Botswana/De Beers partnership faces acid test

07 Jul 2019

The process to fill the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) vacancy for Chief Executive Officer is revealing where the real power lies in the 50/50 partnership between De Beers and Botswana government.

The new appointee to the hot seat will have their work cut out. Among the first items on the “In” tray would be clutches of paper on the debate between Botswana government and De Beers on the proposed use of hydrofluoric acid by DTCB to clean Debswana diamonds.

De Beers’ fortunes are riding on the final decision on the issue and the choice of the new DTCB boss.

An analysis of confidential data availed to the Sunday Standard shows that after being bought by De Beers from DTCB, the value of these gemstones shoot up by an average 77, 6 percent once they leave Botswana and arrive in a foreign country — before any cutting or polishing takes place.

De Beers buys rough gemstones from Botswana at bargain basement prices and uses the acid to bring out their true value. This has given the mining giant a multi-billion Pula advantage at the expense of Botswana government. The issue of using the chemical at the DTCB plant to bring out the true value of Botswana diamonds before they are bought by De Beers is currently on the table and the two DTCB partners, De Beers and Botswana government are pulling in different directions. The new DTCB boss’ position on the caustic debate will tilt the balance of power, and De Beers is hoping for the best of it.

So far Botswana government representatives in the DTCB board seem to have relinquished their power to their De Beers counterparts who have loaded the dice in their favour.

De Beers this week refused to answer questions from the Sunday Standardabout their questionable role in the murky recruitment process and referred all queries to the DTCB.

De Beers Executive Vice President, Paul Rowley has been solely responsible for hand picking candidates to be interviewed for the DTCB top post.

Initially, Rowley who represents De Beers on the DTCB board was tasked alongside Cornelius Dekop then DTCB Chairperson and government representative to nominate candidates for the job.

Dekop however resigned from the DTCB board after he left the civil service earlier last month, giving Rowley a blank cheque to run the recruitment process.

De Beers led the recruitment process which culminated in last week’s interviews of candidates. Rowley who unilaterally nominated the candidates also sat in the interviewing panel alongside Attorney General Abraham Keetshabe who is the current DTCB board chairperson and representative of the Botswana government.

Asked if this did not constitute a conflict of interest, De Beers declined to answer.

Further stacking the odds against Botswana government, the interview packs were prepared by the De Beers Human Resources desk.

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that the interviewing panel is expected to recommend the appointment of a De Beers preferred candidate, a former De Beers employee who was until very recently a De Beers representative in the DTCB board.

Quizzed on why the De Beers’ preferred candidate was not given sufficient cooling off period before being considered for the post, De Beers again declined to comment deferring the question to the DTCB.

Curiously, the De Beers Human Resources’ boss who prepared the interview packs has been raving on Facebook about how the De Beers alleged preferred candidates is her mentor and has given her a leg up in her career at De Beers.

The De Beers Human Resources boss however did not recuse herself from the process.