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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

A.T.I: Batswana’s Judas Iscariot

19th October 2020
Atasaone Molemogi aka

Atasaone Molemogi, who goes by the stage name of A.T.I, is yet again making headlines and trending on social media platforms.

The eccentric and somewhat lose cannon artist is under fire for the stunts he pulled early this year. A.T.I had gone over and above to enlighten and fight for Batswana’s rights against according to him, foreigners who have monopolised the country.

So much so Atasaone recorded a video ranting and hurling insults while in front of Satar Dada’s Motor Centre at Fairground Mall. That was one of his many episodes. However, the one that gave him the ‘struggle icon’ persona was when he was arrested for making a video in front of the State House, this landed the dear lad in the cells of Urban Police Station and later transferred to Central Police Station.

Batswana gathered at the Central Police to demonstrate and demand the maverick be released. A.T.I became the Mandela of Botswana, the voice of the voiceless, the Messiah Batswana needed. A.T.I could not become any bigger till another outspoken personality stepped on the stage, Duma Gideon Boko, lawyer and President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

The aberrant lawyer did not disappoint, especially when he flamboyantly swung his gown on like Superman in front of the press. This was the moment, Botswana’s two outspoken and nonconformists were wearing their capes to save the ordinary citizen from years of being subjected to mediocracy.

Molemogi had Batswana believe that indeed they were being treated unfairly in their own country and incited many to take up arms and fight for a better Botswana for Batswana. The people stood rock solid behind the maverick artist.

That is until A.T.I pulled the rug under their feet and went ahead and met Tumiso Rakgare, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture. The very same Minister he vehemently declined to meet, hell-bent on only having an audience with the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

What transpired between Rakgare and A.T.I is not known, but any Tom, Dick and Harry can guess that A.T.I, one way or another, was enticed by something said or done by the Minister because the recluse was as silent as a lamb after the meet.

Now, this publication by no means implies that Rakgare offered Atasaone anything valuable but observing the cries of the masses it may be deducted to something along those lines.All this however happened mid this year and anyone would think that it would be old news and a closed chapter, not to be.

The public cannot for the life of them get over how A.T.I used them to push his agenda and then leave them hanging. A sin unforgiveable in the eyes of Batswana. And so the masses have to have their displeasure made known.

A.T.I has been awarded a new name, Judas Iscariot. The infamous follower of Jesus Christ who sold the latter to the Jews for 30 pieces of silver. Batswana made the reference having deducted that they and their dreams have been sold in the same way Christ was sold off. A.T.I has sabotaged and sold the struggle, for what or how much is still not known.

While people find it hard to understand why ATI threw in the towel, the controversial singer seems unbothered and does not regret anything. He however cited that he is not fond of the name ‘Judas Iscariot’. He further stated that people should understand that it is easy for him to get lost in the midst of everything.

A.T.I shared with this publication that he needed to start somewhere in order to meet the President. He further mentioned to this publication that they discussed how best they can assist the youth and he was telling the Minister about his clothing line, and asking for support from the minister. None of the things mentioned have materialized however.

In his defence he said, “We need to be able to save ourselves before we can be able to save others. People should stop laughing at people who supported me and they should stop calling me Judas Iscariot. The reason why I was going to war when the year began, was because I needed security and I needed our leaders to give me answers.

I was scared I wanted more communication. With time I noticed that I am losing myself. No one told me what to do but I did what I did and I did exactly how l felt it was best,” he said.“A lot of people felt I am their answer, no! I am not anybody’s answer that is why when I was still at it I noticed the saviour mentality. I felt I was back at it again.

I cannot try to save the world all the time. You cannot change the world that don’t see the need to change their mental state.

At the same time the people I am trying to do it for, are still stuck in 89. I did it for the people I needed to do it for and for the truest results to be visible.”

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WeekendLife

Becoming Queen: Oweditse on her Miss Botswana reign

19th October 2020
MISS BOTSWANA - Oweditse Phirinyane

It was not long time ago when she got crowned as Queen, after a series of hard work to take over the crown.

For her it was a journey of learning and a wakeup call at the same time, to put hark work in her reign and to bring the best out of it.

Today, she gave a reflection on becoming Queen and reminisced on what it took for her to complete her reign. The Queen is expected to hang over the crown soon, and to who, we are yet to find out.

