The Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatization Agency (PEEPA) is adopting a cloak and dagger stance amid speculation the government may be toying with the idea of Ethiopian Airways partnering with Air Botswana in a bid to privatise Botswana’s ailing national airline, Sunday Standard reports. Since 2001 when Joshua Galeforolwe was at the helm and several failed attempts to privatise Air Botswana, the airline has continued to flounder.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, PEEPA Board Chairman, Tiny Kgatlwane said the parastatal submitted recommendations on the review of Air Botswana’s operating model for consideration by the Ministry of Transport and Communications in August 2020. Quizzed on what may have informed the decision to consider Ethiopian Airways for the takeover of Air Botswana, she said neither she nor the organisation was aware of any such consideration. But she confirmed that PEEPA was involved in the three privatisation attempts between 2000 and 2007.
“The Government decided to privatise Air Botswana in 2017, with the process preceded by a review of Air Botswana’s operating model before privatisation. We are not aware of Air Botswana’s privatisation being moved from PEEPA,” Sunday Standard quoted Kgatlwane saying.
Kgatlwane further stated that PEEPA has not made any specific recommendation on the privatisation of the airline. She also said the contents of the report can only be divulged by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Asked about the process of privatising the National Airline being lifted from PEEPA to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Kgatlwane said PEEPA advises the government on privatisation matters, among other things and will implement approved privatisation transactions on behalf of the government.
Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Wilfred Mandlebe also denied the allegations of Air Botswana’s privatisation being lifted from PEEPA to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
“As far as I am aware, Botswana’s Privatisation Policy is clear; PEEPA is responsible for managing the privatisation of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), working with the relevant sector Ministry, which in the case of Air Botswana is the Ministry of Transport and Communications,” said Mandlebe.
He further said economist Dr Keith Jefferis, who is the Senior Policy Advisor in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, is not directly involved in the privatisation of Air Botswana. He added that Dr Jefferis is among the Ministry officials supporting the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka in his role as Chairperson of a Cabinet Sub-Committee on the performance of the SOEs.
“This Committee is responsible for, among others, reviewing the performance of the SOEs with advising Cabinet. Perhaps, it is his involvement with the committee that created the wrong impression on this matter,” said Mandlebe.
Ethiopian Airlines was voted the best airline in Africa for the third consecutive time in 2019 at the Skytrax awards held in Paris – not for being profitable but for efficiency.