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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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Botswana Parliament Okays Financial Intelligence Bill

28th January 2022
Peggy Serame

The National Assembly recently passed the Financial Intelligence Bill, 2021 (Bill No. 34 of 2021) during an Emergency Parliament Meeting. The Bill was first published on 23rd December, 2021 by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Honourable Peggy Serame.

The Act aims to re-enact with amendments the Financial Intelligence Act; to continue the establishment of the Financial Intelligence Agency and to re-constitute the National Financial Intelligence Coordinating Committee as a high level committee; to provide for third parties to perform certain customer due diligence measures on behalf of specified parties; to enable the Financial Intelligence Agency to initiate an analysis of information based on information in its on possession or information received from other sources to establish a suspicious transaction, and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto. The Financial Intelligence Bill has eight parts with a total of 63 clauses.

Serame highlighted that these laws are drawn because they are in line with international agreements the country has signed upon. Although implementation of the laws passed in parliament is a still a challenge. She urged public institutions to introspect if there are grievances within the community and deal with them. Emphasising that the perceptions people have about public servants and institutions are often based on a certain form of truth.

By way of background; the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has 40 Recommendations which countries have to comply with in order to tackle money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing proliferation.

During 2017 assessment; Botswana was found to have serious strategic deficiencies in her anti money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism and proliferation framework. No recommendation was rated Compliant, 23 of the recommendations were non-compliant resulting in the country being grey listed by the FATF in 2018 and blacklisted by the European Union in 2020.

The country went right ahead into remedial actions towards being removed from the grey list, passing 25 pieces of legislation in 2018 and a further six in 2019. Resulting in the country being removed from the grey list in October 2021.

To address the deficiencies identified during assessments carried out by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF). There was a proposal to overhaul the Financial Intelligence Act and consequential amendments to several other laws.

The amendments of these laws aim to strengthen the Anti-Money laundering, countering Financing of Terrorism and proliferation efforts in Botswana and will also put the country in a good position during the next Mutual Evaluation in 2024.

In her presentation’ Peggy Serame enunciated that; “the procedure at ESAAMLG is that after a country has amended its legislation, they are allowed to request for rerating of FATF Recommendations that are still rated Non-Compliant and partially compliant. “

Adding that “the request for re-rating has to be made at least six months in advance of the ESAAMLG Task Force Plenary meetings. This means for Botswana, the request for re-rating can only be considered during the September meeting of ESAAMLG. In its request for re-rating, the country has to submit all other information supporting the request for re-rating to the ESAAMLG Secretariat.

This supporting information refers to relevant laws, regulations or other AML/CFT/CFP measures that are in force and effect. It is crucial that the FI Bill and others are enacted expeditiously for the country to submit a request for re-rating in February 2022.”

Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse has expressed concern over the Financial Intelligence Bill stating that; “the discussion of this bill is relevant to what we are trying to do in prevention of financial and economic crimes, that is physical and revenue crimes. However; if virtual assets have value and can be digitally traded; it means that physical and revenue crimes can be committed using cryptocurrencies.

ESAAMLAG and FATF are very clear that money laundering and terrorist financing exist with the purview of virtual assets. What needs to happen is public education surrounding virtual assets and the risks that come with them. Research ought to be done on the implications surrounding virtual assets, this in turn will help guide in drawing laws and regulations. Without established regulation and oversight, the virtual assets space will become the wild west of the financial industry.”

The re-enactment of the Financial Intelligence Act has caused consequential amendments to 13 other pieces of legislation which have already caused an uproar in the country, these are; Companies Act, Trust Property Control Act, Counter Terrorism Act, Criminal procedure and Evidence Act, Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, Extradition Act, Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Biological and Toxin Weapons (Prohibition) Act, Nuclear Weapons (Prohibition) Act, Precious and Semi-Precious Stones (Protection) Act and the Real estate Professionals Act.

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Sebetlela drills GCC Cllrs on reset agenda

28th January 2022
Boyce Sebetela

Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, Lephimotswe Boyce Sebetela has addressed Councillors of Gaborone City Council (G.C.C) on the Reset Agenda, at their retreat in Palapye.

A number of resource persons facilitated on different topics of importance. The retreat is said to have been aimed at appreciating the role of Councillors in governance, leadership development, promoting team work and sharing better ways on how they could improve service delivery to their constituents.

The retreat comes at a time when Councillors country wide demands clarity on their roles and responsibilities to their electorates, Sebetlela emphasized the need for G.C.C Councillors, as other leaders to board-in the drive of reset agenda. Noting that, it is people-centric. It is said at the meeting Sebetela explained to councillors that Reset agenda, should be understood, as an action plan that seeks primarily, to ameliorate the status-quo in Botswana. Further imploring the councillors to link their priorities with those of the government.

Sebetlela whose key responsibility is to direct and oversee implementation of national priorities, in alignment with political pronouncements made by President Masisi, reportedly told Councillors that they are an important stakeholders in this reform. He further noted that, the rest agenda is nothing short of Batswana’s needs and desires. Therefore as leaders, they should be cognizant of the priorities set by their own government.

