Thursday, May 23, 2024

Masisi lets loose on De Beers, Botswana negotiations

If his utterances about Botswana’s negotiations with De Beers at a political rally in Moshupa were reckless, President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s most recent statement was daring. Masisi has been resolute about his demands for a bigger slice of the pie in the decade’s long diamond mining partnership. Addressing the media at the National Museum in Gaborone on Thursday March 9, 2023 the President did not mince his words, calling a De Beers’ top official’s alleged reaction to his Moshupa speech “silly” and “misguided”.

The President told Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) supporters at a rally in Moshupa in February that his government may consider abandoning their long standing partnership with De Beers should the company refuse to accede to certain demands. The two parties have been locked in negotiations since the expiry of their previous ten year contract in 2021 which negotiations are expected to conclude around June this year. Masisi made it clear the terms of agreement between the two contracting partners have to be “fundamentally altered”. He said should the Botswana government not get their way, there won’t be an agreement in place by the time they conclude their negotiations.

It would later emerge Masisi already had a scheduled meeting for Friday (next day) with De Beers Group CEO Al Cook, the company’s Co-chairman Bruce Cleaver, and De Beers Global Sight Holder Sales Botswana Chairman Neo Moroka. But the stage had already been set for Masisi, Cook, and Cleaver to meet again at the launch of a National Geographic Society film later in the evening following the press National Museum conference. Cook’s remarks at the launch echoed De Beers’ continued confidence that the two parties will reach a mutually beneficial agreement. “I have had the opportunity to meet with President Masisi and with the leaders in his government.

If there is one message that has resonated very strongly with me, it is that the people of Botswana are foremost in the minds of the President and the national leadership,” Cook said, perhaps an indirect acknowledgement of Masisi’s relentless demand for Batswana’s bigger slice of the diamond cake. “And that is also a commitment I make, on behalf of De Beers. As we plan new investments, new technology, new opportunities here, the people of Botswana will be at the forefront of our thinking. We will work collaboratively with the Government – our partner for over 50 years – to bring sustainable benefit to the owners of Botswana’s mineral wealth: the people of Botswana. Rare, authentic, extraordinary, resilient, brilliant, unique, precious,” the De Beers Group CEO said. Masisi had earlier in the day emphasized how Batswana remain the true owners of the diamonds.

Cleaver was however less direct about the status quo. “As many of you know, I have had the privilege of serving as CEO of De Beers for the past seven years. When I reflect on my tenure, one of my proudest moments as CEO, was the launch of our Building Forever framework. Building Forever is our blueprint for creating a positive and lasting impact – wherever we have operations around the world – that will endure well beyond the discovery of our last diamond,” he said, reffering to the company’s 2030 initiative of partnering with communities, protecting the natural world and accelerating equal opportunity. “A key step in our Building Forever journey was the launch of or partnership with National Geographic in 2021.

Through Okavango Eternal it’s been our privilege to work alongside the people of Botswana to help build on existing work to protect the source waters of the Okavango Delta.”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper