SOMETHING FISHY AT FSRA!
The Financial Services Regulatory Authority, the supposed regulator and supervisor of all non-banking financial services providers in the country, has found itself embroiled in serious credibility denting allegation.
When Sandile ‘Chief’ Dlamini retired from the regulatory authority and landed himself a job of CEO at Lidwala Insurance, a few tongues were left wagging in the public discourse.
A reputable player in the industry says the appointment of Dlamini was a clear reward for something he or the entity, FSRA, might have done. An insider suggests that there was something untoward committed by authorities at Lidwala and overlooked by FSRA for some ‘tit-for-tat’ relationship. Because of its sensitivity, the nature of ‘misdemeanour’ may not be printed as its veracity is still being sought. Without drawing any inferences, the said tempering would have almost coincided with the period businessman Moses Motsa was consolidating his grip at Lidwala Insurance.
Worth noting is that Dlamini’s arrival at Lidwala coincided with a transition in ownership of the company. Mr. Motsa later sold his major shareholding to new leadership. Dlamini’s stay at the helm of Lidwala was short-lived.
In fact his departure coincided with the arrival of the new Board at Lidwala.
It transpires Dlamini was not in good terms with the new leadership because of a role played by FSRA, under Dlamini, which made a lot of noises about the entity that later had stake at Lidwala says an insider, adding that the nature of the noises was just not clear if not downright unjustifiable.
As negative narratives about the nature of the transactions were spread, the new leadership took great exception and attributed the negative publicity to then FSRA CEO Sandile Dlamini and General Manager: Capital Markets, Babhekile Matsebula.
Meanwhile as Dlamini’s stay at the regulation authority was drawing to a close, it now appears all the while a cushion for his soft landing was being prepared. He retired in November 2019 and began his new job as CEO at the Moses Motsa led Lidwala Insurance in January 2020. Unbeknownst to all, Motsa was to later sell his majority shareholding. With Motsa out of the picture, the new Board facilitated Sandile Dlamini’s swift departure from the entity.
This was not the end of Dlamini though. Into the picture comes Status Capital Building Society (SCBS) whose approval was itself not without controversies; it was approved by FSRA in October 2019 before Dlamini’s departure in November of the same year. As part of its ‘due diligence’ before granting licence, the regulator appraises itself with structure of the company including the suitability of key personnel. Yet, among its directors, SCBS lists Edwin Soonius who was director of the now defunct Ecsponent Swaziland currently embroiled in legal battles with former clients over the payment of their investments. Also listed as a director is Dave Van Niekerk, also scandalized in South Africa.
An industry expert wonders how FSRA could have missed such glaring ‘non-suitability’, especially considering that many Swazis have been disbarred for unclear and/or very minor compliance issue. Of great concern however, is how Dlamini- with the assistance of others at FSRA, could easily play himself a through pass and go on to score? This is a glaring malfeasance as Sandile Dlamini is now listed as a director of SCBC in its 2020 company profile. One former local industry player was forthright in his assertion that ‘a clique’ at FSRA has been captured by South African big players, money launderers and fraudsters.
A lot of well meaning and very qualified Swazis are being deliberately frustrated by the clique to give advantage and market to the South Africans or anyone willing to pay bribe. Supporting his desire to remain anonymous, the former businessman says he still has interest in the industry, “it’s the only thing I know and went to school for, so I can’t openly upset the mighty knowing well that I might need their approval again”. Another former industry player Lionel Reid of Impilo Yami Insurance Brokers can only say “yes, I used to own Impilo Yami Insurance Brokers and sold my shares at Lidwala. And yes I was disbarred for a long time. I can’t say more now, may be at a later stage. Please. There’s just too much politics going on now and I don’t want to find myself being a pawn. Please.
In 2018 with Sandile Dlamini at the helm, FSRA attempted to investigate the Public Service Pension Fund, a move lauded by many in the country and viewed with suspicion by many in the industry. There is another way to look into the PSPF investigations, says an industry insider. He continues “Prodogy Investigations, a virtually unknown and untraceable entity, was a bizarre choice for the task to investigate the biggest owners of assets in the country. The choice contradicts the magnitude attached to PSPF”. So why the mismatch, we wonder.
A former employee of JM Busha Asset Management says the reason for the ‘mismatch’ is the motive to investigate. He continued: “I can venture to say it was a ploy to find faults and unsuitability with some service providers to either disbar them and thereby opening space for ‘chosen ones’, or to coerce the then contracted service providers into offering or increasing bribes. This is not to say there could never have been anything to investigate at PSPF, especially during Cleopas’ time who was the King’s blue eyed boy. This being an industry worth about E35 billion with the biggest bulk being PSPF’s assets, a battle to manage the latter’s assets is unavoidable.
Joesph Busha of JM Assets Management
A member of the Investment Committee of PSPF says that when Mr.Sandile Dlamini grabbed headlines in 2019 after attributing the country’s woes to what he termed Dlaminism, he was talking out of frustration after being stopped in his tracks from investigating PSPF which was tantamount to investigating then CEO and current Prime Minister, Mr. Cleopas Dlamini. Apparently, Sandile concluded that Cleopas’ arrogance stemmed from the fact that not only was he being protected by cabinet, but was among the front runners to the position of Prime Minister. Cleopas was just too arrogant for Sandile’s liking and the latter didn’t like it.
With a small economy and working population like ours, what’s in it for the South African Asset Managers that they can go to the extent of bribing their inroads in the country? The industry expert explains: “to be fooled by the country’s size of economy and the small population would be too simplistic a view. The South African industry is worth about R9 trillion for instance, yet the market that side is very saturated with a lot service providers such that where a manager bags between 40 and 50 basis points in South Africa, they can easily make between 60 and 100 in Swaziland. If you factor in that some of them operate from briefcases in the country and don’t have offices and staff to pay – which then saves them a lot of expenditure in the form of overheads; Swaziland becomes even more lucrative for them”.
One Swazi businessman has argued that it is mandatory for an entity to have a physical address and offices in the country before being granted an operating license, yet this requirement seems to be waived when it comes to some foreign entities, especially if they are white owned or willing to ‘grease' their way through.
ESW Investment Group Limited, formerly Ecsponent eSwatini, has left a lot misery in their short time in the country after failing to pay clients their investments. Interestingly, their parent company is also facing multiple litigations in South Africa over unpaid investments.
When sought for comment Joseph Busha of JM Busha Investment’s phone was answered by someone claiming to be an associate of Mr. Busha. The associate claimed the entity had its licence briefly suspended by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) of South Africa after FSRA allegations of a loan from JM Busha that ‘exhibited some non-compliance’. The associate maintains that the said loan was above board and there is every proof. He echoes the sentiments that JM Busha’s issues with FSRA are that it didn’t bribe senior officers at the regulation authority. The other problem is that the handlers of the senior officers were not happy withbthe choice of JM Busha Investments over them. There were even xenophobic expletives uttered as the unhappiness manifested.
When sought for comments, the FSRA General Manager: Capital Markets, Ms. Babhekile Matsebula politely referred all inquiries to the Stakeholder and Communications Office ‘for a more informed and authorised response’, which hadn’t been acquired on the time of going to press. The Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ncamiso Ntjalintjali just didn’t respond.