More than 300 Air Botswana employees were last week told that they are likely to be retrenched by August and the national airline closed down because the privatization partner ? SA Air Link will not buy it.
Air Botswana Human Resources Manager, Batlhatswi Tsayang, told the airline?s 322 staff members on Wednesday to prepare for retrenchment when Air Botswana is finally wound down.
Tsayang told The Sunday Standard that he addressed staff as part of the country?s labour requirement but pointed out that the winding down of Air Botswana was still a discussion point and no agreement had been reached.
According to information that has been passed to The Sunday Standard, Air Botswana will not be privatized but will, instead, be liquidated. It is understood that SA Air Link has made it clear that it will not buy Air Botswana and has suggested to government to wind down the airline sell off its assets and use the proceeds to buy into the South African Airline.
According to the proposal currently under discussion, the new company, which will be a partnership between the government of Botswana and SA Air Link, will fly the SA Air Link brand and colours which are the colors of the South African flag. Tsayang, however, could not be drawn onto discussing those details.
The current turn of event is a vindication of experts who warned government against privatizing the national airline in its current financial and operational problems.
Government brushed off expert advice that it would not be wise to privatize the airline in its current financial state. The argument against the accelerated privatization of Air Botswana was made by, among other experts, Ernst and Young, in a report to management. Ernst and Young argued that although the airline could not sustain the purchase of a new airplane, it would not be wise for government to privatize Air Botswana in its current operational and financial difficulties.
Those who are pushing for accelerated privatization, however, created a burning platform from which they are building a case for speedy privatization. With the airline floundering under its weight of accumulated losses, the camp is believed to be whipping up panic to justify speedy privatization before the airline collapses.
With the scare story that the airline is on its last legs being fed to the media, newspapers are currently on a feeding frenzy, zeroing in on the airlines red balance sheet.