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De Beers moves to improve Botswana partnership

Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs for De Beers Group, David Prager has said a debate on whether Botswana is deriving value from its partnership with the world’s leading diamond company is healthy for the relationship.

Prager, said the onus is on De Beers to continue proving its value to the people of Botswana through its contribution to the country’s economy and people’s welfare. Prager said this at the three day Diamond Conference 2017 organised by the company as De Beers look forward to incorporating Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) in its business practices. “Partnerships are not easy to manage; there is a need for a good will and clear understanding of what the partnership principles are,” said Prager, commending the long standing De Beers /Botswana relationship, which stretches as far as 1967.

“It is up to De Beers to continue proving itself to the people of Botswana to keep the partnership going.” The De Beers Diamond Conference has been running successfully for the past three years in collaboration with the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. This year’s conference was conceived out of the conviction that the diamond industry should play a more strategic role in the upstream, midstream and downstream from a sustainability perspective.

De Beers seeks to have a significant contribution in sustainable development and innovation to reinvent and enhance business models that bring together all stakeholders to impact the global economy. The SDGs were adopted in by the United Nations, and would be the guiding tools for world development in the next 15 years. The SGDs envisages that in 2015 they would be; no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice & strong institutions as well as partnership for the goals. 

 
Prager said the De Beers will seek to play a role in SGDs through different ways most importantly through incorporating the SDGs in their business operations as well as influencing its partners to have a contribution. In Botswana, a diamond remains a symbol of success story and a source of pride. De Beers through its partnership with the Botswana government remains at the core of this story. This economic and social progress as captured by De Beers itself in the document titled “Turning Finite Resources Into Enduring Opportunity”, has been built largely on a diamond foundation, enabled by high standards of governance, political stability, and the judicious investment of diamond-generated wealth.

Minister Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Advocate Sadique Kebonang gave credit for the success of De Beers/Botswana partnership to the country founding fathers; Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire. “When the diamonds were discovered in the Bamagwato territory, unlike in other countries, they never said those diamonds were for the Bamagwato territory but said they are to be shared and enjoyed by all citizens. Most of these founding fathers were in their 40s when they negotiated this partnership which today we enjoy its successes,” he said.

Botswana has avoided being a resource-cursed nation, as it has been proven that resource-rich economies often grow more slowly than resource-scarce economies, the opposite has been the case for Botswana. This has been mainly attributed to the fact that Botswana has managed its resource with long-term development goals in mind. Botswana government jointly with De Beers owns Debswana, which is today the of the world’s leading diamond producer by companies by value. Until recently Debswana was also the leading diamond producer by volume.

 
Debswana operates four mines; Orapa diamond mine, opened in 1971, Letlhakane diamond mine, opened in 1975, Jwaneng diamond mine, opened in 1982, Damtshaa diamond mine, opened in 2003. Jwaneng Mine produces the most valuable diamond in the world, and contributes 60 percent of Debswana revenue. The two entities also owns the Diamond Trading Centre (DTC), the world's largest and most sophisticated rough diamond sorting and valuing operation.

While the partnership has undoubtedly been at the core of Botswana economic development, there are some who believes that communities surrounding the mining towns have benefited as much, and still languish in poverty. In political circles, De Beers is still weary of views which are not favourable to its partnership with Botswana. The resurgence of opposition, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)

This uncertainty has not been helped by the announcement of the leader of opposition in parliament Duma Boko last year when responding to the Budget Speech that UDC once in power, they will vigorously consider other technical partners for the management of Botswana’s diamond mines other than the current De Beers arrangement. “We believe that it is necessary to pursue a fair-minded approach that does not unduly defer to De Beers even where there is a possibility that there are partners that could assist Botswana generate better revenues and profits from our diamond mines,” he told parliament then.

“This posture is informed by our view that there have been companies, including one in Russia that has been able to perform admirably despite the global economic slowdown and storm against diamonds.” Ndaba Gaolathe, Boko’s former deputy who is now the leader of the newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP), also shares the same sentiments. “If we are going to do things the same as the previous regime why should people vote us? “, he asked rhetorically. “We will be doing that for the freedom of our people and we should be resistant to the pressure.”

Gaolathe however highlighted that they will dialogue with De Beers over what their government will envisage. “I hear they are nervous about UDC, but they should view us as fairly minded citizens who want to do things which are good for the people,” he told this publication last year. Whilst a backbencher, Tati West Bigge Butale was even more vehement. He wants Debswana to be an entity wholly owned by the government without any technical partner.

“I was surprised by the Leader of Opposition yesterday talking about inviting the Russians to come and colonise us just like De Beers colonised us,” he had said then. “Why should we always be hankering for people to come from outside and exploit us? Butale is now part of President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s cabinet as Assistant Minister for Trade and Industry.The Coordinator of the Diamond Hub, Khumo Mogaetsho concurred that while the partnership has been the pinnacle of Botswana’s economic growth over the past years, an ordinary Motswana on the streets may not be privy to the benefits of the partnership. She said talk of Botswana going alone has been there, but was quick to admit that the value of the partnership is instrumental in driving Botswana’s economy.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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