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De Beers in UDC conundrum

De Beers, Nicky Oppenheimer

De Beers Group could be unsettled by the unfolding political landscape in Botswana, the close to five decades long mining partnership with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) party is threatened by the possibility of opposition taking power in 2019.

This publication has been informed by an impeccable source that De Beers has been following the unfolding political events in Botswana with keen interest and it is ‘nervous’ about possible outcomes.

It is not for the first time that De Beers finds itself in this conundrum, back in 1994 following a disastrous performance by the ruling party in general elections; BDP was faced with the possibility of losing power in the next general elections for the first time since independence.

The only opposition party in parliament at that time, Botswana National Front (BNF) had surged from inconsequential three seats to win 13 seats in a 40 seat legislature, the result which meant BNF needed eight more seats in the 1999 general election to dethrone BDP from power.

De Beers, worried by the events, commissioned and financed a consultancy by reputed Cape Town based professor, Lawrence Schlemmer which recommended that BDP bring someone with popular appeal and not dented by party factionalism.

Consequent to the report, Festus Mogae, who succeeded Quett Masire as president in 1998 went on to appoint the popular Bangwato Chief and then Botswana Defence Force (BDF) commander Lt Gen Ian Khama as Vice President and with constitutional assurance that he will be next in succession of presidency.

Almost 20 years since Khama was brought into politics, the BDP faces another scenario of post 1994 general elections.  At the end of March 2018, two years from now, Khama will be bidding the nation fare well as the country’s fourth president.

In his trail, will be an unenviable situation in the party’s prospects to stay in power amid Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s upsurge. Khama will leave behind BDP enjoying a meagre 46.7 percent in popular vote, the lowest in its history.

This uncertainty has not been helped by the announcement of the leader of opposition in parliament Duma Boko that UDC once in power 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 last week.

“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 deputy, also reiterated the words of his colleague in an interview with this publication this week as he noted that the decision will be taken in the interest of the nation of Botswana.

“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 said UDC will open up opportunity for other technical partners to come on board but was quick to note that De Beers has helped Botswana in the past.

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 said.

The late Baledzi Gaolathe, Ndaba’s father has served as Managing Director of Debswana, a joint venture mining company owned by De Beers and government of Botswana.  

BDP bank bencher and MP for 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 said. “Why should we always be hankering for people to come from outside and exploit us?”

In 1994 negotiations, De Beers had troublesome relationship with then sturdy minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources David Magang. Magang made it clear to De Beers that if they were counting on getting another lease of life with respect to Orapa mine, they had to undertake to boost the productive capacity of the mine by at least 75 percent, failure to which tenders would be floated to other high-profile players in the diamond mining industry globally.

Magang’s stance on De Beers will put him at odds with his party, and when Mogae assumed the the presidency, the former was moved to the Ministry of Works and Transport.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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