The Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila has read the riot act to the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) board this week and appointed a new one, ending a nine year reign of conflict of interest among some board members.
Mokaila is no stranger to revolutionary decisions, he has already dismantled board at Botswana Railways, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), Botswana Post, and the minister has gone further and removed former permanent secretary Neil Fitt when he took over the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The former CAAB board, which was chaired by Mark Samson, a personal pilot of former President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama directed proceedings at the troubled CAAB for almost a decade with almost a zero achievement. Mokaila did not have the patience to allow for the board members term to expire next year.
One aspect that tainted the outgoing board was that some of them were operators and regulators at the same. An issue that was raised during former President Khama’s tenure but to no avail. At one point the Ministry of Transport and Communications had removed Mark Samson as the CAAB Board chairman, but President Khama vetoed their decision and reinstated him.
The decision had made some observers to conclude that the Ministry of Transport and Communications was not actually in control at the Aviation body. It was not the first time that the Ministry had attempted to remove Mark Samson as Board chairman. In the first attempt they were only allowed to remove other ordinary members of the Board but not the chairman.
This week Minister Mokaila, under new President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi moved swiftly and appointed Ms Dimpho Dimbungu, who served as an additional member in the previous board to chair the Aviation Authority. Dimbungu has worked for Air Botswana before and is now in private business. Another who has survived Mokaila’s axe is Themba Johnson, who will serve as an additional member in the new board.
Kemoitse Mosupukwa, a former Director of the then Department of Civil Aviation, who was recently serving at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has also been roped into the board. Mosupukwa had recently been interviewed for the position of Chief Executive Officer of the CAAB, a position that will fall vacant at the end of the December following a decision not to renew the contract of the 70 year old Geoffrey P. Mashabesha who will be heading back to his native Lesotho.
Captain Sakhila Nyoni, a pilot; Basimane Bogopa, a Gaborone based senior attorney; and Mojaphoko, a deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications are also new board members of the CAAB. Monty Tlagae is tipped as the possible new Chief Executive Officer of the organisation should the new board agree with his credentials. He is currently Director of Air Transport within the CAAB. He is highly qualified in terms of experience and qualification, holds a Masters in Aviation management in addition to his other sound academic qualifications.
At management level there is already activity as two directors have already been dismissed for allegations that they misled the outgoing CEO. Director of Airport Services and Director of Human Capital have been shown the door. Meanwhile a number of Human Resources personnel have resigned because of alleged flawed implementation of the proposed new pay structure.
BOARD INHERITS PLETHORA OF CHALLENGES
A senior staff member of the CAAB told this publication this week that Air Traffic Controllers at the CAAB were granted more than 340 percent salary increase in 2014, a move that divided the workforce. He points out that the new Board may have to deal with the issue of a disgruntled staff.
The move to increase Air Traffic Controllers salaries heavily had angered some cadres within the Civil Aviation industry who viewed the salary increase as unreasonable and potentially divisive. The Air Traffic Controllers have an Association called the Air Traffic Controllers Association and it was chaired by former President Lt General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
A directive from the Office of the President at the time had instructed CAAB Acting CEO to increase salaries of Air Traffic Controllers and their assistants from P3600 to P12250 and in addition they should be given a 20 percent per month and so on. Some employees blamed the Board for delaying the implementation of a proposed new organisational structure which had led to this selective salary increases. Mark Sampson and his then Board had their proposed structure rejected on numerous occasions by stakeholders including the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The technical side but lower bands are accusing those on the Human Resources and Administration bands of coming up with a self-serving structure albeit undermining the “core” cadres of aviation. Aircraft marshals who deal with flight safety on the ground and those in the Fire Department have complained of ill-treatment because the new structure has undermined them
The new board should be prepared to deal with unhappy Air Traffic Controllers, Aviation Security Officers, Aviation Firemen, and Air craft marshals among others. These cadres have been notched at lower bands of 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 in the CAAB pay structure but they are convinced that they should have been capped at a better scale. Meanwhile public sector union BOPEU is handling a court case in which CAAB staff is demanding a 3 percent salary increase following a then government decision to increase salaries but they were not granted one.
CAAB FINANCIAL STABILITY
In the past the CAAB management has blasted the Ministry of Transport and Communications for underestimated funding of the CAAB. They accused the Ministry of equating them to the former Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) which operated under a small budget. While the CAAB complains of a small budget However the Ministry expects the organisation to partly generate its own revenue with the cash receipts from services provided.
Main costs at CAAB are labour and maintenance. The CAAB had at some stage vowed to generate over P500 million in its business plan which was shared with the media last year, this remains a pie in the sky. The Aviation Authority management feels that the lack of review of the funding level of the provision of aviation services following the creation of CAAB as a parastatal and the lack of escalation of the funding with the increase in inflation has caused CAAB serious financial challenges. The new Board may have to deal with the issue of revenue generation at the organisation.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.