The Debswana Diamond Company is in trouble.
That much it seems sufficient consensus exists.
What is, however, a sticky point is how, going forward, the company is to be rescued.
The contending parties are the Management, acting for the shareholders and the Trade Union, acting for the employees.
Debswana’s importance to Botswana cannot be overemphasised.
Debswana is literally Botswana’s economic mainstay.
Botswana’s economy is where it is today exactly because of diamonds that have for decades been produced by Debswana.
The reason why there is panic among citizens is simply because all of a sudden diamonds sales have plummeted.
Naturally, Batswana are not able to fathom a future without diamonds.
Put another way for many of our people a life without diamonds is impossible.
With Debswana literally fighting for own life, what is to be expected of the otherwise helpless extended national economy that so much relies on what goes on at Debswana? That is the question many Batswana are asking themselves.
We commend the Debswana Management and the Mine Workers Union for steering the negotiations on the strategic direction of the company during these difficult times.
That said, we hasten to add that these are only the early stages of what, by all accounts, threatens to be the roughest economic turmoil Botswana has ever had to undergo since independence.
Hence Debswana Management and the Union are going to have to work much more closely together in the coming few months than has ever been the case in the past.
It will not be easy.
But it is through difficult times such as what we are going through that men and women are required to show or prove what they really are made of.
The tumultuous difficulties that Debswana is going through can only be resolved by a sober, fair, honest and mature relationship between the Management and the Union.
The two will have to engender a relationship of mutual trust, mutual respect and interdependence.
If that does not happen, then the company will find itself firefighting industrial relations chaos, even as it has to tackle much bigger issues of survival.
We hope Debswana will never have to get to that stage.
We concede that it is in the Union’s interest that they remain relevant.
They can only remain relevant if they fight for the interests of their members.
We also concede that it is the management’s responsibility to not only safeguard the commercial viability of the company, but to also ensure that shareholders’ interests and value are maintained.
That said, what will it be like if, in the process of each party fiercely fighting its corner instead, they ended up with a dead Debswana Diamond Company on their hands?
That, we think, should be the overriding question that should occupy either party as they grapple with the protracted negotiations they currently are involved in.
While the situation has so far been encouraging, there are undercurrents signaling that, going forward, there will be blood on the floor.
We call on the Management to be candid and honest in dealing with the Union.
We also call on the Union to meet the Management half way by honouring their side of the bargain.
It has always been our belief that for Botswana, Debswana is much more than just a cash cow.
To us, the company has always come across as a national asset which not only instilled national pride among citizens but also gave direct livelihoods to thousands of citizens who work for it.
It is our fervent hope that when the economic crisis are finally over, whenever that will be, Debswana would still be a national asset it was before the crisis.
That hope and dream can only be realised if the Management and Trade Union do not act recklessly as to do anything that would hurt and undermine the life of the currently ailing company.
Restraint, honesty, fairness and openness will enhance the chances of success at Debswana.