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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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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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