Canadian based Lucara Diamond Corporation earlier this week announced the successful sale of the historic 1,109 carat diamond, Lesedi La Rona for US$53 million to a London based British multinational jeweller.
The lucrative stone is the third-largest diamond ever found and was recovered from Karowe mine in Letlhakane in the Boteti District of Botswana in November 2015. Only the non-gem black Sergio and the gem-quality Cullinan are larger.
Reports from Lucara reveal that Lesedi La Rona was priced at US$47,777 per carat hence the US$53 million tag price which is equivalent to approximately over BWP 500 million. Laurence Graff of Graff Diamond was quoted by media reports as saying that his company was thrilled and honoured to become the new custodians of the stone. “The stone will tell us its story, it will dictate how it wants to be cut, and we will take the utmost care to respect its exceptional properties, this is a momentous day in my career, and I am privileged to be given the opportunity to honour the magnificent natural beauty of the Lesedi La Rona.”
President and Chief Executive of Lucara Diamonds, William Lamb observed that the discovery of the Lesedi La Rona was a company defining event. “It solidified the amazing potential and rareness of the diamonds recovered at the Karowe mine,” he said adding that his company took time to find a buyer who would take the diamond through its next stage of evolution.
After discovery the exact value of the Lesedi Larona could not be determined until it was decided how it will be cut and more details about its colour were known. Former diamond-mining geologist Phil Swinfen estimated based on other previous similar sales that the stone could be sold for $40–60 million adding that the process of selling and cutting the diamond would likely take years to complete. In May 2016, Sotheby’s announced in London that the Lesedi La Rona diamond would be offered in a stand-alone auction on 29 June 2016.
It was expected to sell for around $70 million. After closer examination, the diamond was presented at the auction as weighing 1,109 carats. At the public auction at Sotheby's on 29 June 2016, the highest bid for the diamond was $61 million. However, this bid fell short of the undisclosed reserve price and the stone was not sold. The bidding opened at $50 million and the auction lasted for less than 15 minutes.
Lukas Lundin, whose family is Lucara Diamond’s largest shareholder, noted that the commission arrangement with Sotheby’s meant the stone would have had to reach $150 million for the auctioneer to make a large profit. At the time, David Bennett of Sotheby’s had revealed it was the first time the company held an exclusive auction for one single object. It was preceded by the sale of three smaller rough diamonds. The stones were also from Lucara and the proceeds, $140,000, were donated to charity. The Constellation had been found the day after the Lesedi La Rona in the same section of the mine.
Lamb has exclaimed that the price paid was also an improvement on the highest bid received at the Sotheby’s auction in June 2016. He further noted that t Graff Diamonds is now the owner of the Lesedi La Rona as well as the 373 carat diamond, purchased earlier this year, which formed part of the original stone. “We are excited to follow these diamonds through the next stage of their journey,” Lamb was quoted as saying.
The Lesedi La Rona is a colourless/white type IIa diamond. It weighs 1,111 carats (222.2 g; 7.84 oz) and measures 65 mm × 56 mm × 40 mm (2.6 in × 2.2 in × 1.6 in). In comparison, the Cullinan, discovered in 1905 in South Africa, weighed 3,106.75 carats (621.350 g). The Lesedi La Rona was mined using Large Diamond Recovery ("LDR") XRT machines, and is the largest diamond recovered using machines for automated diamond sorting.
It is estimated to be over 2.5 billion years old. In the months after its discovery the diamond was exhibited in a world tour in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, and Antwerp, Belgium, a major centre of the world diamond trade.
THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO PRECIOUS STONES TRADE
The Diamond Industry is Botswana‘s largest economic sector contributing over 30 % to the country‘s GDP alone. Botswana is currently proposing an amendment to the Botswana Precious and Semi Precious Stones (Protection) Act, regarding the Botswana Government's right to purchase diamonds that are unusually large or have unusual features at market prices. If amended, the government will have the first option to buy ‘unusual’ diamond finds such as the historic Lesedi La Rona.
A recently filed draft bill to amend the Precious and Semi-Precious Stones Act contains a new clause that compels any producer that comes into possession of an unusual rough or uncut diamond to notify the minister of mines within 30 days, following which the government shall have the right of first refusal to the stone. “The price to be paid by government for a rough or uncut precious stone offered for sale by the producer shall be agreed between the parties in accordance with the current market price of the rough or uncut precious stone,” the bill states. The bill did not give a precise definition of “unusual”.
This move by Botswana is the latest in a series of similar measures by African countries such as Lesotho, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to exert tighter control on their mineral resources. With regards to this Chief minerals officer in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Moses Tshetlhane said that amendment of the law was motivated by recovery of some unusually large diamonds, namely: the Lesedi La Rona and Constellation.
Some of the amendments to the Act include stiffer penalties for illegal trade of diamonds, as well as false declarations of discovery of precious stones. Producers that make false declarations about the place they would have discovered a precious stone should also be liable to penalties prescribed by law for a crime of perjury, and all rights acquired by them in consequence of any such declaration shall lapse.
“Some of the key changes to the Act are to remove trade barriers and increase penalties to deter any potential illegal trade as well as improve facilitation in the sorting, valuing, aggregation and selling of rough diamonds. The Precious and Semi-Precious Stones Act is being amended to ensure that it stays relevant and applicable to the prevailing and ever changing environment in the diamond industry,” shared the Chief Minerals Officer.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.