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Mokaila, Tshekedi’s Big money swap

Following his arrival at the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Minister Kitso Mokaila could find himself handing over Air Botswana to Tshekedi Khama’s Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, if what was recently relayed at the parastatal’s board persists.

Mokaila was shuffled from the former Ministry of Energy and Water Resources. The reason advanced for moving Air Botswana to Tshekedi’s ministry is that most of the Air Botswana customers, roughly about 70 percent of them are tourists. This publication has been informed that the Air Botswana board chaired by former Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander, retired Major General Tebogo Masire was recently briefed on the possible developments following the re-organisation of Ministries.

The decision is also accompanied by a development that will see a P2.6 billion tender to acquire four jets and turboprops being cancelled and re-started at the new parent Ministry.  The tender process was almost at the final stages of due process. Three companies, Bombadier of Canada; ATR of France; and Embraer of Brazil had entered the race to scoop the lucrative deal. The Acting General Manager of Air Botswana, Agnes Khunwane had mentioned in passing at the Samson Guma Moyo chaired Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies that they intend to acquire new Aircrafts in the near future.

Over a pro-longed period of time, Air Botswana has been using ATRs. The Air Botswana engineers and pilots are trained and upskilled in ATRs. The stock and tools are customised to ATRs. Weekend Post gathers that even this time around, ATR had put a convincing bid and was on the verge of outdoing Bombardier and Embraer. In fact this is the tender that forced former Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo into the controversial trips to Brazil, Canada and France to do some form of window shopping for aircrafts. The trip has since invited the wrath of the Parliamentary Committee because Mabeo and his then permanent secretary were found to be not fit to decide on the mode of aircraft to be procured by Air Botswana.

ATR’s PROPOSAL WAS APPEALING 

In its proposal, ATR of France was to also buy back Air Botswana aging fleet at market price. Indications from Air Botswana sources are that the whole fleet has reached end of useful life.  The Board is said to have been impressed with this offer. In addition ATR had pledged to further train Air Botswana engineers and pilots for free on the new Aircrafts in the event that they get the job. The Board had also considered the fact that its staff and the tools for maintenance were compliant with ATRs models. ATR was most likely to get the job to supply the three turboprops.

BOMBADIER WANTS “ALL OR NOTHING”

For its part, Bombardier, which sliced in half the 2016 delivery forecast for its C Series aircraft this week, and said it expected full-year revenue to be at the lower end of its previously announced range, had made it clear that it wanted to do the job as a whole, “all or nothing”. They wanted to supply both the jets and the turboprops. The Board had considered Bombardier for the jets, but following their “all or nothing” demand, they were dropped on the basis that their proposal was inferior to that of ATR when it comes to turboprops. Bombardier, which has agents in Botswana, has in the past supplied the Presidential jet to Botswana. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks operate the KODIAK, also from Bombardier for various logistical missions and departmental duties as well as for anti-poaching and law enforcement.

The setback is the latest for the CSeries program, which took years to get off the ground and has been hit by production delays and cost overruns, causing the Montreal-based plane and train maker to agree to a C$1 billion ($774 million) investment from the Quebec government. The company remains in talks with the Canadian government about further funding.

Bombardier Inc. cautioned that private-aircraft prices will remain under pressure as it posted a wider-than-expected loss, adding to Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare’s burdens as he tries to turn around Canada’s largest aerospace company. Reports from Canada indicate that shrinking demand for corporate planes–typically Bombardier’s most profitable business–is weighing on Bellemare as he works to increase profit and cash flow.

The planemaker cut production of its Global 5000 and 6000 business jets last year, and delayed entry into service of another model by two years as sales of large private planes dropped.

EMBRAER WAS CONSIDERED FOR JETS

The Brazilian company is currently doing well in the market and was most likely to be considered for the supply of jets, which is dominantly their stock in trade.

World demand for jet aircraft in the segment of 70-130 seats from 2016 to 2035 will total 6,400 units, according to the forecasts of Brazilian aeronautical company Embraer disclosed at the Farnborough Air Festival in the United Kingdom.

Embraer projects demand for aircraft with between 70 and 90 seats to total 2,300 units while for aircraft with 90 to 130 seats demand is expected to reach 4,100 units, with the overall demand in the period valued at around US$300 billion.

The Brazilian company also said that the world’s fleet of jet aircraft in the segment of 70-130 seats will increase from 2,670 in operation in 2015 to 6,690 in 2035, with the fastest growth of all commercial aviation segments.

AIR BOTSWANA AG GM WITHDRAWS FROM SHORTLIST

As the search for a permanent General Manager at Air Botswana continues, the Board could find itself in a position where they present just one name for consideration to Cabinet. This publication has learnt that Agnes Khunwane withdrew her name from the shortlist of candidates earmarked for the position.

It is understood that she is not happy because she was initially the only candidate left in the shortlist after another set of five fell off on technicalities and lack of business background, but the Board chairman, Masire was unsettled by the prospect of submitting just one name to cabinet for consideration.

The chairman then embarked on a head hunting exercise which led him to former MVA Chief Executive Officer, Cross Kgosidiile. When Khunwane heard of this development she wrote a letter withdrawing her name, pushing the Board back to square one. It is not clear if she will be coerced to rescind her withdrawal or Kgosidiile, a former Air Botswana Finance Manager will be unchallenged before cabinet. The twist into the whole matter is that Kgosidiile left MVA without an explanation for his departure. 

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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