Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sudden resignation of BTO chief throws tourism industry into renewed uncertainty

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) has resigned from his post.

The sudden and unexpected resignation on Monday has plunged the already ailing tourism industry under a welter of further confusion and uncertainty.

The situation at BTO is made worse by the fact that the parastatal does not have a Board of Directors.

The resignation was confirmed to The Telegraph by Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama.

Minister Khama said Dithebe did to state reasons for his immediate resignation.

The Telegraph can however confirm that part of Dithebe’s resignation stemmed from a restructuring exercise that was announced at BTO while he was away.

He felt slighted that such an important exercise, with ramifications for the entire organisation and industry could be announced without the input of the CEO.

Also of concern to Dithebe, The Telegraph has gathered are a number of unsolicited key appointments made by the Ministry to BTO.

Some of the officers hired it has turned out do not have requisite compliance papers like work permits.

Added to that is the excessive interference of the ministry in the daily operations of BTO.

Dithebe’s resignation comes at a time when the tourism industry is marred by a lot of volatility and uncertainty.

Many operators have in the recent past relocated to Tanzania and Kenya where they view policy and regulatory frameworks as both predictable and more investor friendly.

“BTO is no longer about the industry. It is about a few employees who are politically connected because they are here to do the commercial bidding of political masters,” said a BTO employee who was not mandated to talk about the matter.

They said it was only a matter of time before Dithebe left.

“This announcement of a restructuring exercise in which neither his input nor that of the Human Resource department was solicited has been the last straw really,” they said.

Dithebe recently had a mighty falling out with the ministry over an instruction for him to release P17 million to open an office in Dubai under the Tourism Development Fund.

In an interview Minister Khama further confirmed that Dithebe is expected to serve the three months notice.

Asked on Dithebe’s replacement, Khama said the appointing authority will have to look within BTO internal talent before external advertisement.

Dithebe became the top man at BTO after serving a full year as acting CEO following the sudden departure of the parastatal’s founding CEO, Myra Sekogororoane.

Speculation is rife that BTO Marketing Manager Julian Blackbeard is among those being put through the paces to take over as CEO.

She is the daughter to Botswana’s High Commissioner to London, Roy Blackbeard, a well known Khama family retainer.

Yet another frontrunner at BTO likely to succeed Dithebe is a former Wilderness Safaris Executive, Sally-Anne Follet-Smith.

Wilderness Safaris has a close relationship with the commercial interests of Khama family in the tourism sector.

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