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.
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.