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A River Runs Through It

River Runs

BRUCE CLEAVER

Perhaps it is a result of the global lockdowns, but as I, like you, have worked to manage through the immediate crisis and plot the course forward, I have found myself longing for one of my favourite places – Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The Delta is a place of unparalleled natural beauty, a source of life and renewal for the world and a welcome reminder for me of better days ahead.

The story of the Delta starts far away from Botswana in the highlands of Angola, where almost all the water that will one day end up in the Delta begins as rainfall, collecting in lakes and rivers until it joins the Cuito and Cubango Rivers. The two rivers become one in the south of the country where they form the famous Okavango River, which carries its water across Namibia and into Botswana, ultimately bringing the Okavango Delta to life.

All along these mighty rivers communities have flourished over generations, but their livelihoods, and the Delta itself, could now be at risk. Along the paths of the rivers the risk of the diversion of water by unregulated agriculture, and erosion caused by deforestation and fires, threaten (if unchecked) to change the waterflows and alter this ecosystem forever. Seemingly small unilateral interventions unintentionally conspire to threaten an entire system with potentially irrevocable outcomes.

In the diamond industry we often use the language of the river: upstream, midstream and downstream. When the industry is working well, we focus on the relative health of each part of the river, build partnerships across it and navigate the periodic droughts and flash floods, but we always seek a strong current that carries diamonds through the value chain, downstream.

Today, however, we are faced with a challenge not to one part of the river, but to the entire river. When this crisis ultimately recedes, as it will, if the upstream is intact but there is no functioning downstream, or a midstream but a significantly depleted source upstream, then we have no functioning river system at all.

While all companies, including ours, are taking rapid action to brace for the crisis, that action must be responsible and sustainable and recognise that just as the challenge is a shared one, so, too, must be the solutions.

Around our mines, in the world’s major diamond cutting centres, and in the communities in which our employees live, the continuity of our operations is central to our people, the local economy and entire nations. The salaries we pay and the services we provide and purchase help families put food on the table and manage their health. In many cases, the provision of water, food, energy and health and transportation systems depend on our operations.

Before we are corporate citizens, we are global citizens. We have a collective interest and a collective responsibility for delivering social outcomes that work for businesses and communities across the value chain.

In a global industry, maintaining the free and unencumbered flow of goods across the value chain is essential to ensuring the continued flow of funds that mean individuals and families have enough income to manage their diet and hygiene and meet the needs of those who depend on them most.

The workers across the entire diamond value chain around the world are the bedrock of the industry. We all want to shield our people from the economic impact of the crisis, but it is precisely because we are all connected that it is impossible to unilaterally protect the welfare of one group of people without forsaking another.

Doing so weakens the entire value chain and, ironically, hurts those we are trying to protect. We have a collective responsibility to implement responsible and sustainable solutions that support all parts of the value chain.

For De Beers’ part, we have already significantly reduced the flow of diamonds downstream. Most of our mines suspended production to prepare for the virus and are now operating or preparing to operate at far lower levels than normal. We cancelled Sight 3, providing our Sightholders with 100% flexibility to defer their purchases, and have announced that we will produce approximately seven million fewer carats this year than we originally intended (nearly a quarter of our total production). In addition, almost all other diamond producers have halted or significantly reduced supply, with some mines unlikely to return to production.

We mine a valuable, finite and depleting resource. We will only sell it when the demand is such that it can create sustainable value for all of us. However, just as we are not compelling our clients to purchase, we strongly believe it is counterproductive for any part of the industry to compel them not to purchase.

While the economic impacts of the pandemic will be different in the main consumer markets, the encouraging signals coming out of China point to the beginnings of a recovery. Consumer demand has started to return in the country as the lockdown has eased. People are visiting shops and malls and re-engaging with the world.

While it is too early to draw conclusions, pent-up demand from delayed weddings compressed into a single season, and self-purchases to reward hardships overcome, are showing signs of lifting the Chinese diamond market out of its months-long hibernation.

This is an unprecedented moment for the world. It is a health crisis and an economic crisis, but it is so much more. It is also a crisis of connection. As people re-emerge from lockdown, they will seek to mark those relationships that are most important in their lives, and we believe diamonds will play a meaningful part in that ritual.

After demand shocks, we have found that people buy fewer, but better things. But this moment is different. The pandemic is both global and intensely personal. All of us have been personally touched by the virus itself, its economic toll, or both. The crisis has forced all of us to examine what is important in our lives and how we live them.

While we are physically distancing, we are growing closer than ever in the relationships that matter. We are appreciating the most important people in our lives and yearning for connection. In this new moment, I believe people will seek to purchase fewer, but more meaningful things.

Throughout time the diamond has served as a powerful symbol of connection and meaning. It has always been attached to life’s most precious moments and relationships and represented a store of value, but increasingly we believe a diamond is becoming a store of values.

