The fairy tale that is Botswana’s diamond story started with a pack of prospectors that traversed the rough terrain of the Boteti area, with nothing more than the most rudimentary tools at their disposal.
Orapa was nothing more than a single cattle post for a Basarwa family while the nearby Letlhakane was not much bigger. Anglo American’s Jim Gibson, Manfred Marx the Australian and Dr Norman Lock led a team that would brave the most harsh of conditions to find the magic stones that decades later remain the corner stone of this country’s economy, contributing 60 percent to the Gross Domestic Product annually.
Flanked by locals, Eleven Malema who carried a hand compass and did the navigation, as well as Gabosekegwe Nthanogeng, Kgosiemang Diepo and a few others, they found the stones.
The old timers recall how hard they worked and the very low pay, which casts a shadow over their experiences.
Last weekend, Debswana performed its last lap of its 45th anniversary celebrations by first hosting a diamond pipeline seminar at Gaborone Sun Hotel and Conferences on Friday 7th November, which was graced by the original prospectors as well as other stakeholders in the industry, among them a former Minister of Mines and Natural Resources, Dr Gaositwe Chiepe.
A gala dinner followed in the in evening at Gaborone International Conference Centre (GICC) on the same day. On the morning of the 8th, the commemorations where the prospectors and media and other invited guests were airlifted to the original mining town of Orapa, for a brief ceremony concluded by an exhibition diamond business enterprises.
Sitting, eating, drinking and making merry together, forgetting the racially charged undertones of the past, there was a sense of nostalgia that could bring tears to the eyes, as Jim Gibson related to the discovery of diamonds in Botswana.
Dr Norman Lock found a Motswana lass and married her; none other than human rights activist Maleta Mogwe-Lock, the daughter of former Cabinet minister Archibald Mogwe.
Fast forward forty five years and Botswana remains a top global producer in terms of both volumes and value.
The opening of Jwaneng Mine in 1980 catapulted Botswana to the status of top producer, a whole thirteen years after the first fruitful prospecting was carried out.
After many years of mining, the key word is now beneficiation. When it comes to the geographical location of cutting and polishing, the Diamond Insight Report 2014 states that the move towards low-cost centres in India and the Far East is likely to have reached its peak. Over recent years, producing countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Namibia have been striving for increased domestic beneficiation, leading to some cutting and polishing jobs migrating to those countries.
Diamonds are critical to the economies of some producing nations. In Botswana, for example, diamonds represent more than one quarter of GDP and over three-quarters of overall exports whereas in Namibia they represent eight per cent of GDP and almost 20 per cent of exports.
However, diamond mining in itself only creates a limited number of jobs (as is also the case with other types of mining) since it is capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive. Botswana’s budding cutting and polishing industry employs over 3750 people locally.
A snapshot of the diamond industry now shows that Global diamond jewellery sales were an estimated US$79 billion in 2013, growing at over three per cent in nominal value in 2013 in USD terms vs 2012, ahead of the compounded annual rate of growth experienced between 2008 and 2012.
China continues to be the main growth engine of diamond jewellery demand, but the US also performed particularly well in 2013. In terms of polished diamonds contained in diamond jewellery at cutting centre wholesale value, demand increased by over three per cent from 2012 to 2013, to reach approximately US$25 billion.
The two biggest markets, the United States and China, both grew by more than the global average, with sales of polished diamonds increasing 7 per cent in the US and 14 per cent in China, measured in USD terms. In contrast, both India and Japan saw sales fall (by six per cent in Japan and 10 per cent in India, measure.
Global rough diamond sales by producers increased approximately five per cent from 2012 to 2013, to reach a total of just under US$18 billion. De Beers, Botswana Government’s equal partner Debswana, remained the largest supplier with roughly 33 per cent of overall sales measured by value (the same share as in 2012), followed by ALROSA with 25 per cent of sales (vs 23 per cent the year before).
Other primary suppliers included SODIAM (Angola) with an estimated six per cent share, Rio Tinto with a five per cent share and Dominion Diamond Corporation and the Zimbabwe alluvial producers with about four per cent each, all in approximate USD value terms. A variety of rough diamond sales channels are used by primary suppliers. De Beers uses multi-year contracts with more than 80 term contract clients – Sightholders – to sell most of its production.
