Vice President caught up in tertiary melee

13 May 2019

The Vice President Slumber Tsogwane has been sucked into a fierce battle between the Ministry of Tertiary Education andInternational Aviation Solutions (IAS) over sponsorships for students.

The government has already pulled the plug on the IAS by refusing to sponsor students enrolled with the IAS.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Dr. Theophelus Mooko and the IAS Director Teezzarh Seduke have exchanged harsh letters in an effort to compel the Ministry to finance students training but the Ministry refused.  It has emerged that the Botswana Qualification Authority (BQA) has put a stop to the enrolment of students with the institution.

As the storm rages on, the Office of the President (OP) was also dragged into the matter following students’ decision to take up the matter with the OP.

A letter dated 19 November 2018 from OP signed by a certain Ernest Moseki addressed to students states that “the Office of the President would like to inform you that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Education has responded to your case.”

In his response, Moseki revealed, Mooko is “considering terminating the relationship that exists between them and International Aviation Solutions (IAS).”  

“The Permanent Secretary is saying, since they have paid, they need to cover the costs if the students are to be transferred to another institution and in this case it will be South Africa. The Ministry is giving assurance that their legal team is working on this matter together with Attorney General and in that regard, he cannot put a firm date on when it can be concluded,” said Moseki.

But in a curious development, the Office of the President rescinded the letter it had earlier written to students.

In another letter from OP by one Anthony Dijeng signed on behalf of Permanent Secretary to the President, the OP states: “We would like to correct any impression that oursPNPP-06224-18(2) 19th November, 2018 may have created an impression that the Ministry has already taken a position on the matter. In view of the above, the letter under reference is of no force, and, it is therefore withdrawn.”

In a memo addressed to students, and copied to Civil Aviation of Authority of Botswana and BQA Department of Tertiary Education Training (DTEF), Seduke states that: “International Aviation Solution (PTY) Ltd (IAS) Management has had no other option but to suspend the provision of Flight Training Operations with immediate effect).”

Responding to Sunday Standard queries, Seduke confirmed that flight training operations were suspended on 10th May due to “the Department of Tertiary Education Financing’s (DTEF) continued failure to settle outstanding bills for students trained at the academy.”

“These bills are for services rendered to students, beyond the value that was paid for by the DTEF. These rendered services are; flight training (in accordance to the Botswana Civil Aviation Regulations) and full boarding (accommodation, daily meals and daily transport),” he said.

He said after numerous attempts to claim the due monies from Ministry “Executives

(Permanent Secretary, in particular), the matter was escalated to the respective Minister in July 2018. Five months then lapsed without a response despite pressure on the operations of the academy.”

“Having lost faith in receiving the Ministers response, we escalated the matter to the Office of the Vice President in December 2018. To our surprise and dismay, we received a response from the MoTE PS, maintaining the position that had actually forced us to escalate the matter above him,” said Seduke.

He added: “We have since re-approached the Office of the Vice President, in the hope of reprieve and progressive outcome to a straight forward issue of nonpayment and its crippling effect to the business and student progression.” Tsogwane’s phone rang answered as he was said to be attending the Khawa Cultural Festival.

On BQA, Seduke said: “There ought to be caution on this matter, as I would not want to prejudice any of our rights to seek reprieve on this issue, should the need arise.”

“What is openly clear and in the public is that BQA has barred IAS from enrolling students and with the last intake having been in 2017, the academy is finding it uneconomic to continue operations,” he said.

According to Seduke, “The financial instability is worsened by the fact that DTEF owes the academy for services already rendered to students. We are hopeful that BQA will reassess their approach towards the academy and appreciate the complexities of this type of training, before it is too late for the academy to recover.”

Contacted for a comment, Mooko said he was in a meeting abroad and referred this publication to Acting Permanent Secretary Oupa Masesane. Before referring this publication to Ministry Public Relations Officer Silas, Masesane insisted that the Ministry has since made a payment to IAS. Sehularo could not be reached for a comment.