Botswana could soon join several other African countries that have been “blacklisted” by the European Union over issues concerning securities at their airports and major aviation centres.
Although Botswana’s national airline, Air Botswana does not have any scheduled direct flights to any European country at the moment, the Civil Aviation Authority Botswana (CAAB) this week cautioned and admitted that Botswana could still be blacklisted by the EU due to “significant safety concerns.” that have been identified at the country’s major aviation infrastructure.
The pending ban is likely to negatively affect Botswana’s tourism sector which heavily rely on the aviation sector.
“Although we do not have direct flights to and from the EU, the ban could harm our tourism in the sense that member states could instruct their citizens not to fly into Botswana which would be disastrous to the tourism sector”, CAAB Chief Executive Officer, Geoffrey Mashabesha effortlessly admitted on Friday.
Mashabesha, who appeared before the Parliamentary Committee that examines Statutory Bodies blamed the failure to comply with international safety standard on ‘leadership crisis and financial crisis’.
“The organistaion that I am leading now has had too many Chief Executives, some substantive while the other acted for a period over a year. This has had a great impact on the implementation of the master plan that the organisation had come up with.” Mashabesha said Friday.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. agency that defines international standards, focuses oversight on regulators rather than airlines. The agency has conducted mandatory safety audits of the civil aviation authorities of member countries including Botswana since 1999. At the same time, the European Union’s ‘black list’ provides another safety benchmark with a more aggressive approach to screening individual carriers. So far is has banned more than 280 airlines from 25 nations from operating within the EU since 2006. African, Indonesian and Philippine airlines figure prominently on the EU’s banned list, as do carriers in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The EU also has a list of carriers subject to operational restrictions.
FAILED AND DISASTROUS
Meanwhile Members of Parliament who sit in the Parliamentary Committee that examines statutory bodies on Friday described CAAB as nothing but a “failed and disastrous” government department.
Mashabesha who was accompanied by his executive team and deputy permanent secretary in the ministry of Transport Onalenna Sechele could not help but agree with sentiments made by members of the committee which is made up of both ruling party and opposition legislatures.
First to lead the legislatures in throwing a jab was Gabane-Mmankgodi Member of Parliament, Major General Pius Mokgware who told Mashabesha and his team to their face that “CAAB looks like an organistaion on ICU.”
“You are not any different from an anon performing government department.”
Mokgware, who is an ex-army officer, had his main worries about CAAB’s operations focused on security at airports. He said his study and analysis of documents submitted by the CAAB shows that there are safety elapses at the country’s airports which put Botswana at risk of becoming victim of terrorism attacks.
“In this era of terrorism, security at our airports should be prioritised, but surprisingly there some aviation buildings which do not have even guards”.
Mashabesha was however to later point out that all aviation buildings are closely guarded. “In terms of security we are doing quite a lot. We are even considering making an audit in that area.”
Despite his cry that CAAB has not been able to attract and retain skillful workers due to poor remuneration, Mashabesha could not convince the legislatures why his organisation, which was recently given a go-ahead to create own revenue within its mandate continues to act like a government department not a parastatal.
Even the soft spoken legislature, Gaborone Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolatlhe was not impressed by the operational performance of CAAB, which he said had a of of work to do. Below we publish verbally some of the questions that the legislatures threw at the helpless Mashabesha and his response.
NDABA GAOLATLHE (MP): “In terms of operational model, who have you been trying to benchmark against? One has to see a detailed commercilisation strategy of your organisation as already shown by other parastatals such BDC which was here recently and indicated that they are in the model of the Brazilian Development Corporation and South Africa’s IDC.”
GEOFFREY MASHABESHA (CAAB CEO): “We are trying to model ourselves to the international standards……we cannot say we are modeling ourselves to South Africa because their market is all different from ours.”
KEFENTSE MZWINILA (MP): “The impression you are giving is that as if you have a new organisation, is like you just started your operations.”
GEOFFREY MASHABESHA (CAAB CEO): “With me and most members of the management team being new at CAAB, we are trying to inject new blood into the organisation. The strategic plan we have put together will result in the transformation of the organisation.
PIUS MOKGWARE: “Why is that CAAB fails to make collections from those that owe it and then cry out that it does not have enough funds to sustain its operational costs?”
GEOFFREY MASHABESHA (CAAB CEO):”The failure is partly due to failure to implement the master plan, which could be blamed on frequent change of Chief executives officers over s a short period of time. One of them was even on acting capacity.”
GILBERT MANGOLE (MP): “What give you the impression that the failed strategy will this time around work?”
GEOFFREY MASHABESHA (CAAB CEO): “The strategic plan was not known to the staff. We have since made it available to them through the website. Also there was lack of leadership, on the sense that there was frequent change of CEOs. On e of the CEOs even acted for a very long time and had no powers to implement the strategy.”
SETHOMO LELATISITSWE (MP): How is the staff morale?
GEOFFREY MASHABESHA (CAAB CEO): “Staff morale has been very low. Sometimes I was even worried that I could find them lying on the floor in protest.. The CAAB staff has not been getting this annual government employee salaries increase but were this awarded the six percent as well as compensation seven percent. The morale has since started picking up now following the increase.”
PIUS MOKGWARE: “We thank you for coming, and shall appoint one of members to work with your team to issue that we fix things for the better.”