De Beers has also used sophisticated online auctions since 2008 to sell a proportion of the Group’s production. In recent years, ALROSA has established three-year supply agreements with a selection of customers and supplements these saleswith one-time sales as well as competitive bidding. However, some producers, such as Gem Diamonds and Petra Diamonds, use an auction-only platform.
THE DIAMOND JOURNEY
1954 – 1966 “The lean and mean period” – this includes De Beers (Kimberlitic Searches) preparation for establishing prospecting units in the then Bechuanaland, establishing its base in Lobatse and slowly building up resources and capability. This was a lean and mean period for diamonds; the only two kimberlites, discovered near Mochudi, turned out to be non-diamondiferous.
1967 – 1972 “The wonderful discovery era”, a period that is in stark contrast to the previous one. Over 50 Kimberlites, mostly diamondiferous, were discovered by De Beers Prospecting, during this five year period, including Orapa A/K1, the second largest mined kimberlite in the world (after the Madui pipe at the Williamson Mine in Tanzania) and also 2125 D/K1 and D/K2, later to become the Debswana Letlhakane Mine and 2424D/K2 at Jwaneng, later to become Jwaneng Mine.
1971 – 1982 This was “The decade of big mine commissioning and openings” in Botswana which firmly placed Botswana on the world diamond scene, later to become the largest diamond producer by value.
1980 – 2011 “Prospects re-visited”. Over the last 30 years, original De Beers kimberlite discoveries in the 1960’s and 1970’s, which were abandoned at the time for being uneconomic, have been re-visited by others, using more advanced evaluation technology now available, and have shown the kimberlites to be now economic. Such examples are kimberlite pipes B/K 11 and A/K6 in the Orapa Kimberlite field, discovered by De Beers in 1967 and 1970 respectively, and which have now been revisited by Firestone Diamonds in 2008 and Boteti Mining in 2009, and both are now diamond mines.
2003 – 2011 “The smaller mines period”. Damtshaa Mine was opened in 2003, Lerala Mine in 2008 and both B/K11 and A/K 6 (Karowe) Mines in 2011.
2006 – 2011 “The diamond valuation and trading consolidation period”. It saw the establishment of the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) in 2006, which replaced the former Botswana Diamond Valuing Company (BDVC), the selection of Botswana’s first diamond Sightholders, then 16 in number. In 2007 and the construction of the DTCB Head Quarters in 2008, the largest rough diamond sorting and valuation facility in the world.
In 2011, for the first time, it was also agreed that the Botswana Government would independently sell 10 percent of the Debswana run-of-mine production increasing by 1 percent each year to 15 percent in 2016. De Beers also agreed to relocate Diamond Trading Company International (DTCI) from London to Gaborone by the end of 2013.
As a result, the Diamond Technology Park was opened in 2008 along with the Botswana Government’s Diamond Hub. In 2011, Botswana became a full member of the International Diamond Manufacturing Association and hosted its annual conference in Gaborone. In 2008, the Botswana Government clustered a number of major development projects into six hubs to attract internal and external investment. A Diamond Hub was established to facilitate beneficiation and promote Botswana as one of the world’s major diamond trading centres. The following additional initiatives have also been supported by Government:-
The construction of a new Debswana Corporate Centre in 2007 ; the formation of the Botswana Diamond Manufacturer’s Association in 2007; The construction Of a Diamond District incorporating a Diamond Technology Park in 2008; The 2008 construction of a Diamond Trading Company Botswana sort house, the largest sorting and valuation facility in the world; A strategy for the development of diamond cutting, polishing and jewellery making skills, launched in 2009; The construction of a Secure Transfer Facility (STF) at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in 2010; The 2011 agreement By DTC International to move all of its sales and other operations to Botswana before the end of 2013; The formation In early 2012 of The De Beers Aggregation Company in Botswana which will undertake the aggregation of all De Beers worldwide diamond production in Botswana for the first time; The formation Of Botswana’s First state diamond trading company, the “Okavango Diamond Company”, in 2012, which would go on to sell diamonds independently from DTCB, commencing with 10 percent of the run of Debswana’s total annual production.
Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.
A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.
The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.
Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.
By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.
In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.
Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.
Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.
Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.
In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.
Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.
In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.
The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.