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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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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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