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BDP big guns exit Air Botswana board

Publishing Date : 22 October, 2018

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) prominent members have been dropped from Air Botswana board as government initiate a process to clean-up various public enterprises boards. The decision has been taken by Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) Permanent Secretary (PS) Kabelo Ebineng.


While appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Ministry’s permanent secretary revealed that a decision has been taken to overhaul all the boards of parastatals under his ministry and will remove all those who are politically active. MTC has nine parastatals under its watch and only Air Botswana board is dominated by the ruling BDP elites. This, as per Ebineng’s statement at PAC, will be a thing of the past as they are compromised in their decision making.


This week the development was confirmed by Air Botswana General Manager, Agnes Khunwane when appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises. Air Botswana board is currently chaired by Lt Gen Tebogo Masire who is the BDP Central Committee additional member; he is assisted by Bernard Bolele who is now the BDP parliamentary candidate for Mahalapye West.


 The board is also made-up of BDP Secretary General, Mpho Balopi who is also Gaborone North parliamentary candidate. “Yes it will include Bolele, Balopi and Masire. We have even noted that. I will advise accordingly,” Khunwane responded when committee chairperson Samson Moyo Guma asked if this overhauling will affect her board. This saw another committee member Dr Phenyo Butale saying the system of appointing cronies is untidy.


“It is quite untidy to have people who are politically exposed in the boards even to the position of chairperson. We have one person in so many boards. This should be communicated as a weakness and we are underutilizing the talent we have in this country. Meritocracy is the system we should go back to.”  


Balopi and Bolele have seen off their tenures and will not have them extended. “The process is still ongoing to replace the board members whose tenure expired; the appointment to the board is done by the minister”. The decision not to have political active members on the board is to avoid biasness in the decisions taken by boards. With the board limping it has been advised that the minister fast-track the appointment of the boards so the parastatal can ride smoothly.


NEW AIRCRAFTS ON THE WAY

Khunwane has revealed that they are re-fleeting with new two ATR 72-600 and two 70 seater jets. “We expect the first ATR on the first week of November and the other one first week of December. They are more efficient than the current ones because it can go to up to 2100 feet”. As for the jets, Khunwane said she is not sure of the exact dates when they will arrive as there are still more issues to sort.”


The ATR has cost Air Botswana P380 million. The airline manager says they have traded three of their existing ATR 42-500, 172-500 and augmented the P290 million they received from government to purchase new fleet. “We are buying directly from ATR, and the jets from regional one there is no middleman,” Khunwane added.


The decision to buy the four aircrafts according to Khunwane is in line with the national airline’s conservative strategy. “We should conserve the routes we operate on and make ourselves profitable before growing; we can only introduce new routes in conjunction with other airlines.”


Air Botswana which has been hard hit by financial doldrums says their biggest challenge has been maintenance costs which dominated their costs at over 45%. Now with the new fleet it is expected that it will be water under the bridge. The airline has lost a number of pilots in the past as it is not able to pay as high as competitors. Air Botswana as per the strategy is anticipating being self-sustainable before the year 2020.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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