Local businessman, Denis Coghlan, and his company, Kalahari Airways have bigger plans and fresh ideas for Botswana’s aviation sector. Coghlan, who is also a private pilot, in 2013 applied to the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) for an Aircraft Operating Certificate and the traffic rights for the initial routes, Cape Town to Gaborone and Gaborone to London.
To date, Coghlan, who has been in the transport business in Botswana since the early 1970s and has operated large cargo planes that transport goods all over the world, said his Kalahari Airways intends to offer daily flights from Cape Town to London with a 30- minute stopover in Gaborone as soon as CAAB opens the skies for him.
It is however over a year now since Coghlan and Kalahari Airways have indicated their desire to establish what could be Botswana’s first direct flight to the luxurious European market, which receives most of Botswana’s exports.
This week, he explained with pain, the main reason why his company has not taken to the skies as yet. “I have been taken out of business by what happened more than ten years back,“ Coghlan explained to Sunday Standard.
Due to the accusation, which were widely reported in international media, Coghlan’s aircraft were impounded by the local security forces with the first aircraft impound around March 2000.
“The police and customs officers had had a search warrant and they were very courteous during the search and document check. The aircraft, an Ilyushin Il 76 I chartered was operated by Angola Air Charter, a division of TAAG Angola Airlines and its last departure was from Luanda.”
Coghlan further explained that, “The second time one of my aircraft was seized was after the Botswana Police investigation was completed and an unfounded allegation determination was reported by the Botswana Government to the UN Sanctions Monitoring Mechanism.”
The reported aircraft was Coghlan’s Boeing B747F cargo jet which had departed from Luxembourg with mixed cargo, mostly computer equipment and car parts destined for South Africa.
“The SSG and customs officers had no search warrant and took my aircraft by force and acted in a very threatening manner. Nothing illegal was found and the cargo and the aircraft were eventually released. The aircraft departed back to Europe.”
Coghlan told Sunday Standard that he was later informed that a well connected businessman had made an allegation that he was smuggling weapons from Europe in the Boeing, storing them in his hangar at SSKA to be loaded on trucks and transported to UNITA in Angola via South Africa.
“The same person made the same allegation to the South African authorities who dismissed it and took no action. My trucks were detained briefly by the SA customs at Tlokweng border post.”
The Botswana Police have never investigated or charged the businessman for making a false report.
“I strongly suspect that the same person continues to put obstacles in the way of my attempt to start up direct flights to London,” Coghlan alleged.
As a new airline, Kalahari Airways, owned by Coghlan seeks to raise capital to purchase Boeing 747 aircraft so as to kick start their operations on the underserved Cape Town – Gaborone – London route as soon as they are licensed by the CAAB.
Coghlan explained that the BDC in 2013 determined that Kalahari Airways project satisfied their investment criteria.
However, it has since emerged that BDC’s original enthusiasm waned without explanation and do not respond to the businessman’s phone calls or emails.
“I have never been given a logical reason why they would not to proceed to the next phase which is a thorough Due Diligence exercise that would have been contracted to an independent auditing firm.”
The BDC did not entertain the idea of discussing the issue with Sunday Standard. This publication had sent them a number of questions amongst them seeking to understand the main reason why they seem to be diverting from their original stance with regard to Coghlan’s business plan.
Currently both Cape Town and Botswana passengers who wish to visit London have to travel in transit through Johannesburg. “This route will avoid the inconvenience of transiting through Johannesburg with its multiple security checks. Passengers will be able to save time and avoid the additional stress of changing flights at ORT,” Coghlan said.
He further noted that a direct flight will help in creation of new jobs as well as retaining those that are threatened by lack of this flight.