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Debswana caught up in displaced communities brawl

Publishing Date : 18 June, 2018

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

The world’s leading diamond producer by value, Debswana, could soon be forced to compensate families which were displaced when mining activities began in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Boteti.


The Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Minerals, Eric Molale has resorted to launching a joint investigation with Debswana into the matter to see the impact of displacement of some families in Boteti during the early exploration of diamonds in the area.
Debswana is a joint venture between mining giant, De Beers and Government of Botswana, each having a 50 percent stake in the company.


Debswana, then De Beers Botswana, discovered its first diamond at Orapa in 1967, with mining operations commencing in 1971, while Letlhakane Mine was opened four years later. In 2003, Debswana also added Damtshaa Mines as part of its mining operation in the area. The trio forms part of the Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines, with Orapa Town being the administrative centre.  


The battle involving some Basarwa communities who were displaced by mining activities in the Boteti region reached the legislative house last week when area Member of Parliament, Sethomo Lelatisitswe inquired on the compensation due to the affected homesteads. Although the complaints of mistreatment by those who were affected by government have been rife, the Minister of Minerals has indicated that there are no records or evidence of people relocated from the land allocated for Letlhakane DK1 Mine and Orapa Mine.


“Debswana and my ministry will embark on a process of inquiry to address the issues raised in the question [compensation]. Therefore, it will stand referred in the future to the Assurances Committee to give progress to what has been found,” Molale told parliament last week.
“All issues that relate to this matter are dealt with as guided by the Constitution with talks of fair and adequate compensation. That is what would be guiding us in the review of all these.”


Ministry of Lands, Water and Sanitation as the land authority in Botswana, will also be brought on board during the investigation to offer insight in relation to land acquisition. Although Molale said he could not provide the time frame, he assured that investigations into the matter will be completed in less than three months.


The youthful Lelatisitswe challenged government on whether it had done enough to ensure that the affected communities, which mostly involve the people of Basarwa tribe did directly benefit from the mining activities area. He also enquired if government could provide detailed information on the affected people with regard to their level of wealth; access to water; whether there was any offspring of the families who now work for Debswana; the number from these families that were directly sponsored by Debswana to appreciate what their forefathers did for Debswana shareholders; and how Debswana will identify these families.


Government however indicated that until its investigation with Debswana has been carried out, it has no records of the purported people working for Debswana as well as of any relocation that ever took place during the establishment of Debswana. The displacement of some families, mostly Basarwa by the Debswana mining operations is linked to the growing number of squatters in the periphery of Letlhakane.


According to Minister of Lands, Water and Sanitation, Kefentse Mzwinila, the number of squatters profiled in Letlhakane village from 2015 to December 2017 is 361. As per the admission of the minister, most of the affected individuals are Basarwa. Member of Parliament of Jwaneng-Mabutsane, home to the world’s most valuable diamond, Shawn Nthaile, has advised government to develop a comprehensive policy, beside the constitution which will guide government in future on what should be done to communities which are displaced by mining activities.

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