Over the coming months in our communication with consumers, as we prepare to come back from the crisis, we will increasingly draw on these values. We will remind people of the role diamonds play in shaping a better world and in forging meaningful connections. And just as they have had to find innovative ways to stay connected with loved ones, we will find new ways to connect with them.

The lockdowns and the rapid change to how we all access goods and services has shifted consumers’ expectations forever. The trends that had begun to take hold before the crisis will accelerate as we emerge from it – digital supply chains, the pre-eminence of data, the application of artificial intelligence and the power of brands, amongst others, are even more essential for the future of the industry, and all depend on a collective approach.

In Botswana, the future of the Delta depends on the sustainability of the entire river system, just as the rivers depend on a vibrant Delta for water to continue to flow freely.

Like the Okavango, our industry faces a collective challenge. Our interconnectedness means that the understandable instinct to protect one part of the value chain can only come at the expense of the others. But if we pull together and each take responsible action, knowing that we are all connected, we will be ready for the diamond recovery to come.

After all, we’re all in the same boat!
Until we see each other again, stay safe and pull together.
An open letter from Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group

WeekendLife

The King’s journal 

23rd November 2021
Kgafela Kgafela II

This book is a true-life story of an African King based in South Africa. The Last Frontier is a resistance stand by Bakgatla Ba Kgafela tribe and its line of Kings from 1885 against a dark force called ‘western democracy’ that is insidiously destroying lives, peoples, nations and threatens to wipe away whole civilizations in Africa.

The story flows through four important episodes of history, beginning in about 1885 when Bechuanaland Protectorate was formed. This section briefly reveals interactions between Kgosi Linchwe 1 and the British Colonial Government, leading to the establishment of Bakgatla Reserve by Proclamations of 1899 – 1904.

The second episode deals with Kgosi Molefi’s interaction with the British Colonial Government in the period of 1929-36. The third episode records Kgosi Linchwe II’s interactions with the British Colonial Government and black elites of Bechuanaland. It covers the period of 1964-66, leading to Botswana’s independence. Kgosi Linchwe ii resisted the unlawful expropriation of his country (Bakgatla Reserve) by Sir Seretse Kgama’s government of 1966 to no avail. He wrote letters of objection (December 1965) to Her Majesty the Queen of England, which are reproduced in this book.

The fourth episode covers the period between Kgafela Kgafela II’s crowning as King of Bakgatla in 2008 to 2021. It is a drama of the author’s resistance to the present-day Botswana Government, a continuation of Bakgatla Kings’ objection against losing Bakgatla country to the Kgama dynasty assisted by the British Government since 1885. The story is told with reference to authentic letters, documents, and Court records generated during the period of 1885-2019. There is plenty of education in history, law, and politics contained in The Last Frontier for everyone to learn something and enjoy.   

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WeekendLife

Gospel concerts make a comeback

16th November 2021
Bishop Benjamin Dube

Hailed for being the prime gospel concert after the Covid-19 pandemic had put events to a halt, Golden Relic, in conjunction with Sweet Brands, recently unveiled the Arise and Worship Concert, Botswana. The show marks the return of worshippers and fans to enjoy music and worship together after what seemed like “cooler box” events were taking over the entertainment scene. 

The concert to be held on December 11th 2021, at the Molapo Showcase, has a packed lineup with the Headlining acts being Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela from South Africa and Botswana’s very own Obakeng Sengwaketse. More international acts from Nigeria and Ghana are also expected to grace the event. The show organizers have invested an effort in diversifying the lineup with live performances. 

The promoter of the Arise and Worship Concert, David “DVD” Abram revealed in an overview of the event that; “We have lost a lot of loved ones this year, and when that happens, one’s spirit goes down, and we need a light to ground us once more, to heal our souls. Therefore, the two main purposes of this event are to do the work of God and, secondly, to make sure that we nurture and develop talent in Botswana. With challenges that come up with events of such magnitude, the team and I have been committed to seeking guidance from God through having night prayers.” 

Abram added that as promoters, they usually have a bias towards already established artists, thus neglecting the upcoming ones and wanting to change that. “We approached the Melody Gospel TV Show since we aim at nurturing new talent and agreed on having one of the winners as a headliner for the event to allow them to share the stage with gospel giants so that they are exposed to the industry. This resulted in securing the Second Winner of the Melody Gospel TV show; Thabiso Mafoko as a local headlining act.”

The concert also aims at celebrating a Motswana. Multi-Award Winner; with the most recent title; BOMU Best Traditional Gospel under his belt, also best known for his soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics, Obakeng Sengwaketse enthusiastically said, “I want to thank the organizers of the Arise and Worship concert, it means a lot to me after recently winning two awards that are currently the highlight of my career.

