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Air Botswana retrenches 200 workers

Air Botswana is set to retrench close to 200 employees as it embarks on a restructuring exercise. The process will be in two phases, first being the voluntary separation followed by retrenchment, employees were told through an employee brief signed by the Airliner’s Acting General Manager, Agnes Khunwane.

“This serves to update staff on the Organisational restructuring process. The Revised Organisational Structure will be shared with employees during this brief. The whole process will be implemented in two phases. The first phase entails voluntary separation and the second phase will be retrenchment where there would be redundancies occasioned by the new structure and competency assessments,” reads Khunwane’s brief to employees.    

According to Khunwane, the organisational structure review and alignment has been concluded albeit subject to business process re-engineering and new business plan. “The revised organisational structure requires 350 employees as opposed to the current headcount of 522. The revised structure identifies all positions that are mission critical and also highlights areas that are likely to be affected. It is against this background that the Corporation invites applications for voluntary separations,” the brief further states.

However contract employees; employees in key roles which are mission critical or high impact positions and are under the age of 45 and have served less than 20 years, and those that were appointed from April 2015 are not eligible for voluntary separation. 

Ms Khunwane further informed staff that Section 25 letters will be issued to all staff members excluding employees in mission critical positions, “notwithstanding that all employees aged 45 and above and have served the corporation for 20 years or more are eligible to apply for voluntary separation.”

According to inside sources the new structure highlights vulnerable positions that may be affected or become redundant and employees in these positions have been encouraged to apply for voluntary separation. The separation package for voluntary separation will be calculated at 26 days for each year worked plus normal terminal benefits approved by the Board subject to funding availability, said Ms Khunwane.

Meanwhile, employees have been told that management reserves the right to approve or not to approve any application for voluntary separation. A panel has been set to adjudicate on the applications and it has been given a criterion to follow when assessing applications.

As a word of caution, Khunwane has warned that some employees in the mission critical positions will also be affected, and in the event such as employee is affected they will be paid in accordance with the voluntary separation package.

Khunwane further shared that separation package for retrenchment separation will be calculated at 22 days for each year worked plus normal terminal benefits.

A further communication has indicated that it is expected that the minimum pay-out will be P50 000 under both voluntary and retrenchment processes. Upon separation a number of benefits that were accorded staff will cease immediately including Group Life and Accident cover, Training Bod. Employees have been informed that those with ordinary loans should settle them with banks.

SWEEPING CHANGES

These changes come at a time when Air Botswana is going through a number of changes, especially the possibility of the Airliner being transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism.

Air Botswana is also in the process of recruiting General Manager, and names are expected to be submitted to the Board in the near future. A contest between the Acting General Manager, Khunwane and former MVA Chief Executive Officer, Cross Kgosidiile is expected, although the former was said to have withdrawn her name from the shortlist prepared for Cabinet.

 Air Botswana is also working towards acquiring new fleet although the tendering process has been delayed after the Board was told to reverse an ongoing procurement process.

When engaging the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises, Ms Khunwane had stated that they need about P2.3 billion for a fleet of seven aircrafts, saying currently the airline was leasing a jet aircraft which operates the Gaborone-Cape Town route at a cost of P3 million a month. The same route made losses of about P13 million.

Ms Khunwane also highlighted that they had not requested for funding, but that the minister was aware of their needs. A formal request has been submitted after a consultant that has been hired submitted a report on October 4.

A STRUGGLING AIRLINER

Meanwhile, Khunwane had confirmed that the airline has been operating at huge losses for years due to a number of challenges. Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises on last month, Ms Khunwane said the airline had experienced a P165 millions loss as of March 2015.

She said their main challenge had been equipment failure and attributed P90 million of the total loss to maintenance costs. A number of aircrafts in the airline's fleet are old and are going through heavy airframe maintenance checks, and that most were grounded for good.

She nevertheless said there had been an improvement in regard to departure times which stands at 80 per cent. Ms Khunwane had said the board had come up with a five-year turnaround strategy which came into effect in March this year.

She said the organisation was working on a strategy that was expected to look at the airline's operations, including the rationalisation of route network and schedule, review of internal processes and procedures, use of technology to enhance delivery, fleet upgrade and equipment renewal

She, however, said she believed that the turnaround plan would be the one to bring back the airline into profitability.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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