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.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.