After operating for close to two years without a substantive chief executive officer, the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) is expected to get a new broom soon.
The BTO has been without a substantive CEO since the departure of Brian Dithebe who was frustrated out of the post in 2016.
At the time of his departure, Dithebe said that he was stepping down as a result of frustrations that have all to do with operational issues he has been facing at the government owned tourism marketing agent.
There were also talks that the former CEO was forced to step down due to interference by the political head of the tourism ministry ÔÇô Tshekedi Khama, whose ministry oversees BTO.
Amongst other things, Dithebe was sidelined when a multimillion deal involving BTO and a Dubai based company was signed without following proper procedures. The deal which is estimated to have cost about P17 million was signed on behalf of BTO by the then Marketing Executive, Julian Blackbeard whose position then was ÔÇô Marketing Officer for new markets and Products. Blackbeard who is believed to have close ties with minister Khama told Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises in September 2016 that she signed the deal because she was “under the impression” that Dithebe had sanctioned it. Dithebe on the other end insisted that he neither sanctioned the Dubai trip nor the signing of the P17 million deal.
Meanwhile the deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Felix Monngae has confirmed the pending appointment.
“There will be a substantive CEO for BTO in the next coming month, or even in the next week or two. A recommendation of the potential candidate has been taken to Cabinet pending approval,” revealed Monggae.
Monggae could not reveal the names of the preferred CEO indicating that the issue is still internal. He referred this publication to Minister Tshekedi Khama who could not shed more light either.
On the appointment of a new board, Khama said, “the Board appointment will only be announced when Cabinet has approved it.”
The issue of the “missing CEO” at BTO was recently brought back to public domain by the HATAB chairman Dr Thapelo Matsheka who did not shy away from hitting on the tourism organisation saying it is failing on its mandate.
Dr Matsheka called on the review of the BTO and added that it is so embarrassing to have such an institution operating without the substantive CEO. “We cannot have a key institution without a substantive CEO. No wonder our industry is not catching any eye, there is no point of first contact,” he said.
Dithebe was the second CEO of the tourism organisation after the departure of the founding CEO, Myra Sekgororoane back in December 2013. Sekgororoane, a tourism industry veteran who rebranded the then Botswana Tourism Board (BTB), had served the organisation for eight years.
In January 2014 Minister Khama appointed his close ally, also the Permanent Secretary in his Ministry at the time, Neil Fitt to be the Board Chairman.
Fast forward 2015, Dithebe was appointed as CEO in February 2015, and the Board was now temporarily chaired by Lawrence Khupe and comprised of among others, Thabo Thamane, Cherri Briggs, Jonathan Gibson, Neil Fitt and Thilo Naicker.
Meanwhile, the HATAB chairman also called upon government to review the mandate and activities of the Botswana Tourism Organization. He said, “the latter seems to have recently transformed into a participant through its continued activities that are in direct competition with the private sector. As an example, BTO has deliberately gone into direct competition with the Matsieng Air Show and are hosting its own Gaborone Air Show around the same time.”
The HATAB members are said to be of the opinion that government agencies should rather assist private sector initiatives rather than compete with them.