When reflecting back on her journey, Oweditse Phirinyane shared with WeekendLife that from the time she got crowned as Queen, there was a form of sisterhood that existed within the contestants.

To an extent whereby they were able to solve their issues amicably without holding grudges.“You know when there is a group of women in one place, people often expect drama. But ours was minimal.

It was more of a sisterhood and our fights were more of sisters. We just solved them and got over them,” she said.Forming part of the contestants meant she had to gird her loins and place herself in a better position to be able to take the crown and ascend the throne as Miss Botswana 2019/20.

“From Phikwe, when SPEDU was taking us on those trips every day. We got lessons, the mere fact that SPEDU was the main sponsor, and they would take us on these long drives, it then occurred to me that this is all for nothing. I had to pay attention to everything that was being said.

My gut said there would be a question on SPEDU. So when we came back, I was ready because I was paying attention and I took time to read the pamphlets that were given to us.”

“So when I took over as Queen, I had a short period to record beauty with a purpose. I had to meet all the Miss World deadlines, I had back to back meetings, interviews and at the same time I had to prepare my wardrobe so it was just crazy. There were no enough sponsors to rely on.

There was no time for delegation of issues. There was no money. I also managed because I had good relationships with designers, as a model and as an individual.”Even though the budget was not enough to cover up her expenses, she had to take care of herself because Miss Botswana did not have money.

Although they assisted where they could, they could not cover half of her wardrobe, not even a quarter. Due to different timelines, and different seasons, she struggled to buy winter clothes for London as it was summer this side, yet it was winter where she was going to compete.

“The shops did not have winter clothes, so it was stressful getting ready for Miss World. That was the most painful part of my reign. You end up settling for things you would not settle for. I then suggested for the next Queen to be crowned earlier.

I wanted to be there for them to form that part of sisterhood. Most of the Queens after their reign they leave because of conflicts. So I wanted to change that,” she said.“If they all meet then I will too because I know the tricks.

The tricks starts here, what is happening in our country and what you have been doing back home. Even if it is not a major thing. Companies, when we come to them and we say ‘support Miss Botswana’, it would not always be about money but making the Queen part of their projects and social responsibility projects.

She has to be there to build her portfolio and those who are watching can see that she is active. There are a lot of events in the country that a Queen can attend.”

Being at Miss World
Part of her reign meant her being at Miss World to compete with Queens from all over the globe. Although she anticipating to give her all at Miss World, she was met with disappointment. However, she had a form of sisterhood with other countries to cushion the disappointments that befell her.

“When I left for Miss World I was so exhausted. My mum had to come the previous day to help me pack. I was so exhausted. My body was on shutdown mode. She came because I was just about to break down. I was overwhelmed because I was doing a lot of things. Her presence made me feel better,’’ said Phirinyane.

“I left for London alone and I had a lot of luggage with me at the time. London was my first long trip. So I was sleeping on the way because I did not want to stress about anything. I arrived in London and I saw people from the Embassy waiting for me. And I had to check in at the Tower Hotel.

I did not have a roommate for a week. My roommate was Miss Ethiopia. I grew close to Miss Barbados and Miss Antigua. When my roommate came, she was a headsets girl,”

“Her English was not good even when I needed to converse with her. Our conversation would be short. But what I loved about her was that she would tell me how amazing I was, without fail.”

Although she had initially perceived that she will be competing globally to bring the crown home, she was instead surprised to learn that the finalized where already chosen and they were there to do formalities.

“They already had their finalists based on social media, not the likes and not the followings but the reception and how you are treated back home. The other thing they look at was how valuable pageantry is in your country. That is if they crown you, what they will benefit from your country. It is business at the end of the day,’’ she said.

“Some people would be barely having two weeks and already they are in Top 40. Somehow it would crush me or destroy someone. I would raise my complaints to our team leader that it was not fair. I was in a group with huge countries.

Countries where pageantry is taken seriously. When I didn’t make it to the Top 40 I was shocked. But at the same time I was content and proud that I have done my best.” She stated that she had a lot of projects that she had to do back home, but she could not due to Covid-19 but there were initiatives she engaged in for the betterment of the society.

