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Botswana sold itself short in De Beers deal – Gaolathe

Alliance for Progressives (AP) leader, Ndaba Gaolathe has said De Beers’ dealings with Government of Botswana have so far proven that the former never wanted to support Botswana’s economic ambitions given its overly dominance in key decisions.

When responding to President Ian Khama’s valedictory State of Nation Address (SONA), Gaolathe said the question should not be whether Botswana had benefited from its diamond-based growth path through the DeBeers partnership but rather whether Botswana could have benefited more under a different arrangement with De Beers, had the arrangement allowed for greater value addition much earlier on.

“Over an extended period, many far-sighted citizens argued that the cutting and polishing of diamonds locally is necessary to further local economic development ensuring that a greater proportion of value derived from diamond exploitation stays 'in country' and benefits local communities, through skills development and job creation opportunities,” he said.

“The limited employment spill overs in the current growth path have meant that many locals still live in poverty despite the high GDP per capita and Botswana being classified as a middle-income country,” he said. “Thus a desire to create jobs is a major part of what inspired Government’s move towards beneficiation in recent years.”

Gaolathe, who is the son of former Debswana Managing Director, the late Baledzi Gaolathe said De Beers’ was never keen no supporting Botswana’s ambitions, as it kept on insisting that cutting and polishing activities were not economically viable in Botswana.

Gaolathe said historically, citizens have questioned whether the DeBeers arrangement allowed the country to take full advantage of its diamond resource and whether beneficiating the country’s diamonds would not lead to greater local economic benefit through job creation.

“The concept of diamond beneficiation has therefore been driven by civic population. The Government is a late-comer to the beneficiation school of thought, a school of thought premised on the idea that diamonds can result in new and deeper linkages with the local economy,” he said.

Gaolathe said it was through civil and other pressure as well as Government’s new-found bargaining strength in 2005 that resulted in the signing of an unprecedented 25 years mining sales agreement with De Beers, in exchange of De Beers assisting Botswana in creating a viable cutting and polishing industry.

The contract included the following three agreements; a renewal of the mining licences for Debswana for 25 years, the sale of Debswana’s production to the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) International for another five years; and the establishment of DTC Botswana.

DTC Botswana is responsible not just for sorting and valuing Debswana’s production but also for the sale of rough diamonds to local manufacturers. According to Gaolathe, on paper the new beneficiation drive is manna from the sky for Botswana, through the potential multiple investment opportunities for Botswana in both the diamond and related ancillary industries and although this also gives Botswana an impeccable name of the global stage, while the hard truth is that Botswana has failed to tap on the opportunity, and have in the process missed opportunities to create tens of thousands of jobs.

He said, Botswana has missed opportunities mainly because De Beer has served its own interest not that of Botswana government. “We have missed because the span of control in the diamond industry, it seems, was structured on no clear, transparent process based on merit and that De Beers continued to dictate, at DTC, all the technical management of the company, including, pricing, categorization of diamonds, security and all diamond logistical operations. The Government continues carries little knowledge of what really goes on at DTC Botswana,” he observed.

“DTC international solely serves De Beers interest; It aggregates diamonds from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and its mines in Canada, for allocation to its sight holders internationally, including those in Botswana. The price determination of Botswana diamonds is formulated by them. The international diamond market is influenced by them.” Gaolathe said the determination of mining of Botswana diamonds is done by De Beers and the marketing of 85% Botswana diamonds by De Beers as well.

“Botswana government has no knowledge of DTC International operations. Botswana Government should rather have traded its 15% shareholding in De Beers for shareholding in DTC International, that’s indeed if the rationale for that was to gain insight and have influence in De Beers’s operations,” Gaolathe argued. He said although Botswana owns 15% in De Beers, its representation is limited to two board members and none at operational level, yet Botswana diamonds contribute 70% of De Beers’s revenues.

“The returns to Botswana are presented as a compound figure. There is no knowing what each business unit contribute,” he said. “The Government Valuator has been an expatriate domain since the 80’s up to now. De Beers and GDV expatriates are close allies. It has been shown to be case in South Africa when the GDV endorsed every pricing De Beers paid for SA diamonds. It has been shown when Botswana GDV went to Sierra Leone with De Beers’s executives to be introduced to the Government as ideal valuators that would assist the government there. It is only recently that citizen trainees were enrolled as GDVs, but the function is 80% expatriate controlled.”

Gaolathe also took a swipe at the government owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) as he noted that it is as good as non-existent. “We allowed De Beers DTC to receive ODC portion direct from the mine, sort the diamonds for ODC and present them half sorted for ODC to sell to the same international market De Beers is selling to. What this means is that De Beers DTC can manipulate the assortment and make sure it matches its own, such that what ODC present to the market is exactly the same as De Beers presents. That is why there is no difference in the prices DTC and ODC fetch in the market,” he contended.

“In this case ODC has no reason to exist and its mandate should be reviewed.” Gaolathe said diamonds will remain an integral part of party of economic diversification thorough    local involvement by developing new capabilities and new niche engines of economic activity, as the civil population have always advised.

“For all the talk about the need for our country to diversify our economy, the real potent potential still remains how we best make use of our diamonds, as that engine for diversification. The way we are missing the opportunities with our diamonds typifies how we continue to miss glaring opportunities elsewhere,” he argued. “With our diamonds alone, we can inspire tens of thousands of jobs, but to achieve this we need refine and enhance our diamond roadmap and our delivery capacity and capabilities within Government.”

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State forged Kgosi’s arrest warrant

22nd July 2021
FORMER DIS BOSS: ISAAC KGOSI

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.

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UDC parties discuss by-elections

22nd July 2021
UDC

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.

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DIS infiltrates Police fingerprint system

22nd July 2021
Makgope

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.

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