Monday, March 8, 2021

Power brokers behind the sacking of air Botswana boss

Minister responsible for Transport, Tshenolo Mabeo said Friday that he will appoint a local to replace sacked Air Botswana General Manager, Ben Dahwa. While he admitted that he is not directly involved in appointment of the Air Botswana head, Mabeo promised to make sure that the board gives preference to local candidates. He also promised to appoint a new Air Botswana board very soon to replace the one that was dissolved last week, at the same time that Dahwa was fired.

The national airliner was literally brought to its knees last week when Mabeo sacked Dahwa on the spot and immediately dissolved the Air Botswana board.

 

Procurement mess

Sources close to the airliner have revealed that Dahwa and the board earned the wrath of the Minister after some irregularities in the national airliner’s procurement processes. Sunday Standard is reliably informed that Dahwa and some board members crossed paths with owners of a local influential company who wanted to arm wrestle the airliner into purchasing its new fleet from a certain supplier. The unnamed company, allegedly owned by people with interest and connections in the aviation industry, wanted Air Botswana to procure its fleet from an international organization, for which the said company is an agent, so it could benefit from the deal.

However, this week a few of the sacked board members could not openly comment on the matter as they were bound by confidentiality agreements. However, the board members revealed that they had been made aware that DCEC has been conducting investigations into the affairs of Air Botswana. Although he could not state the main reason why he sent Dahwa packing, Mabeo told Sunday Standard on Friday that the former GM was “lacking capability” from the commercial point of view.

New board

Mabeo further pointed out that he has already identified a few candidates who will sit on the board of the troubled airliner.

“I am working around the clock to ensure that a new board is appointed before the end of this year. We strongly believe there are many Batswana who are capable,” Mabeo said.

Musical chairs

Dahwa was appointed to the top post in 2014, after Air Botswana sidelined a local, Joe Motse who had been serving as acting General Manager. Motse later left Air Botswana. It is not the first time for Air Botswana to operate without a substantive General Manager. In 2013, the national airliner was left rudderless after the death of then acting General Manager, Mphi Tlhomelang. Tlhomelang, formerly AB’s Finance Manager had replaced Sakhile Reiling who quit the top post in March 2013 and relocated to South Africa.

The national carrier has never been stable since the departure of Joshua Galeforolwe, as all the subsequent General Managers jumped ship before their contracts elapsed. Upon the departure of Galeforolwe, then Finance Manager, Zambian national Cornwell Muleya was appointed on an acting basis. This was shortly before the appointment of Willie Mokgatle, who later resigned and joined Shell Oil International.

Other subsequent appointees include Beatrice Selotlegeng, who also served in an acting capacity before paving the way for Lance Brogden. Former Air Botswana Head of Human Resources Maemo Bantsi has also served as acting General Manager.

The Air Botswana Board later appointed British national, Mike Higgins to the top post. He tendered his resignation within three months of his appointment. He was replaced by Reiling, who left after less than two years at helm.

Reiling’s departure was seen as a major blow for Air Botswana as she had been driving the struggling airliner’s major strategic plan of recovery. It was under her leadership that Air Botswana was readmitted into the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a full member after finally passing the exacting IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Air Botswana had been failing the audit since 2007.

The Zimbabwe-born pilot also put Air Botswana back on the road to financial recovery and reduced its net losses. With Air Botswana dogged by a spate of bad publicity, Reiling left the airline after being head-hunted by IATA to take up a very senior position in Johannesburg, South Africa. Air Botswana, which has been troubled by poor customer service and an ageing fleet, is facing stiff competition from other airliners that operate or seek to operate in the country.

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