Debswana Diamond Company today announced that Managing Director, Mr Balisi Bonyongo, will retire from the business with effect from 30 November 2018, following 26 years of dedicated service to the organisation.
The Shareholders of Debswana have appointed Mr Albert Milton, currently General Manager of Jwaneng Mine, to take over as the Company’s Managing Director with effect from 1 December 2018. The Shareholders have requested Balisi to stay on for three months as a consultant to ensure a smooth leadership transition. Balisi was appointed as Managing Director on 1 January 2014 and his leadership has seen Debswana record unprecedented performance across a number of business areas, including safety, operational performance and strategic development.
During Balisi’s tenure, the business has experienced a marked improvement in overall company Total Recordable Injury Frequency Rate (TRIFR) from 0.96 to 0.2. He led the High Performance Organisation 2018 strategy to success, notably delivering the multi-billion Dollar Cut 8 project safely and on time. Balisi also progressed Debswana’s major capital projects, including the advancement of Cut 9 from feasibility to almost execution stage and Cut 3 from concept to pre-feasibility stage. He also oversaw the progression of Letlhakane underground study as well as the transformation of Letlhakane Mine to a tailings plant based operation.
Albert’s career with Debswana spans more than 25 years during which he has gained extensive diamond and coal mining experience at both operational and strategic level. He holds of a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Mining Engineering degree from Camborne School of Mines in England, and has worked at Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines, Jwaneng Mine, Venetia Mine and Morupule Coal Mine, where he held various management positions.
Albert was appointed as General Manager for Jwaneng Mine in 2013. Prior to this, he was the General Manager of Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) for five years. Whilst at MCM, he led the expansion of the mine from a one million to a 3.2 million tonne per annum operation in order to meet the energy demands of the nation. Among his many achievements at Jwaneng Mine, he oversaw the safe and timely delivery of the multi-billion Dollar Cut 8 project, which started producing ore to plant in 2016 and achieved bottleneck in 2018 as planned. Cut 8 was the first major contract mining operation undertaken in Botswana involving multi-national entities in partnership with local contractors, and achieved a TRIFR of zero in 2017 while at peak production.
Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers Group and Chairman of Debswana, said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to Balisi for his exemplary leadership of Debswana over the years. Both of Debswana’s shareholders – the nation of Botswana and De Beers Group – have benefitted from his excellent stewardship of the business and it has gone from strength to strength. Balisi has not only developed the operations, but also the people of Debswana, leaving a strong legacy behind him.
“I am pleased to say that Debswana will continue to benefit from that leadership legacy as Albert will be taking all his many years of outstanding experience in the organisation to lead Debswana in its next chapter. There are very exciting times ahead for Debswana with a huge amount of opportunities on the horizon and I believe Albert is the ideal candidate to take the business forward and maximise its potential.”
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”