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.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).