Elsewhere in this edition, we carry a story in which South African airline claims local authorities are unfairly holding back its bid to kick-start several flights in Botswana, including those between Gaborone and Cape Town, in order to protect Air Botswana.
CemAir, a mid-tier airline based out of Johannesburg, operated Air Botswana’s Gaborone-Cape Town route on a wet lease between February 2017 and January 2018, when the South African airline was grounded after failing a technical inspection by that country’s civil aviation authorities. A wet lease refers to an arrangement where one airline uses another’s aircraft and cabin crew.
CemAir apparently rectified its technical issues with aviation authorities in South Africa and applied to re-enter the Botswana market on its own strength, with plans for flights from Kasane, Maun and Gaborone to various destinations in South Africa.
They are however decrying delayed response after they had already broke news that they would be back in business by July.
This week, Transport and Communications minister, Kitso Mokaila told Mmegi that he was unaware of the matter and referred enquiries to the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB), which in turn said the issue had not yet reached their attention and was possibly still at Ministry level.
The company believes that Botswana’s failure to respond can only be seen as anti-competitive behaviour and in itself is in direct violation of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between the two countries.
Although we believe that the government
They believe that the routes that CemAir is eyeing add value to Air Botswana’s value proposition in a privatisation exercise, and handing them over to a South African player to dominate, is literally stripping value from Air Botswana.
We urge the government to jealously protect our skies and give Air Botswana priority. We have always heard of stories that the local airline is not making profit and we should not make any moves that would worsen the situation.
Minister Mokaila and his team should not bow to the pressure exerted by CemAir and put Air Botswana first before considering other players. Air Botswana is a national treasure and surrendering its routes to the outsiders, borders on stupidity.
That should not be allowed to happen. Still on that note, we urge the government to make sure that Air Botswana becomes profitable again. Air Botswana is business and its shareholders; that is the taxpayers deserve dividends. We cannot allow afford a perennially non-competitive airline.
“The EU, China, and Japan all talk free trade, and they all practice protectionism.”
- Wilbur Ross