Parliament has learnt that Air Botswana will be privatised, the aim being to first have an operationally efficient airline that will be valuable and attractive to potential investors. The Minister of Transport and Communications, Mr Kitso Mokaila (pictured) told Parliament on Thursday that in preparation, the government seeks to prioritise actions including increasing the intrinsic value of Air Botswana.
“Among these is to implement a fleet renewal plan, which will see the airline acquire new aircraft,” he said.
The minister said Air Botswana’s model is that of a regional feeder airline, as it feeds into OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Cape Town International Airport.
“The airline similarly transports tourists and business people from international carriers in these airports to key tourist and business destinations in Botswana,” he said.
Additionally, he said Air Botswana would consider different operating models once ‘it is able to optimally and successfully operate its current model.’ He was responding to MP for Selebi Phikwe West, Mr Dithapelo Keorapetse, who asked him if Air Botswana would be privatised and to explain if the government had considered adopting the Ethiopian Airlines model before privatising the national airline.
Yawn… Each time I hear that Air Botswana is to be privatised, I feel a few Zzzz and the strong urge to roll my eyes coming on, not necessarily in that order. Quite frankly, I thought plans of selling Air Botswana were dead in the water following the recent Wilderness Safaris saga. Truth be told, I’ve all but given up on the government ever relinquishing control of the ailing airliner. Many, many moons ago when I was a young girl, there were a few attempts to commercialise Air Botswana, culminating in the fiasco that was Wilderness Safaris’ attempt to buy it. It’s beginning to feel just tad like the boy who cried wolf. Quite what the hold up is, I don’t know.
Meantime, if reports are to be believed, the airliner continues bleeding money and invariably not making much of a profit if any. I don’t claim to know exactly what’s happening with Air Botswana, but what’s clear in my mind is it’s like the proverbial albatross around the government’s neck. There’s the many previous government bailouts and now talk of making it commercially viable before privatising it, which continue to eat into the taxpayer’s coffers. I know for a fact that the majority of Batswana are not benefiting from it because not many can afford its extortionate fares. It’s become a niche product that only a fraction of Botswana can enjoy, yet if you pose the question as to whether or not the government should sell it, most people would rather have it remain a state entity! So can someone who can remove their emotions and remain objective enlighten me as to why it’s so important to hang onto it?!