I regard this as a great revival because the Covid-19 pandemic has muffled events such as this. I am looking forward to sharing the stage with the great Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela and more artists from Nigeria and Ghana. Sengwaketsi urged Batswana to come and witness the greatness of the Lord as their lives will never be the same.”

Tickets are selling like fat cakes with VVIP tickets having only five tickets remaining; the VVIP tickets include rounder access backstage to all the performing artists. The event will also comprise a seated Gold Circle Ticket, which accounts for 50% of revellers to allow for easier enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and avoid a potential stampede.

In a bid to entice merrymakers to buy tickets, the promoters have come up with a layby strategy and buying tickets on an instalment basis for the attendees to be able to buy their tickets since the COVID-19 Pandemic has left many Batswana in financial ruin but having the interest to attend the event.

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WeekendLife

Fame vs Mental health

9th November 2021
Lizibo

One can only imagine what is like being in the public eye. It is not a walk in the park; and not as easy as people might think it is because of the pressure from the public. Celebrities or influencers are perceived to be perfect, perfect bodies, perfect families, perfect parents, financially stable, healthy, and always smiling and patient with everyone – Is this for real?

However, when people’s expectations of celebrities are not met, the same celebrities are often victimized, body shamed, or blamed, fairly or unfairly. As a result of them not having a personal life, they are often scrutinized in all aspects of their lives; their lives are aired for the public to see and judge. Celebrities are often extra careful about everything that they do, they have to go an extra mile as compared to how ordinary people live their lives.

To understanding this experiences by public figures, this reporter made a case study of Mr Lizibo Gran Mabutho, the firstborn in his family with only one sibling, his younger brother. Lizibo describes himself as a simple Kalanga guy who was chosen by music and did not choose music.

He said being raised by his mother and grandmother, he grew up surrounded by music from birth. Lizibo said his grandmother was a religious person who held church services at their house in Zwenshambe, “for me singing was from Monday to Sunday. I was not like any ordinary child who only sang at church on Sundays or sometimes in school assembly, for me it was a daily thing. My mother was also a talented dancer in our village that is what I mean when I say I did not choose music, but music chose me.”

Lizibo said though he grew up surrounded by music, it was hard for his parents to accept the path he has chosen to be a musician. Lizibo said he had to prove to his parents that music was his passion and that it could pay the bills like any other profession. He said eventually they saw his passion for music and supported him.

Lizibo said being exposed to music from a tender age made him venture into the music career from a tender age. He said he was part of the Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete (KTM) choir, Lizibo said being in the public eye for the longest time has taught him that he is living for the people and that he does not have a life. He said the very society that is watching him has so much expectation for him and that means he has to conduct himself in a good manner because people are looking up to him.

Lizibo said he understands the saying that great power comes with great responsibility, “when people see me, they see a role model. I realize and understand that people are and have been modelling me even when I was not aware of it, I know of six mothers who have named their sons after me because they felt that I inspire them somehow.”

He said he has accepted his fate that he will never have a normal life because people are looking unto him. He said he is grateful to be in the public on a positive note by bringing hope to the people because he has always wanted to be part of people’s solutions and not their problems.

He said, “people should understand that our careers are our calling. One needs to be spiritually connected to their calling as an artist. The most rewarding part about being in the public for me is not about payment but about being the solution to someone’s problem.”

Lizibo said the greatest challenge that he has ever faced about being in the public eye has been the issue of trust, not able to know which friends are genuine and which ones are not. He said as a way of avoiding fake friends he has always kept his four close friends who have been there for him through thick and thin. Lizibo said being close to his family has also helped him as they have been his strength when things were not going well for him, “most of the time people say we change when we taste fame. That is not necessarily true because people are the ones who changed when we became famous. People always want something from us, nothing is ever genuine with people and that is why I chose to keep my circle very small.”

Lizibo said as much as he travels a lot because of the nature of his work because it is naturally demanding, he said he always ensures that he creates time for his family. He said that at home he is Lizibo who is sent to do errands, he is Lizibo the son, not a celebrity.

He said there is a lot of pressure that comes with being in the spotlight, “the public puts so much pressure on us mostly about the material lifestyle they portray us to have. We are often compared with South African celebrities, but people fail to understand that we are two different countries. Most people fell into the trap and are living above their means resulting in them living in debt. I often tell youngsters not to fall into that trap of being tempted to live life above their means.”

The advice Lizibo gave to upcoming celebrities was that they should know that being in the public is not about them, but it is about the people. He said, “one of my mentors once asked me if I make music about myself or the people. He said I need to make music for the people because it is my responsibility to feed them with what they need, he said they might not even be able to know that they have a need but that I need to identify that need and meet it. Our responsibility is to serve people what they need, our music is to feed people’s hunger. My music is about love, I feed people love.”

Lizibo said it is important for celebrities to seek counselling and take care of their mental health, he said he has been investing in his mental health for years because he understands the importance of mental health especially when one is in the public.

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