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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.