Wednesday, October 20, 2021

DTCB on a meltdown

The Managing Director of Diamond Trading Company Botswana, Tabake Kobedi is crisis management mode following the introduction of a production system that has gone awry.

Speaking to the Sunday Standard, Kobedi said the “challenges” that DTCB is facing are natural.

But insiders say the close to P100 million spent by DTCB on Strategy 2020 is too high a price to pay for an investment that is not only failing to yield returns, but is in many ways dysfunctional.

One of Botswana’s most strategically important companies, as the world’s largest diamond sorting house, DTCB services De Beers and the Okavango Diamond Company.

According to information passed to the Sunday Standard, both companies are not happy with the quality of services they get from DTCB.

The two DTCB clients have on numerous occasions expressed disappointment with late deliveries by DTCB saying such delays negatively affect their sales processes.

Kobedi in an interview denied that sales times at De Beers and ODC have ever been affected.

“That would be a cardinal sin. It has never happened. I can confirm that there are operational issues that we have to deal with emanating from Strategy 2020. But there is no crisis.”

However this will be at odds with information coming from staff who say Strategy 2020 is so dysfunctional such that for DTCB to meet its obligations, the company has had to put workers on a vicious cycle of overtime regime.

“Even with overtime we are not able to meet targets,” said a member of staff union.

This has resulted in the ebbing of morale among staff as well as a spike in Human Resource disputes within the company with industrial relations now at toxic levels.

A source at De Beers said the only thing saving Kobedi from the axe is that all of the Government directors on the DTCB Board are new and still learning the ropes and are as such unable to ask pointed, probing and difficult questions about the business.

The new directors representing Botswana Government include among others, Moses Pelaelo who is Governor of Bank of Botswana. And also Abram Keetshabe, the Attorney General of Botswana. Both were only appointed to their respective portfolios last year.

“Botswana Government representatives are still learning the ropes. As De Beers we do not want to be accused of pushing out a Botswana citizen.”

The problem however is that when sales times at De Beers and Okavango Diamonds Company are delayed by processes at DTCB, it will become a chain reaction that ultimately affects dividends paid to Botswana Government.

Kobedi says putting staff on overtime is by itself neither bad nor counterproductive, especially if it’s created to achieve a goal, in this instance to meet deadline demands by De Beers and ODC.

“In any case overtime is just one of the costs. In this instance it is not even the largest.”

This however will not sit down with staff who feel that before Strategy 2020 was introduced they were seldom expected to work overtime.

Staff are saying with Strategy 2020 now at a halfway point of its five-year life, there is no excuse for the disruptions that the systems is causing if it was indeed a functional system.

Kobedi however differs, saying staff still need to “acclimatize” as there are people who still do not fully understand.

“I cannot honestly say I did not expect these challenges. It’s normal in a system implementation to have challenges. There will be challenges of the system itself; there will be challenges of people buying in. The key is not to prevent challenges, but rather to nip then in the bud,” said Kobedi.

While Kobedi says before coming up with Strategy 2020 he consulted widely with staff, the feeling is that such consultations were a smokescreen to legitimize a predetermined decision.

“The outcome of it all is shown in the lack of resilience of the strategy. Anything that happens along the chain causes major disruptions thereby resulting in perpetual missing of on-time delivery and quality targets.”

Additionally, staff blames Kobedi’s management style of victimization and intimidation.

“Why for example were people retrenched only to be rehired on contract? When we point these out we get victimized. There is so much fear in this organization. We understand it extends all the way up to Exco” said another employee who spoke on a condition of anonymity.

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