Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Thokwane quits troubled CAAB

The Chief Executive Officer of the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB), Major General Jefferson Thokwane, who joined the organisation in September 2011, has terminated his contract for personal reasons, the organisation said in a statement released on Friday.

This comes a week after Thokwane told Sunday Standard that the relationship between CAAB and the Ministry of Transport needed to be improved.

CAAB Public Affairs Manager, Modipe Nkwe, revealed that Thokwane will serve a six months notice (which will end 19th November 2013).

He will have served the CAB for just over two years, two and half months.

Thokwane’s impending resignation follows his recent interview with Sunday Standard in which he complained about low morale among his officers. He attributed this to, among other things, delays on the part of government to come up with a remuneration structure that is commensurate with the technical nature of CAAB.

During the interview, Thokwane also revealed that the relationship between CAAB and the shareholder (Ministry of Transport) was not at its best.

He suggested a “shareholders compact” that clearly states what the parent ministry’s responsibilities and CAAB’s duties. General Thokwane also expressed concern that government has stopped CAAB from implementing cost effective charges because there is a feeling that higher charges might restrain aviation growth.

“Personally, I have no problem with it. It is a political decision. But once such a decision is taken it is important that government moves in to fill the void by putting in resources in CAAB,” said Thokwane.

He also talked of how notwithstanding the challenges his organisation faces, there is a movement towards addressing the issues as raised by an audit of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation).

Recently, CAAB’s regulatory responsibility has also been questionable with reports that it fails to uphold safety standards following investigations by two independent bodies.

The first report by the International Civil Aviation Organization (IACO) has placed Botswana among dangerous skies to fly and blacklisted CAAB following a routine inspection two months ago.

Another investigation by the Ministry of Transport and Communications has revealed that CAAB is disregarding safety standards and putting lives of plane passengers at risk. The report painted the picture of the country’s aviation sector as a disaster waiting to happen. It castigated CAAB for issuing dispensations to airfields that do not meet required safety standards. The issuing of such dispensations allows higher performance aircrafts to be operated at airfields that have marginal safety levels.

“When this is coupled with extreme weather conditions in Botswana and financial pressure from operators, the environment became conducive for an accident to happen,” reads the report.

Thokwane joined CAAB two years after its commencement of operations as a parastatal organisation after taking over the functions previously performed by the Department of Civil Aviation. This was a time when CAAB was going through its transition and transformation from Government Department to a body corporate with a Board as its governing body.

Nkwe said the challenges faced by CAAB since its establishment have been many and varied, most critical of which are financial and human capital resource constraints. Despite these challenges, CAAB has made modest achievements and has discharged its statutory objective of promoting the safe, regular, secure and efficient use and development of aviation in Botswana.

“The most notable of achievements made by CAAB is the promulgation of regulations the purpose of which is to operationalise the Civil Aviation Act, 2011 which provided for the development of CAAB in its current form and state,” said Nkwe. He added that during the last two years CAAB addressed the deficiencies identified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) during a safety audit that it conducted in May 2006.

“The progress made in addressing these deficiencies was noted by a five-person team which conducted an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) on Botswana from 3rd to 9th April 2013,” said Nkwe.

He said the most significant outcome of the ICVM is the improvement of Botswana’s rating in terms of Effective Implementation of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices from 27 percent in 2006 to 59.8 percent in 2013, a rating which is above average for Africa of 40 percent and almost equal to the global average of 60 percent.

Other achievements, Nkwe said, include crafting of a Strategic Plan, an ICAO-compliant Organisational Structure, separation of CAAB’s Regulatory oversight functions from service provision functions through the formation of the Flight Safety Directorate as well as adoption of the Inspector Training System (ITS) to ensure CAAB inspectors are trained and certificated in accordance with this ICA-approved System to carry out their inspectorate and surveillance duties.

Nkwe revealed that Thokwane has, during his tenure, made one of his priorities to promote or sell the civil aviation to both the political and civil service leadership and to highlight the importance of the aviation sector to the nation. Thokwane is expected to address Ntlo ya Dikgosi on 17 June, Central District full Council on 18 June and Northwest full Council on 26 June.

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