Bona life survives CMB turmoil


After closing its doors in the midst of turmoil in 2018, life insurer, Bona Life Insurance Limited has officially opened its doors again for business.

Due to shareholder unrest at Bona in July this year, regulator Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) obtained a court order for the temporary closure of Bona Life. The unrest was between embattled private equity firm, Capital Management Botswana (CMB) and the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), which were involved in a bitter dispute over the ownership of the Botswana Opportunities Partnership (BOP), a private equity fund in which BPOPF had committed to invest over P800 million. The Bona Life board of directors became dysfunctional a few months ago, after the fall out between the CEO, Regina Sikalesele-Vaka, and CMB directors, Rapula Okaile and Tim Marsland.

At that time CMB directors claimed that the relationship between Sikalesele-Vaka and themselves had irretrievably broken down, and hence they to terminate Sikalesele-Vaka’s employment at Bona Life, albeit unsuccessfully.

The controversial private equity firm, used the money it acquired from the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) to buy shares in Bona Life. CMB was allocated funds P830 million (of which P447 million was spent so far) to manage under Botswana Opportunities Partnership (BOP), a private equity fund in which CMB was to be a General Partner while BPOPF was a Limited Partner.

CMB, when the then Bramer Life was in trouble, came to its rescue. They pumped in P50 million. A 40 percent stake was acquired for BOP, while CMB directly acquired 25 percent shareholding. The new structure was that Sikalesele-Vaka directly owned 25 percent, the BOP 40 percent, CMB 25 percent and the remaining 10 percent was owned by staff. The company re-branded to Bona Life, and it was controlled by citizen ownership. CMB was at a later stage accused of irregular financial dealings using BPOPF funds.

“A sophisticated attempt to grab Bona Life and its assets has been overcome. Bona Life is victorious and resilient again. Botswana Life annuitants. After a successful unearthing the issues at CMB, NBFIRA withdrew the CMB license and moved to liquidate CMB in order to permanently prevent it from any further activity in this market. Bona Life has resolved a major threat to its existence and has aspirations to become the largest financial services in the country,” said Bona Life CEO, Regina Sikalesele-Vaka.

She added that the Bona Life board is now quorate and governance being restored. The new developments mean that CMB is being wound up and no longer has control over Bona Life. “Bona Life will appoint asset managers to properly manage its assets, we are working on a sustainable strategy. The robust and timely intervention of NBFRA in its regulated entities CMB, Bona Life and BPOFP is highly commendable”.

Sikalesele-Vaka stated that the Bona Life brand was affected by the negative publicity.  “However the fact that Bona Life has been able to overcome such difficult challenges and emerged intact is testimony to the integrity and resilience of the company which will positively reinforce the brand,” she said.