The controversial acquisition of the second hand Embraer jet E170 has raised more suspicion that the purchase of the aircraft was another dubious scheme designed to milk out millions of Pula from ailing national airline.
Some of the top management at Air Botswana made those suspicion after Air Botswana flouted the procurement process which required the airline to float a tender for Embraer Jet E170 in the market. The airline argues contrary stating that the procurement of the aircraft followed Air Botswana procurement procedures which are vetted by Public Procurement Asserts and Disposal Board (PPDB) and in alignment with the PPADB Act.
The airline move to confine itself to IATA consultant who made decision as to when and where to purchase the jet without following PPADB and airline tender procedure also raised more suspicion within the airline. The controversial jet which was grounded for six months following its arrival last year in December, also failed to land while passengers were onboard at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport triggering the national airline to ground it yet again last month.
At the center of this suspicion was AB decision to flout its contractual agreement which was emphasized on acquiring an airworthy aircraft ready to operate on its arrival. The airline has vehemently denied to have flouted the procurement process to buy the second hand jet. Air Botswana had engaged IATA consultant who was at the forefront of re-fleeting excise that employees at the national airline refers to it as a failed re-fleeting in their petition to the parent ministry.
According to reliable sources IATA consultant tricked Air Botswana to purchase him a ticket to travel to Oman in the middle East under the pretext that he was to purchase a jet only for the then AB Engineering and Maintenance Director ,Wiston Moloigaswe to come back to report that the jet had no engine. Weekend Post reliable sources further revealed that the consultant who was never at any time accompanied by AB staff as a norm went ahead to negotiate for a second hand Embraer E 170 in Houston after failing to acquire one in Oman. Sources further indicated that initially the consultant had informed the top management that he could get a Jet at around $20 million.
After Moloigaswe resisted acquisition on the basis of safety and transparency, the IATA Consultant repeated the same in Houston USA claiming that the airline can now acquire two Embraer jet for approximately $23 Million. According to reliable sources the consultant later made AB to pay P15 million that was used for maintenance of the damaged High Pressure Turbine Blade (HPTB) from an aircraft that was supposed to be airworthy when bought from Regional One.
Weekend Post has intercepted a conversation where the then Director Engineering and Maintenance, Wiston Moloigaswe was opposing the idea of repairing the HPTB to facilitate the acquisition of the aircraft. An acrimony ensured in the conversation where the General Manager maintained that the airline should go ahead with maintaining the aircraft engine. According to our reliable sources Moloigaswe`s move to oppose the maintenance of the engine aircraft was based on the fact that air Botswana was going against the initial idea of purchasing an airworthy aircraft.
Documents in possession of Weekend Post shows that the airline somersaulted its own contractual agreement with the seller which emphasized the need to purchase an airworthy aircraft, as opposed to paying for the maintenance of the aircraft to facilitate the procurement of the aircraft. The move to pay for the maintenance of the aircraft to facilitate the acquisition was heavily contested by some of the top management who felt that the national airline could have settled for airworthy aircraft.
Sources further revealed that initially they were made to believe that there were three aircrafts that were airworthy only to settle for an aircraft that had damaged HPTB blade which is an important component on the aircraft engine. According to reliable sources the airline under the advice of the consultant went ahead to acquire the aircraft despite that there was no inspection of the aircraft records.
Air Botswana, spokesperson Kefilwe Kebafetotse indicated that the airline took a decision to purchase a pre-owned E170 Jet in optimum condition from Regional One when quizzed on why they opted to pay P15 million for maintenance of the aircraft as opposed to purchasing airworthy aircraft. Kebafetotse could not state how much the airline spent to acquire the jet after the owner had demanded P15 million upfront to repair HPTB. She could not comment on whether the airline was made to pay P15 million for the maintenance of the aircraft safe to state that the aircraft was airworthy.
She denied that there was no physical and records inspection to establish the airworthiness of the aircraft. Kebafetotse went further to explain that due diligence and pre-purchase inspections were carried out, prior to acquisition of the Jet. According to her the pre-purchase inspections validated records and physical condition, good engine performance, clean borescope, serviceability and airworthiness of the aircraft.
‘It is worth noting that all processes were followed as agreed with the seller,” she added. On why the airline settled for a second hand jet the airline spokesperson indicated that acquisition of the aircraft was determined by various economic and budgetary considerations. The airline spokesperson denied that they airline failed to float an invitation to test the market. She noted that the procurement of the aircraft was implemented in line with the Air Botswana procurement procedures which are vetted by PPADB and in alignment with the PPADB Act.
ANOTHER QUESTIONABLE CONTROVERSIAL TRADE-IN OF THE ATR 42/72-500 AIRCRAFTS
Another suspicious transaction that the management and the employees questioned relates to the trade-in of ATR 42/72-500 aircrafts. According to the reliable sources the airline had to pay ATR manufacture in France an amount of P18 million for trade –in. According to sources Air Botswana was expected to have benefited through the trade-in but ended up paying the manufacture who claimed that there were defects on the aircrafts. According to the sources the airline was to benefit since they wanted to purchase ATR 72-600 model aircraft. Airline spokesperson could not respond as to why the airline had to lose P18 million as opposed to benefitting from the trade-in.
She indicated that as part of the agreement ATR re-purchased three older versions of the aircraft two ATR 42-500 and one ATR 72-500 from the airline as per the pre-delivery conditions. She went further to explain that as part of the sale and re-purchase the airline was required to perform necessary maintenance works on the traded-in aircraft to ensure adherence to the re-delivery conditions. According to the source the airline could have used the money to top-up on the purchase of ATR 72-600.
However, Weekend Post investigations have turned up information that Air Botswana had sold ATR 72-500 to ATR manufacture in May last year and leased the aircraft again. Contrary to AB response to Weekend post that they sold ATR 72-500 together with ATR-42-500 the documents reveal that ATR-500 had long been sold to ATR while ATR 42-500 were sold around Octobers last year. According to documents in possession of Weekend Post the airline started leasing back the ATR 72-500 and paying the manufacture millions of pula immediately after selling it. Air Botswana spokesperson could not respond as to why the airline sold the aircraft and leased it back.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”