President Ian Khama’s Cabinet has taken a decision to have Air Botswana be turned into a company with private shareholding, it has been confirmed. Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications Kabelo Ebineng informed the committee that they have shortlisted two companies being Wilderness Holdings and Comair Limited of South Africa. PAC Member Dithapelo Keorapetse asked if it was true that cabinet preferred Wilderness Holdings to take over Air Botswana and Ebineng answered in the affirmative. He failed to state the criteria used to choose the two companies out of the 17 that expressed interest in managing the national airline. Ebineng, however, was economical with the information as evidence unearthed by this publication has shown that the decision has already been taken to sell Air Botswana to Wilderness Holdings. According to Cabinet Memo 12 (A) 2017 dated 03 May 2017, directed that they partner with Wilderness Holdings who will have a majority shareholding, subject to negotiations and applicable statutory requirements.
Wilderness Holdings is a Botswana and Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed company and holding company for the ecotourism brands of Wilderness Safaris and Wilderness Collection – and the non-profit trusts of Children in the Wilderness and Wilderness Wildlife Trust. It operates safari camps and lodges across Africa but not much is known about them when it comes to aviation. According to Wilderness Holding website, they have Wilderness Air which has been in existence since 1991and offers scheduled transfers between Wilderness camps and also a private charter service using a varied fleet of light aircraft. Keorapetse asked Ebineng about the experience of Wilderness Holdings’ experience in Aviation, but the PS fumbled and asked to resubmit again next week as he doesn’t have information about them. “What I know is that Comair Limited operates airlines in South Africa,” he said, before asking to be given sometime to research about Wilderness Holdings. President Khama’s nephew Marcus ter Haar is a non-executive director as well as member of the audit committee of Wilderness and Khama’s lawyer and close ally Parks Tafa is also a non-executive director.