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.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.