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.
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.