Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Duma Boko has hinted that should his party take over power in the next general elections, the new government would end the ongoing partnership between Botswana and diamond mining giant, De Beers. Boko, who is also President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) was responding to Finance Minister, Kenneth Matambo’s budget on Wednesday.
This is not the first time the UDC, which is the main opposition in the country has hinted at ending the long running deal between Botswana and De Beers. In 2014, through their campaign manifesto, the UDC said as a shareholder in Debswana Diamond Company, the Botswana government needs to put a more rigorous regime on diamond value management, including process efficiencies and diamond security.
“De Beers is … currently undertaking the valuing, aggregation and sales process, a process shrouded in relative secrecy. This means that despite many years of diamond mining, the Botswana government and Botswana citizens remain alien to some of the high value activities within the diamond sector,” reads the party’s 2014 manifesto.
The manifesto further stated that once that regime is in place, the UDC government will agitate for the Jwaneng mine to house a large diamond recovery process, which plan De Beers has been resisting.
“Botswana’s flagship Jwaneng mine produces large diamonds which are currently being broken because of process configuration. It is known that large diamonds could carry higher value, such as is the case at Karowe Mine and Letseng Mine in Lesotho. The time is overdue for Jwaneng to house a large diamond recovery process, which De Beers has over the years not agreed to. This transition would allow Jwaneng Mine or Botswana to produce some of the largest high value diamonds in the world,” said the UDC.
On Wednesday, Boko went further to say it is necessary to pursue a fair-minded approach that does not unduly defer to De Beers even where there is a possibility that there are partners that could assist Botswana to generate better revenues and profits from our diamond mines.
“We would vigorously consider other technical partners for the management of Botswana’s diamond mines other than the current De Beers,” he said.
The leader of opposition further said the need to change is informed by UDC’s view that there have been companies, including one in Russia that have been able to perform admirably despite the global economic slowdown and storm against diamonds.