When she took over she admitted that she was hyped up and pumped up to implement her projects, which she said she will continue doing even after her reign.“I wish I could have done more but I am still proud of what I have done.

I am proud that I never gave up. I hope one day it gets to a point where people understand the beauty of pageantry and the entertainment industry,” said Phirinyane.

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WeekendLife

Botswana’s little beauty queens earn international credit

19th October 2020
Little MISS Princess 2020 Katlo Ratau

The contentious and contagious COVID-19 pandemic has caused many prominent beauty pageants around the world to be cancelled and postponed.

Among the most to be affected were the Miss Botswana 2020 and of course Little Miss Princess of the World, both the local and global events which were cancelled entirely.

A few of these beauty pageants have modified to remove a live audience or to be purely held over teleconference. One protuberant beauty pageant going on this year is the Miss South Africa that will be going down on the 24th October 2020.

Well, that is a story for another day. It is definitely a golden year and we can’t complain much because Botswana’s five Little Miss Princesses of the World have been recognized internationally and honoured among the Teen Top 100 Young Talented of the World 2020 by Fabuk Magazine.

Fabuk Magazine is a fashion and lifestyle publication which is distributed to many of the leading fashionably trendy destinations all over the world. The major countries for overseas distributions are UK, France, Turkey and USA amongst others.

The magazine is on-hand at most major events such as fashion and red carpet shows, international festivals for fashion and tourism shows.Undeniably the most artistic and dazzling, Katlo Ratau made the list of Botswana’s keen princesses to ever join the Miss Little Princess of the World pageant which was held in Bulgaria at the time of her reign.

A Form 4 student at Delta Waters International School in Maun, she participated in the pageant in 2016 and went home slightly thwarted after being crowned 1st runner up at an outstanding occasion held at the GICC.

Well coincidentally for her, she had a chance to travel to Europe with other Princesses and came to blows with similarly incredible girls from the entire world. She effortlessly sailed through to the finals and was crowned an ultimate winner through her ease composure and radiance.

Joining other Princesses of the World from Botswana was Anke Nkwe. At the age of 12 years, she is already setting bars to be recognized globally as a shining star. Perhaps Botswana will be doing the most at the Miss World in the near feature.

This little dynamite joined the pageant in 2017 and only made it to Top 8 and never hesitated to come back again the following year to claim what belonged to her. She was crowned Miss Congeniality and scooped the second place.

In beauty pageants, Miss Congeniality is usually determined by the votes of other contestants, as being that girl that whom they regard as the most pleasant or kind among other competitors. Nkwe is also a model for the Diamond Pageantry Academy.

With a sterling and authentic record of beauty pageantry, Koketso Gulubane has been selected among the Teen Top 100 Young Talented of the World 2020. She was once crowned Little Miss Independence and participated in the Little Miss Princess of the World twice, in 2015 and 2016 only to finish in Top 5.

At one point she joined Junior Miss Botswana and Miss Teen Botswana where she won numerous awards that include Miss Photogenic, Miss Congeniality.Little Miss Princesses of the World 2019 were not there to add numbers.

The reigning Queen Janet McIntosh and her second runner up Crystal Mokgaotsa were selected among the Top 100 Most Talented teens. At the age of 10 and earning her stripes already, Mokgaotsa was the winner of Best Talent at the pageant.

If these young girls could be nurtured and groomed from these ages, we can have a story to tell at the Miss World or Miss Universe pageants. We have been failing grimly because the girls go out to participate when they are never ready, something that is killing the reputation of the Miss Botswana organization softly.

The reining Little Miss Princess of the World Botswana, McIntosh, joined the pageant in 2016 where she failed to make it to Top 10. She made a huge comeback in 2019 and easily earned her crown. In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, founder of Miss Little Princess of the World Botswana, Tebogo Lebanna said when participating at the world stage, their main focus is the Botswana culture and tourism, which has proven to do wonders for them.

“This has been our secret ingredient. European and American countries are stunned by our culture and tourism and that is something we strive to promote on other platforms post this COVID-19 pandemic. Our culture is rich and as much as it is dynamic, the world loves to see that”

She added that they also outshine other countries in talent exhibition, saying that they have joined forces with Mophato Dance Theatre, a group that helps in teaching the girls traditional dance skills and dance presence.

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