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Chaos at Air Botswana as retrenchment looms

Some engineers and technicians alike at Air Botswana will lose their jobs before the end of December 2019 as inside assessment has found their designations to be redundant resulting in the national airliner becoming overstaffed, it has emerged.

Fresh information reaching this publication is that Air Botswana which has been dogged by financial constraints for years is currently embarking on reconstruction and has engaged consultancy as it benchmarks on different airlines across Africa with similar operations but doing better than the local airline. At the end of a consultancy report received by Air Botswana, information has revealed, is the loss of jobs and some departments like that of engineering will bear the brunt.

WeekendPost can reveal that this week on Wednesday, Air Botswana management called an emergency meeting to confirm that some workers will be retrenched. At the emergency meeting which was called by the airline’s maintenance director, the staff was informed of how to prepare the staff for the looming retrenchments. A leaked audio that was heard by this publication can reveal that it was discussed at this meeting that the airline does no longer find it sustainable or efficient to have more staff while still having financial troubles.

Moreover, the engineering department was amongst the target of the mass laying of as an example was given that having more than five engineers working on a job that can be done by an individual was not rational. “For sure we are going to downsize, that is reduce the number of technicians and engineers,” said the meeting coordinator this Wednesday in a leaked audio. Chaos and misunderstanding erupted in this meeting as staff blamed management for concealing a lot of information on why Air Botswana is laying of employers.

According to staff, the management only cites overstaffing as a main reason for retrenchments. However a source said the national airline is retrenching because of lack of performing fleet. Some aircrafts are not used and this fuels high operational costs, said an insider. To staff, it is not clear as to whether Air Botswana operates as a domestic, regional and transcontinental airline, this renders it operationally haphazard. Air Botswana recently introduced Gaborone-Qatar under much fanfare. This route will be operated by Qatar Airways. The national airline has for some time been toying with the idea of introducing Gaborone-Berlin route.

“Air Botswana exists with no clear definition of what type of airline it is, this creates a lot of confusion in terms of fleet selection, route selection. The model of operating the airline is wrong and it is evident that we have issues as a division,” revealed the source. The introduction of Gaborone-Cape Town route is said to have affected the airline as it is not used as expected. It has been suggested by information gathered by this publication that mostly commuters who use Air Botswana prefer the tourist bound route of Cape Town-Maun.

Further information gathered by this publication is that management has admitted to be going back to the drawing board and have engaged a consultant from Swaziland on the Cape Town-Gaborone route. Some at the national airline complain that government has neglected Air Botswana. Sources close to developments revealed that the reason why President Mokgweetsi sought partnerships with big airlines like Qatar Airways shows lack of faith for Air Botswana.

The last time government committed to Air Botswana is when it approached the funding facility of Public Service Debt Fund (PSDF) of P230 million for acquiring two jets and the first one has arrived in last day of 2018. Air Botswana still fancies chances of privatization, a process which is currently ongoing. Last year government handed Air Botswana to PEEPA and Minister of Transport and Communications even told parliament that PEEPA has appointed Deloitte Consulting as a “Transaction Advisor” for Air Botswana privatization.  

Currently, Air Botswana has engaged Kenya Airways Maintenance Organization for technical support on their Embraer E170. This is the same aircraft which was destined for the non-performing Gaborone-Cape Town route. The E170 jet is said to have been not operating for almost seven months. This publication also understands that the jet is an eight year old second hand having been procured from the UK leading professional aircraft registration company, Southern Aircraft Consultancy. The E170 is said to have already bled Air Botswana of maintenance money as it arrived with technical faults.

According to information reaching this Botswana can only perform line maintenance or base maintenance up to C-checks and any component that requires overhaul has to be shipped abroad, in most cases grounding aircrafts. As Kenya Airways is engaged in maintaining of this jet, this may be the reason why some local technicians and engineers find their positions redundant at Air Botswana, information has suggested. They are losing job to their Kenyan counterparts.

The national airline is proved to be unable to expand its route base, according to observers. While it is still suffering to run the Gaborone-Cape town route which sometimes on and off, experts believes the Gaborone-Lusaka-Harare route which has been promised in the first quarter of this year by Air Botswana is almost a wild goose chase.

After procuring a second hand jet which has failed to perform since its arrival on 31 December 2018, the second jet which was expected in June this year has not yet arrived. Some sources said management now finds it illogical for government to bring another second hand jet from the same Southern Aircraft Consultancy while the other one is costly and none performing. Also some experts do not understand why Air Botswana or government procured Embraer 170 instead of new Embraer models like E135 or E145.

WeekendPost can reveal that the second hand jet which was expected to arrive in June has not yet arrived. The E 170 serial number is 17000319 and bears registration code N735A is still stored at the Southern Aircraft Consultancy. Failure of arrival of the expected jet, outsourcing of most of maintenance work and non-performing of some routes summarizes the national airliner’s decision to cut jobs. 

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

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.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

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

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