Thursday, October 1, 2020

Air Botswana privatisation blows into a crisis

Confidential documents from PEEPA Chief Executive Officer, Joshua Galeforolwe, addressed to board members that were leaked to The Sunday Standard this week provide details of the privatization body?s planned misinformation campaign to control damage following their decision to defy a parliamentary motion calling for the suspension of Air Botswana?s privatization.

The leaked blow by blow correspondence from Galeforolwe requesting permission from his board to launch a ?damage control? charm offensive goes into detailed length to show the extent PEEPA is prepared to twist facts to give the Air Botswana privatisaton crisis a pretty face.

According to the confidential letters, PEEPA management held consultations with the Minister of Transport, Lesego Motsumi, to get guidance on the way forward, following a motion by parliament calling for the immediate suspension of Air Botswana privatization.

Although Motsumi instructed Galeforolwe and his executive to push ahead with Air Botswana?s privatization in spite of the parliamentary motion, Galeforolwe has suggested a spin to his board to pretend there is still a discussion with the minister on the implications of the motion.

In the leaked letter, Galeforolwe tells the PEEPA Board of Directors, led by Chairman Blackie Marole, that ?despite parliament?s motion calling for the suspension of negotiations, the mandate of the Negotiating Committee is still to be fulfilled. Management has accordingly been directed to proceed with the negotiations as planned,? said Galeforolwe.

He said, as a result, he would be issuing a press release aimed at damage control information dissemination.

The draft press release, not yet officially released but in the hands of The Sunday Standard, goes at length to show how far the PEEPA management is prepared to use spin and twist information to get Air Botswana privatized:

?Although parliament has voted to suspend negotiations for the privatization of Air Botswana over Members of Parliament?s concerns about some elements of the plan to form a joint venture airline between government and SA Airlink, Members of Parliament have not opposed the privatization in principle.?

Although Galeforolwe had written in a separate letter stating that the negotiations of Air Botswana would go as planned, in the draft press release meant for public consumption he said, ?PEEPA will be considering the implications of the Parliamentary motion on the Air Botswana transaction.?

Quoting himself, Galeforolwe said the MPs actions ?will not affect other on-going privatization initiatives such as the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation and GEMVAS.?

The spin document goes further to say concerns expressed in Parliament related only to the proposal which would see the closure of Air Botswana to pave the way for the new joint venture national carrier.

This is despite the fact that MPs concerns were detailed, varied and far reaching.

?While there will be job losses arising out of the closure of Air Botswana, a significant number of positions would be available for employees of Air Botswana and other suitably qualified Batswana with the new airline,? says PEEPA?s unreleased press statement. ?Mr. Galeforolwe emphasized that bringing in an experienced joint venture partner with a track record of operating a profitable commercial airline would give Botswana access to the aircraft, technology and overall management skills needed to deliver a long term, viable, reliable and safe air transport system to support economic and social development.?

Even more disingenuous is the part where the draft press release states that ?PEEPA will be discussing the implications of the MPs? motion with the relevant authorities in government.?

The statement is dishonest when put against Galeforolwe?s note to Board Members that ?management has accordingly been directed to proceed with the negotiations as planned.?

It is not the first time that Galeforolwe has found himself thrust uncomfortably in a controversial spotlight.

Last year, he almost lost his job, after the then PEEPA Chairman, Serwalo Tumelo, and another Board Member, Parks Tafa, sacked him after they doubted his savvy to carry out the task of privatization in Botswana.

He was reinstated after Vice President Ian Khama joined the fray on his side.

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