Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dithebe ends his silence: I quit because of BTO mess

The outgoing Chief Executive of the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), Thabo Dithebe on Monday admitted that he is 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.   

Dithebe on Monday broke his silence by saying there was too much political interference from the ministry.

Appearing for the second time before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises on Monday, Dithebe said that ever since his appointment as Chief Executive, he has never been in charge of the organisation. He added that he has been working under “instructions” from the ministry of tourism including on matters relating to financial transactions. 

His departure also follows his fall-out with the minister of tourism – Tshekedi Khama. 

He was appointed to the BTO top post in February 2015 after a year of acting following the departure of Myra Sekgororoane – who also left under cloudy circumstances.  Before his promotional appointment to the CEO post, Dithebe was director of Projects and Business Operations. 

However late last month, Dithebe announced his intentions to step down ÔÇô hardly 18 months after his appointment to the post. At the time, allegations were rife that Dithebe has been 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 recently sidelined when a multimillion deal involving BTO and a Dubai based company was signed without following proper procedures. The deal which is estimated to cost about P17 million was signed on behalf of BTO by the current 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 on Monday 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 Khama, who also appeared before the committee on Monday said all the chaos at BTO should be solely blamed on Dithebe. He said that Dithebe has been misleading him ever since the BTO started to operate without a board of directors. 

“If I am to take full responsibility of the mess, it would then mean I would have to go and deal with those who misled me in the first place”, Tshekedi said on Monday. 

Apart from the P17 million Dubai office, amongst other heavy spending, Tshekedi is said to have sanctioned BTO’s procurement of some documentary books whose estimated costs has been pegged at around P1.3 million, as well as the drawing of P88 million from the Tourism Development Fund to support BTO budget. Tshekedi is also believed to be the master-mind behind the upcoming and much publicised Air show which will cost close to P10 million a day. 

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