By Victor Baatweng
The story of the Botswana Tourism Organisation and its former Chief Executive ÔÇô Thabo Brian Dithebe is now old. There is a new one and it relate to another former CEO ÔÇô Myra Sekgororoane.
Sekgororoane has been brought back as CEO of BTO again by Kitso Mokaila ÔÇô Minister of Tourism. Mokaila is himself a “returnee” at the tourism ministry having replaced Tshekedi Khama in December 2018. Tshekedi as well might be aware was appointed to the position by his brother who is also former President ÔÇô Ian Khama.
While we partially agree with those who view the return of Sekgororoane at BTO as a good development, we also ought to state that it’s a “missed opportunity” for the young executives of this country.
One would have thought that Sekgororoane would be brought back to BTO at the level of the board of directors ÔÇô say as its chairperson. This, we say given her experience and most importantly age.
We are of the view that at board level, Sekgororoane would do a good job at reversing the abnormalities that were widely reported about in the local media relating to BTO. We are all aware of the days at BTO when friends and associates were hired and imaginary “foes” were fired. A good case study is that of Thabo Dithebe ÔÇô a Motswana man who was technically pushed out of the job he seemed to love so much after his clash with the then tourism minister Tshekedi.
The “Dithebe case study” is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to abnormalities that we have heard about relating to our tourism sector. The organisation is believed to have been turned into a family affair during the tenure of the former minister. It was actually the same Tshekedi who sent Sekgororoane packing from BTO in 2013. Fast forward to 2019, Tshekedi is nowhere near tourism ministry let-alone BTO. We all know who is now back in control and while we congratulate her for the return we strongly believe that she could have been made the board chairperson or advisor to the CEO.
We believe that given the experience that she has, Sekgororoane was or still is, better placed to atleast kick start this kind of consultations and conversations ÔÇô the kind we usually sweep under the carpet or chose to easily forget.
Unlike when she is CEO, as a board chairperson of the BTO, Sekgororoane would have had the freedom to kick start the conversations that no one, more especially those in the corridors of power, wants to discuss and find everlasting solution for them.
The bitter pill that we all need to swallow is that to truly unleash our country’s potential, we need to tackle the concentration of ownership, control and market dominance by foreigners in the tourism sector. We strongly believe that if she had been appointed the board chairperson, as compared to CEO, Sekgororoane would be able to address this discomfort issue without shame. We are not privy to the finer details of Sekgororoane’s working contract but we can only hope and express our wish that the ministry has made deliberate efforts to have a young executive who will be understudying her. This would be with the thinking that when she retires there could be some sort of continuation. We are now living in the age where the world is rapidly adopting to the appointment of young leaders ÔÇô with fresh ideas. This is what the doctor should have prescribed for BTO.
With that said, we wish to congratulate Ms Sekgororoane on her re-appointment and wish her well. We look forward to the implementation of reforms relating to the management of the tourism sector. These reforms should ensure that tourism development in our country has linkages with the rest of the domestic economy. As said in this space before, these changes are long overdue and essential. There is no doubt that if properly managed, the tourism sector will continue being a valuable instrument for progress, job creation, infrastructure development and economic growth for our people. When all is said and done, the #Bottomline remains that accountability, good corporate governance should underline reforms at most of our State Owned Enterprises including BTO. We can no longer afford a situation where publicly owned enterprises parastatals are turned into cash cows and honey-pots for politicians and their close family-friends.