Botswana continues to reap the rewards from decades of successful management of its diamond sector to become one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
When speaking at the Plenary Meeting of the Policy Dialogue on Natural Resource-based Development hosted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, Managing Director of Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), Marcus ter Haar said, “Transparency and good governance must continue to be a guiding value of corporate behavior in order to earn the trust and respect of our current and future consumers.”
The Organization for Economic Co- operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization with over 58 years of experience and insights that works to build better policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well- being for all. The diamond sector is the largest private sector employer in Botswana and the primary engine for growth and development, contributing 80 percent to foreign exchange earnings, 50 percent of government revenue and 30 percent of GDP. Before diamonds were discovered in Botswana in 1966, income per capita was just US$70, but that has since grown to over US$7, 000. Only nine schools were in existence before the discovery of diamonds, but the country now boasts over 1, 000 schools.
Marcus ter Haar says, in Botswana diamond mining now directly employs in excess of 5, 500 people, with the diamond cutting and polishing industry employing approximately 2, 300 people. Maximising the value derived from diamonds across the value chain means greater benefits such as ongoing skills training, ranging from artisan level to highly skilled professionals. According to ter Haar, such policy dialogues are critical in enabling ODC and Botswana to share its best practices with a wider group of stakeholders as the country transforms from a resource- based to a knowledge- based economy.
He said due to the major strides made to broaden the economic activity in the sector and thanks to once-in-a-lifetime finds like the “Okavango Blue” diamond that was unveiled to the world in April 2019. The MD ter Haar believes Botswana is fast being transformed into a leading global natural diamond center. The remarkable oval shaped “Okavango Blue” diamond, is officially the biggest blue diamond discovery ever made in Botswana, weighing 20. 46 carats in its polished form.
“Botswana has produced and continues to produce some of the world’s most impressive and valuable gems the world has seen through the last five decades of responsible mining and selling. These gemstones have generated income that contributes to a nation being housed, schooled and provided with healthcare and infrastructure. Diamonds have built the foundations for a modern progressive African nation,” he says.
As a founding member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), Botswana diamonds have always been conflict- free. The emphasis on transparency, good governance, and ethical sourcing have engendered great trust in the diamond sector in Botswana. “It’s time diamonds become symbolic of the good that they do and the responsible and ethical nature of unearthing and processing of these gems in Botswana should be celebrated as a thriving model of corporate citizenship and best practice across the world”.
Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), is a rough diamond marketing company that is wholly owned by the Botswana Government. ODC, which was launched in 2013, and with revenues of in excess of $500m has quickly emerged as one of the leading, global suppliers of responsibly sourced diamonds. The company offers its customers the largest supply of natural rough diamonds exclusively of Botswana origin.
The ODC obtains its rough diamond’s directly from Debswana, whose Diamond mining operations are located across Botswana in Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa and Jwaneng mines. Thereafter, rough diamonds are sold through ODC’s transparent online auctions to a global customer base who ultimately polish diamonds and produce diamond jewellery destined for the leading consumer markets.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.