The Civil Aviation Authority Botswana (CAAB) through their Fire Department is compromising on the safety of their passengers, reports have revealed. According to information reaching this publication, in all four CAAB stations throughout the country, firemen have not undergone rigorous training since 2010.
Fire fighters are supposed to undertake emergency fire exercises after every two years.
According to impeccable sources, before CAAB took over from the Department of Civil Aviation in 2010, they used to attend refresher courses at Singapore, Thailand and Britain. Firemen should undergo training every year and that is not the case with CAAB.
This has since left the four stations understaffed and in order to keep up with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) some of their staff members were recruited to senior positions after taking theoretical courses and were certified without undertaking rigorous training. The arrangement was initially for them to undertake practical training in South Africa in 2013 but that deal was never seen through.
It has also emerged that this has always been blamed on financial constraints but on the bigger picture, fingers are pointing towards the organisational structure. The organisation has been facing some structural squabbles that saw their former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Major Jefferson Thokwane resign last year and some employees were retrenched. Some of the positions in the organisational structure were faced out.
In response to a Weekend Post questionnaire, the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB)’s Modipe Nkwe maintained that rescue fire services teams underwent mandatory First Aid Level III refresher course in January 2011 and October 2013. It was further revealed that the entire team would undergo refresher training during the 2015/16 financial year which begins in April 2015. In addition, 43 firemen are scheduled to undergo rigorous practical training at Lanseria International Airport in South Africa in April 2015.
ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) of 2013 rated Botswana at 54.3% above African average of 41%. The Botswana rating was just below the global average of 60%. Two Significant Safety Concerns were also identified and are currently being addressed. It is hoped that another audit will take place this year to validate progress made.
Last week Friday the Sir Seretse Khama Airport Fire Chief retired. According to the Fire Department Act, the CAAB should not operate a fire station without a Fire Chief. This publication can also reveal that the two stations of Francistown and Kasane are headed by Senior Fire Officers instead of Principal Fire Officers and these people work on shifts meaning they don’t work normal hours. In the event of an accident no one will take full responsibility at the command post.
“Our immediate past Fire Chief Officer reached the compulsory retirement age at the end of last month- February 2015. A decision on the position will be made during the on-going organisational restructuring process in accordance with the Botswana Civil Aviation Act and the Civil Aviation (Aerodromes) Regulations” CAAB wrote in response to this publication.
Each of the three rescue fire services shifts at both Kasane and Francistown airports is headed by a Senior Fire Officer, accountable to the Principal Airport Operations Officer, according to CAAB.
While commenting on the issue of shortage of equipment and the use of old vehicles CAAB said fire fighting equipment was procured during the 2013/14 financial year. The equipment included Jaws of Life, breathing apparatus, chemical dry power equipment, etc. In addition, fire fighters were supplied with new protective clothing fire suits, fire boots and breathing apparatus masks. Potable fire extinguishers are serviced or replaced as at intervals which are specified by manufacturers. The tender documents for procurement of protective clothing for the newly recruited 31 fire fighters are reportedly being finalised.
CAAB has a total of 15 rescue fire services vehicles. The three units at SSKIA, which are the latest, were delivered in September 2011. Their response was that fire vehicles are designed for longer useable life span ranging from 10 to 20 years. To further enhance rescue fire services, Rapid Intervention Vehicles and Command (Emergency Site Communication) vehicles will be purchased during 2015/16 financial year.
WeekendPost can safely reveal that between 2012- 13 South African Express had wanted to operate in Botswana flying to Kasane but the deal was halted after they doubted CAAB’s safety measures. When their auditors came here they found that the staff was not well trained and the deal didn’t materialise.
Their counterparts, SA Link have provided light two day training courses to some employees to refresh them. However CAAB argued that Kasane International airside facilities were upgraded recently and the runway upgrade works were carried out between November 2011 and July 2014.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.