BOCCIM raises concerns about Air Botswana

The chairman of the transport sector at Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) Gobusamang Keebine has called for urgent reforms at Air Botswana (AB), saying continued mishaps at the national airliner will harm business and dent the country’s reputation.
Keebine raised his comments after a series of mishaps at Air Botswana which include delays and technical glitches. The latest incident occurred last week after the BOCCIM National Business Conference (NBC) in Maun, when international travelers and BOCCIM delegates were forced to stay overnight after an AB flight had a tyre burst during take off which caused major delays. Keebine said BOCCIM offered to assist by taking on some of the international passengers in its chartered flight so they could reach their destination in Johannesburg, but the offer was turned down.
“I really don’t understand how they could refuse such an offer because it would have saved them the huge financial losses they incurred,” he said.
He added that such an incident has potential to dent the country’s reputation in the international community as those tourists will narrate their experience to other potential international travelers when they get home. Keebine also revealed that BOCCIM has previously registered its concerns about the situation at AB with the Hotel and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) and former minister of transport. However, he said the new general manager should be given time to resolve the problems at AB as he was only employed recently. Keebine also said too much bureaucracy and referrals at AB make it very difficult for employees to make instant decisions and resolve problems.
“In an industry like this there is need to act swiftly because any delays will cost the airliner a lot of money. People are not empowered enough to make instant decisions and that’s dangerous. There is need for decentralization of power,” he said.
It is not the first time that complaints have been raised about the problems at AB. The struggling airliner has been experiencing a series of technical glitches and delays which have raised fears about the safety of its airplanes. In the 2014-15 budget speech finance minister Kenneth Matambo gave the struggling national airliner a shot in the arm when he announced a P330 million cash injection to save it from financial dire straits. The recapitalization came in the wake of a string of financial losses that raised fears that AB could collapse. In 2011 AB registered a loss of P54.20million and a further loss of  P47.12m in 2012. As at March 2012, its assets stood at P79.08m while current liabilities were P103.25m, giving a net current liabilities position of P24.17m, a situation that was described as untenable by the Auditor General. The national airline has also been losing key personnel especially at management level. In August this year, a Johannesburg bound AB flight carrying 25 passengers was forced to land at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport just 20 minutes after take off after one of its engines caught fire. Another AB flight BP032 failed to land at Maun airport on at least three occasions, sparking doubts over the airliner’s safety preparedness to deal with potential accidents.