in February 2016 his immediate task was to work closely with BCL management to oversee a process of streamlining the mine’s operations. By then government and, or MDCB had engaged consultants to see how best to deliver the shares because of cost implications. The first assets to be transferred were Morupule Coal Mine and BCL.
Mokaila and Smith
Smith was appointed by the then Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila. Briefing Parliament then Mokaila said his ministry has engaged consultants to provide transactional advisory services for the transfer of these assets, which he added was expected to be completed before the end of the second quarter of 2016. He revealed that Debswana Diamond Company owns MCM, a joint venture between De Beers and government.It's said that in due course Smith started to overrule everybody including the board a matter that later led to two seasoned and fierce Batswana administrators - Dr Akolang Tombale and Ms Dora Moremi- resigning their positions from the BCL board as chairman and deputy respectively.
The last person to resign who allegedly could not stand Smith’s attitude is the MDCB board chairperson, Regina Sikalesele-Vaka. Smith’s conduct allegedly brought differences between him and Mokaila, and may have contributed to Mokaila redeployment to the Ministry of Transport and Communications MDCB Head of Corporate Communications Esther Norris, confirmed via a media statement on Wednesday that Sebetlela Sebetlela has been appointed as Caretaker Chief Executive Officer in the interim period.