Other resource persons were from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC).

For his part, Boseja Ward, Block 6 and Block 7 Councillor Khumo Sebereko applauded and revealed the significance of this retreat, noting that it was long overdue. “This is of utmost importance for community leaders, as we get time to imbibe knowledge at each other’s knee” he said.  He further explained that they get to assess their own productivity versus efficiency on public service which really help them improve as public servants.

On the other hand, G.C.C Town Clerk, Lebuile Israel told Weekend Post that prior to the retreat, they had a special full council in Gaborone. The special full council was characterized by consultation of different Community Constituency Plans. “That was basically to identify real issues on the ground, which at Ministerial level culminates into National Key issues that guides the direction of money allotted to the Council for the coming financial year” he said. He explained that, this council ensures that their Community plans are in sync with Urban Development Plan 5 (UDP 5) and National Development Plan 12 (NDP 12).

The alignment of these Community plans with both UDP 5 and NDP 12 puts each constituency in a good position to be taken to form part of G.C.C Project Memorandum. He further explained that, projects proposed by Councillors sometimes get to be relegated to least critical projects by the order of importance or urgency. “Over the years there weren’t many projects, relegated into peripheral categories or rejected by the Council for not being in sync with either of UDP 5 or NDP 12”.

When closing Sebetlela said Botswana’s ability and potential to transform rests incumbent upon each citizen’s effort particularly those in leadership. Noting that, implementation of priorities put forth by the reset agenda requires collaborative effort.

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Botswana records rise in corruption – Report

28th January 2022
President Masisi

The 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by Transparency International has shown that corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide while it is on the rise in Sub Saharan Africa.

The results at a glance; The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks of countries around the world, based on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be. The results are given on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. This year’s CPI paints a grim picture of the state of corruption worldwide.

According to the report; this year the global average remains unchanged for the tenth year in a row, at just 43 out of a possible 100 points. Despite multiple commitments, 131 countries have made no significant progress against corruption in the last decade. More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 indicating that they have serious corruption problems, while 27 countries are at their lowest score ever.

And despite some progress, nearly half of all countries have been stagnant on the CPI for almost a decade. These countries have failed to move the needle in any significant way to improve their score and combat public sector corruption.”

Western Europe and European Union are the highest scoring region with 66 points.
The top countries are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, each with a score of 88. Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany complete the top 10.

49 countries were assessed in the Sub Saharan African region. With an average score of 33, Sub Saharan Africa is the lowest performing region in the CPI, showing little improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action. The report puts forth the concern that the gains made by top scorers are overshadowed by the region’s poor performance. This reinforces the urgent need for African governments to implement existing anticorruption commitments if they are to alleviate the devastating effect of corruption on millions of citizens living in extreme poverty.

With a score of 66, Seychelles consistently earns top marks in the region. Botswana is also regarded as a top scorer in the region with a score of 60/100 and a domestic score 55/100. Bottom of the index are Somalia with a score of 12 and South Sudan coming in with 11.

“Although Botswana is regarded a top performer. It has hit a historic low in 2021, recording a significant 10 point decline from a score of 65 in 2012. The result corroborates the findings of Transparency International’s 2019 Global Corruption Barometer survey, which showed that most people in Botswana thought corruption had increased. Concerns over impunity such as in the case of the alleged looting of the National Petroleum Fund which implicated senior government officials-underscore the need to increase accountability for high-level corruption in the continent’s oldest” Revealed the report.

The research also shows that corruption is more pervasive in countries least equipped to handle the Covid-19 pandemic and other global crises. The global pandemic has been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms.

Local media in Botswana reported that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) recorded 47 cases of corruption in relation to COVID-19 tendering processes. With 32 from the Gaborone region; 12 from Greater Francistown region and 3 in Maun region.

In regards to case backlog, the directorate had a backlog of 182 cases pending with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) , this is in addition to cases that were still under investigation and corruption allegation reports that had been received. The corruption allegations included 69 COVID-19 reports which were received between April 2020 and May 2021. Out of the 69 cases, 27 were being investigated while most of the remaining cases were referred to the different ministries.

Generally, Bribery continues to impede access to basic services. In 2019, the Global corruption Barometer – Africa revealed that more than one out of four people or approximately 130 million citizens in 35 African countries surveyed paid a bribe to access public services like health care.

Unless these corruption challenges are addressed, many countries in sub Saharan Africa risk missing their sustainable development goal targets by 2030. Transparency International calls on governments to act on their anti-corruption and human rights commitments and for people across the globe to come together in demanding change.

Chief Executive Officer of Transparency International, highlighted that Daniel Eriksson; “In authoritarian context where control over government, business and the media rests with a few, social movements remain the last check on power. It is the power held by teachers, shopkeepers, students and ordinary people from all walks of life that will ultimately deliver accountability.”

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