The original intention was never to sell off Air Botswana, fresh information has revealed. Paper trail seen by this publication points to a Presidential Directive that directed the Ministry of Transport and Communications to turn Air Botswana into a company with private shareholding, and Wilderness Holdings was to be a partner with the Government of Botswana.
Notwithstanding the decision by Wilderness Holdings to withdraw its expression of interest in Air Botswana, the Public Enterprise Evaluation and Privatization Agency (PEEPA) is already working on a process to turn Air Botswana into a company, and a draft constitution is already circulating for comments.
One of the objectives of turning Air Botswana into a private company is to engage the private sector in the ownership and management of Air Botswana to ensure continued provision of air travel services in the domestic, regional and international markets by a viable and efficient airline.
Furthermore the intention by government is to sustain business travel within and to Botswana and also support and grow tourism travel to the country. Importantly it was emphasized to interested bidders that government was looking at reducing its future financial commitment in the airline.
Bidders were to further grow the aviation sector and its contribution to the economy through private sector participation. An objective of the government that turned away some of the potential partners is the one that calls for “retaining of the brand Air Botswana.” The colours, brand, and name Air Botswana are to be retained.
Wilderness Holdings was mentioned in the Presidential Directive as the preferred partner after it was presumed to have satisfied the stated objectives ahead of CemAir. The bid assessors looked at previous experience in the provision of Airline Services; understanding of airline operational and market realities; access to resources; and the extent to which local participation in ownership or operations is possible.
How Wilderness Holdings got the nod
Wilderness Holdings and CemAir’s business models were compared and the model by Wilderness Holdings was found to be the better model of the two to address what the Government intends doing regarding identifying a partner for Air Botswana. The Ministry is of the view that Wilderness Holdings have aviation experience through Wilderness Air, which provides small aircraft charter services tourists.
“Wilderness Holdings also have direct contact with tourist’s right from places of origin. They also have the potential to develop tourism air travel to and within Botswana as well as to build onto the existing Air Botswana network and capabilities,” argues Kabelo Ebineng, the accounting officer at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Ebineng points to the fact that CemAir’s business model showed that they are well-established, profitable aircraft leasing organization, with a small scheduled operation (seven routes) in South Africa. He says they also have an existing relationship with Air Botswana through the extended lease of a CRJ100 aircraft. “However, they lack international marketing and distribution experience,” says Ebineng.
Sharing on the aviation experience of Wilderness Holdings, Ebineng does not hold back, “Wilderness Holdings Limited began life as Wilderness Safaris in Botswana in 1983. It listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange with secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on 8 April 2010 and is widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost tourism businesses.
Wilderness Holdings Limited is the holding company for the ecotourism brands of Wilderness Safaris and Wilderness Collection – and the non-profit trusts of Children in the Wilderness and Wilderness Wildlife Trust. Operating some 45 safari camps and lodges, and 10 scheduled overland safaris in Botswana, Congo (Brazzaville), Kenya, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.”
On CemAir, Ebineng writes: “CemAir is a licensed International and Domestic Scheduled and Non Scheduled air carrier with approval from the South African Department of Transport and Civil Aviation Authority to conduct operations throughout Africa and the Middle East as part 121 and 135 Operator. In addition CemAir is a licensed Part 145 maintenance and repair organization with in house capabilities to maintain all of our own air-craft.” Some within Government are persuading the powers that be to lobby Wilderness Holdings to reconsider its position of withdrawing from the muted partnership.
Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.
According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.
In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.
This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,â€ť she said.
She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.
Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.
Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.
Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.
The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.
Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa
A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.
COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”
According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.
“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”
Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”
Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.
Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.
“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.
For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.
“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.