Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Struggling Air Botswana gets P330 million recapitalisation

In a bid to keep the national carrier alive, government has committed large amounts of money to keep Air Botswana flying at a time when all the South African state owned airliners have entered the country’s tiny aviation industry.

The Minister of Finance and Development, Kenneth Matambo, said on Monday the airliner would receive a cash injection of P330 million while the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which Air Botswana falls under, has been awarded a development budget of P1.875 billion or 15.3 percent.

The recapitalisation follows a series of losses that the parastatal has been recording over the years; in the year ended March, 2012, the parastatal registered a loss of P47.12 million compared to a loss of P54.20 million reported in the previous year.

The improved performance was attributable to an increase in revenue from P246.24 million in the previous year to P278.61 million in the current year, representing a 13 percent increase, while expenditure increased from P301.43 million to P325.73 million in the current year.

Air Botswana’s working capital position as at March 2012 showed current assets of P79.08 million and current liabilities of P103.25, giving a net current liabilities position of P24.17 million.

The Auditor General has revealed that this position represents an unfavourable situation for Air Botswana, a sentiment shared by auditors at Deloitte.

The national airline has for sometime operated under temporary managers.

The carrier’s mystery of operating without a permanent General Manager continued late last year when it lost its acting general manager, Mphi Tlhomelang, who passed on in June last year after being appointed to the top post on an acting basis.

Tlhomelang, who was formerly AB’s Finance Manager, had replaced Sakhile Reiling who quit the top post in March last year.

Air Botswana is a carrier of the national brand and has never been stable since the departure of Joshua Galeforolwe as all the past substantive General Managers appointed jumped ship before the end of their contracts. Upon the departure of Galeforolwe, the then Finance Manager, 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 was also appointed on an acting basis before she gave way for Lance Brogden. It was after Brogden left Air Botswana that the then Finance Manager Mphi Tlhomelang and Maemo Bantsi (Head of Human Resources) were appointed (on acting capacities).

The Air Botswana Board was later to appoint a British national Mike Higgins. Higgins tendered his resignation within three months of his appointment and was replaced with Reiling.

But just under two years at helm, Reiling, who was also the first female head of the airline in 2011, dropped a bombshell; she announced that she would be leaving the ailing national airline by March last year.

Her move was seen as a major blow to Air Botswana since upon her arrival at Air Botswana, she had been driving a major strategic plan of recovery for the struggling national airline.

It was under the leadership of Reiling 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) audit. Air Botswana had been failing the audit since 2007.

The Zimbabwean born pilot also helped Air Botswana’s financial recovery, reducing its net losses which had been accumulated over many years.

With Air Botswana enjoying its fair share of bad publicity, Reiling was then head-hunted by IATA to take up a very senior position in Johannesburg, South Africa. She ultimately left the airline in March last year.

With all these mishaps, AB, which has been plagued by poor service over the past few years, seems to be getting stiff competition from other airliners that operate and seek to operate in the country.

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