The struggling national airline, Air Botswana which is currently undergoing a restructuring process, is facing another bombshell as the staff union threatens the prospects of passing a ‘motion of no confidence’ against the Executive Management Committee.
Through a letter addressed to the company’s General Manager, through her Executive, the Union has submitted grounds of passing the motion which may also affect the board. The Union expressed their displeasure and disappointment at the status of the struggling airline and confirmed having made efforts of engaging with the management with respect to various worrisome conditions but unfortunately their efforts have failed, thus they resorted to petition the Executive.
Air Botswana Employees Union (ABEU), which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), in the letter listed a number of reasons which led to them resolving to a motion of no confidence against Air Botswana Executive. Amongst other reason, the union is accusing the management of failed organisational restructuring. They state that in 2016, when the restructuring was proposed, an approved structure promised to have a staff number of 350 employees across Air Botswana.
Additionally, the organisation opted and continued to replace restructured staff by recruiting externally which the Union believe was a more expensive alternative to which they believe contradicts the whole objective. The union also accused the management of failure to implement proposed business systems. They say as a mitigating initiative against staff shortage due to restructuring process, one of the initiatives management proposed was to implement the latest business friendly operating systems, but however not all areas within the organisation have been addressed leading to some staff members being overwhelmed by the workload.
“In some area our members have noted that they have been given the roles and responsibility of restructured staff on top of their initial responsibilities without amending their compensations or reviewing their contracts. This has led to deepening employee dissatisfaction with their working conditions compromised and the overall productivity of some divisions, due to some of these poor working conditions,” the petition stated.
Another reason advanced by the union is the 27% gap disparity. Despite initially approving the Tsa Badiri Report in 2015 and promising to implement the recommendations thereof, management has failed to keep their promise, which led to a court battle between the union ABEU and Air Botswana, which presents a looming obligation against an already struggling Air Botswana, this they believe could have been averted.
ABEU however points out that, management opted for an arrogant and stubborn approach to the handling of the matter which has hurt the relationship between employees and management, and contributed to the growing disgruntlement of employees against their employer. Despite ABEU efforts to engage outside the legal parameters, the General Manager specifically has over four years failed to take the opportunity to build better relationships with her staff or even showing intent to avoid any unnecessary conflicts with staff.
The Re- Fleeting and Re-Branding project is amongst other reasons advanced by the union. As part of government’s effort to rebuild and stabilize Air Botswana, Management announced to staff this initiative and thus giving hope to staff members about their job security. However, with what seems now customary to Air Botswana that too has been a disaster. The union believe not much was done to involve all necessary stakeholders to ensure a successful implementation of the Re-Fleeting exercise as per expectation from staff.
According to the letter various amateur mistakes were made which in turn proved costly for the organisation, i.e. The trade- in of ATR 42- 500 for the new ATR72- 600 did not yield the intended saving, instead led to Air Botswana losing and paying more for the new aircraft acquisitions, this has been led on by the unilaterally approach to managing the fleet acquisition and planning of introduction into the schedule.
“Re- branding was not satisfactory according to our own observation as well, as ABEU our expectation was that re- branding should have been a staff owned driven exercise, however the contrary occurred. Much of our employees have not bought into this New Air Botswana primary due to being side- lined throughout the process. Despite launching new Aircraft, management has made no effort to engage staff members as part of the process to give them some sense of belonging to Air Botswana” the union stated.
Lastly the annual cost of living salary adjustment engagements proved futile. The Union expressed their displeasure at the way Air Botswana in the past recent years chose not to address the issue of annual salary increment. The expectation is that, the union said, this is not an unexpected initiative (as it is annual in nature) and therefore management has the responsibility to engage with all concerned stakeholders leading to satisfactory outcomes for all parties.
The union also submit that they have made efforts to better this relationship but unfortunately has failed to receive cooperation from management. “They opt to often delay increments which mostly are not negotiated with ABEU and year in year out delayed. This has led to many disgruntlements amongst staff who bear cost due to this method chosen by management i.e. Due to late adjustments staff members lose out on pension benefits, and various acting allowances, overtime pay- outs etc, which could have been different had the adjustments been made out on time.
Contacted for comment Tuelo Pius Tshepe who served as the Union’s Chairperson until he was retrenched this week, said they have been engaging with both the General Manager and the Executive Management Committee since May this year. “In one of their responses, the committee wrote to us that we keep being disrespectful and using unpalatable words”, said Tshepe.
The former Union Chairperson said the Executive Management Committee is incompetent, including the board. He also blamed the Committee which is made up of company Directors, saying they seat with the General Manager as members of the ExCo thus they cannot advise her.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.