Friday, October 30, 2020

Bench Marks, Researcher stick by controversial SADC report

Despite public criticism for producing an unbalanced piece of research on Botswana’s diamond industry, Bench Marks Foundation that commissioned the study revealed this week that it was standing by its findings.

The study falls short of painting Botswana with the same brush as that of the entire African continent.

The lead researcher, David van Wyk, revealed to Sunday Standard this week that they are happy with the study and plan to make a book on SADC.

“We stand by the conclusion of the report. We insist that the marriage of De Beers and government of Botswana is not a healthy one. De Beers has revealed that when mining ends, it will not have a relationship after that,” said van Wyk.

“I tried to contact De Beers almost 15 times and sent them copies of questionnaires without any response.”

He explained that he spent 8 weeks in Botswana doing the research and revealed it was only through the intervention of Friendrich Ebert Foundation, a German agency in Botswana, that he finally got the response.

However, De Beers spokesperson based in London, James Suzman, told Sunday Standard that after receiving the interim report, they responded to Bench Marks, but instead the foundation wanted it in a written format.

De Beers, together with Debswana, have responded to the study.

“We sent them the report within the framework given by them: there were tricks played by them,” added Suzman, who was at the launch together with Esther Kanaimba of Debswana.

Bench Marks also claimed that it gave Botswana government a chance to comment on the study, but the officials said they were too busy to do that.

“We have done what needed to be done. The report is very objective. I have given everyone an opportunity to comment, but no one commented,” added Chairperson of Bench Marks Foundation, the Right Reverend Dr Joe Seoka.

The methodology used in the study has been criticised as the researchers left out the middle class and put emphasis on what van Wyk describes as the voiceless.

“We want to give voice to the voiceless people and these are the people close to the mining areas,” added van Wyk.

The Lead Researcher insisted that the study is spot on, adding that what they got wrong was only when they missed a point on Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism.

Despite being put on the spotlight last week by Sunday Standard, lead researcher van Wyk comes across as a soft spoken ‘University Professor’ who was just conducting a scholarly work.

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