Battle for Bophelo: Mojela Hits Back at Akanda as Star Newspaper Wades in With Wild, Inaccurate Reporting
Bophelo co-founder Louise Mojela has accused Nasdaq-listed Akanda of wanting to siphon cannabis cash out of Lesotho. In her first interview since being fired as Akanda’s executive chairperson, Mojela told the Star she put Bophelo into liquidation to prevent the company’s funds from being repatriated abroad, but the poor quality of the article sheds little further light on the actual truth.
Prominent South African businesswoman Louise Mojela has hit back at her former employer Akanda through an interview with the Star, which was published on 22 August 2022 under the headline “Global Scammers on the Prowl”.
She told reporter Itumuleng Mafisa that Akanda did not have the interests of its Lesotho stakeholders at heart and that she had personally contributed to Bophelo staff salaries after Akanda allegedly cut off funding lines.
Mojela’s views are marred by the Star’s nonsensical reporting. The online publication refers to Akanda as ‘Amanda’, and made several other glaring errors of fact.
As Cannabiz Africa has reported, Mojela was dismissed in June 2022 and within weeks successfully liquidated Bophelo, which is 100% owned by Akanda. She did so without the knowledge of either company’s boards, according to Virk, who is fighting to have the liquidation order reversed.
Virk said in a statement recently that although Akanda intended to claim back what was rightfully its own property, losing Bophelo could actually be better for the group's bottom line.
In the meantime, Akanda is sourcing cannabis for the German market from its Portuguese subsidiary, Holigen, and not from Lesotho.
Mafisa wrote: “The Star’s investigation unit has cracked an international business syndicate that has extorted aspirant small businesses in Lesotho and South Africa of millions. The Star has obtained court papers filed in Lesotho last month where prominent South African businesswoman Louisa Mojela is accusing Amanda Corporation, a large multi-national in the cannabis industry based in Canada, of strategising to take over one of its subsidiaries, Bophelo Bioscience & Wellness (Pty) Ltd, in order to close it down and repatriate its cash abroad, destroying the livelihood and income of hundreds of Lesotho citizens and South Africans living around the Free State.”
For a start, Akanda is not based in Canada. Secondly, it’s difficult to understand what the reporter means when he writes that the company was “strategizing to take over one of its subsidiaries…in order to close it down” when the fact of the matter was that Mojela put it into liquidation without the authority of either the Akanda or Bophelo boards.
It is impossible to know what Mafisa is talking about when he writes: “According to information seen by The Star, many small to medium sized enterprises have been hit by a similar syndicate.”
He writes “In June, Mojela alleges in her application, Virk, who is not on the board of Bophelo, issued an instruction that the employees of Bophelo were not to get their salaries for that month. Mojela, who is a board member, ignored this and authorised the payment of the salaries. Had she not, 140 direct employees and more than 1000 dependants would have been affected.
“Akanda, who is the ultimate holding company, and Virk, have since attempted to remove Mojela as a director and to strip her of powers, among others, to make payments.
“Virk instructed her not to make any business decisions, to appoint him as a signatory to all the bank accounts of Bophelo, stop making payments, halt all capital projects of Bophelo and remit R8 million to Akanda. The authority of Virk to have issued these instructions is questionable. Mojela, according to the court documents in our possession, personally put more than R13m into the project” wrote Mafisa.
The reporter then goes on to say: Akanda raised, Mojela claims, R250 000 000 from investors abroad to fund the Lesotho operations but they are eyeing operations in Europe to fund, rather than in Africa, so a whistle-blower claims. To get their money out of Africa, they need Mojela out, but she is a very stubborn woman, Mafisa’s “source” said.
“Not true,” Virk said through powerhouse UK media liaison company, Irvine and Partners. “We are going to oppose the unauthorised liquidation of Bophelo. We never said that the employees shouldn’t be paid and we pay the local residents 2.7 times the average national wage. We remain committed to Bophelo and its employees for the long term and we will set our position out in our opposing papers”.
Mafisa writes: “Mojela said she wants this matter fully ventilated in court and if needs be, Virk must come and explain his conduct to the many people affected by it, in Lesotho.
“If my presence is requested in Lesotho, I will make every effort possible within the constraints of my heavy schedule,” Virk responded.