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Natural diamonds forever and forevermore – De Beers

Among the ‘Top 30 Enviable Celebrity Engagement Rings’ revealed by the biggest jewelry publication Jeweller,  there is a Botswana cushion-cut 5 carat natural diamond worth P3 million, which was put by Prince Harry of Wales on his then actress girlfriend Meghan Markle, around this time two years ago.

This is one of the latest much hyped Botswana linked diamond story intertwining with the showbiz world of Hollywood, as this country becomes part of the glitz and glamour pages. In this royal ring, the Botswana story alone is not enough, there is another vintage description of it; the 5 carat diamond is  also rounded with two 0.75-carat round diamonds from Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana’s private collection.

Diamonds, the stone also attracts abundance, strength, power, courage, fortitude, creativity, imagination, purity, harmony, faithfulness, and innocence, increased feelings of self-respect and love, and relationships full of pure love. What is worth or more valuable than the sparkle and romance that comes with Prince Harry’s engagement ring is that it boosted this country’s diamond marketing and public relation machinery. Botswana diamonds also have an emotional attachment coming with their production; they are not just sold for fantasy but they are dug out naturally and are as natural as they come.

International media says the ring was more fitting not only to Markle but for the fact that the jewel has connection with Botswana, which is the second biggest supplier of conflict-free natural diamonds, according to data from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. The Kimberley Process (KP) Certification Scheme helps control rough diamond trade among 81 countries who have joined forces to eliminate conflict diamonds, ensuring transparency and prohibiting diamond trade with countries not part of the initiative

"Choosing a diamond from Botswana speaks to Prince Harry and Meghan’s shared commitment to social and environmental responsibility, as Botswana diamond mining has contributed to transforming Botswana into one of Africa’s most prosperous economies,” Business Insider said just after the royal engagement. The publication further says, "Botswana diamonds are also sourced from mines that follow internationally recognized labor and environmental standards."

The most asked question: Natural diamond vs threat of synthetics?

At any diamond event or occasion the most asked question is whether natural diamonds will withstand the advent of synthetic or lab made diamonds. Big industry players always have one common response; synthetic diamonds will never take away the emotionality and socio-economic factor that comes with natural diamonds.

This week during the De Beers Diamond Conference, CEO of the giant mining company Bruce Cleaver answered the most asked question. Cleaver downplayed synthetics as just for “fashion, fun and lighthearted”, when compared to emotions, luxury and economic impact that comes with natural diamonds. Cleaver told journalists who asked if he is threatened by lab made diamonds that De Beers remains a “natural diamond business.” De Beers has always been against production of man-made diamonds but last year May it made a U-turn on the decision, and started venturing into synthetics.

Having 130 years in the diamond industry, De Beers coined a marketing tag “A Diamond is Forever” in 1947, as a crusade to counter the production of artificial diamonds. It is a natural belief that the big threat that comes with synthetic diamonds on the traditional industry is that some synthetics are falsely marketed as natural. The US’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires lab-grown diamonds to be marked.

At the same Diamond Conference, coming from De Beers’ rival, Lucara Managing Director Naseem Lahri concurred with Cleaver saying synthetics will never be a threat. Lucara brands itself as “producers of large, high quality, Type IIA diamonds in excess of 10.8 carats.” Lucara also produced the historic 1,109 carat ‘Lesedi La Rona’ (second largest gem diamond ever recovered) and the 813 carat Constellation (sold for a record P631 million or US$63.1 million).

“As a lady I can tell you how much diamonds mean to me. As for the threat that comes with synthetic diamonds, De Beers has done well in selling emotions. Let us sell how diamonds are produced. Botswana produced diamonds are well branded and produced ethically. We (natural diamonds producers) will always have a market for diamonds (natural),” said Lahri.

Synthetics threat is forever

Some believe lab-grown diamonds are the next generation of diamonds and allow the consumer peace of mind in knowing there is no forbidden or unethical labor sources behind the production. Natural diamond production, for years has been stained with conflicts, political crises and civil wars. There has been bad publicity linked with production of diamond as the media coined them ‘blood diamonds.’

Experts believe the real threat that comes with lab diamonds, when overlooking romantic value and being pragmatic, is that they are 40-60 percent more affordable than a mined diamond. A research says synthetic variants are around 15-25 percent cheaper. Diamond expert Paul Zimnisky says the average discount of a 1 carat generic lab-grown diamond to a natural diamond had widened to 42 percent by mid-November from 29 percent in January.

When giant diamond producer De Beers renegaded from its anti-synthetics stance last year May, something happened in the world of diamonds, a 1 carat synthetic diamond cost about $4,200 while an equivalent mined gem sold for $6,000. De Beers has always sold its synthetics for $800 a carat.  Synthetics are produced in a laboratory at high heat and pressure putting together carbon atoms. Production costs are said to have lowered to make the artificial diamonds and experts estimate that to produce a synthetic could be as little as $300 a carat from $4 000 over past decades.

 Zimnisky says while synthetic diamonds make 3.5 percent of the world’s diamond jewelry, the share could grow six times or more in the next four years. The world’s biggest consumers of diamonds; India and China are now looking into synthetics and it becomes a threat to economies of natural diamond producing countries like Botswana. China is now said as the biggest maker of synthetic diamonds used as cutting tools. It is said India is number two in production of synthetic diamonds, but China is said to be a bigger player making 56 percent of the world’s lab-made diamonds.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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