New information turned up by The Sunday Standard indicates that former Debswana Managing Director, Louis Nchindo, was able to extract full and exclusive powers of attorney from President Mogae to represent Botswana at the negotiating table when De Beers was restructured in 2001.
Mogae extended Nchindo, his long time friend, such extensive powers behind the backs of senior government officials, Debswana Board members and cabinet ministers.
Information indicates that, at the time, the only other person who was privy to the information that Nchindo was to represent Botswana at the negotiating table was then Minister of Minerals Boometswe Mokgothu who had landed the portfolio largely as a recommendation of Louis Nchindo himself. Everyone else read about it in the papers.
Armed with powers of attorney, Nchindo effectively became the chief government negotiator when De Beers was restructured and delisted from the New York and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges.
This was despite the fact that at the time of the restructuring, Nchindo was viewed as a De Beers man who sat on that company’s main board in his own personal capacity.
By the time the restructuring deal was completed Debswana (a 50/50 partnership with De Beers) owned 10 percent of De Beers while the Oppenheimer family and Anglo American each held 45 percent.
Contacted for comment, the Presidential Spokesperson Jeff Ramsay said it was unlikely that Nchindo would get the powers behind the backs of everyone else in government.
He, however, conceded that the President, by then, had a close relationship with Mr. Nchindo.
Ramsay would not, however, not rule out the possibility of Nchindo representing Botswana on behalf of President Mogae at the negotiating table, given the high confidence the President had on the Debswana Managing Director at the time.
“Government has structures and many people. There is simply no way you can hide such a thing from everyone else,” said Dr Ramsay.
It was only two years ago when the Botswana government arm-twisted De Beers that the country’s stake was directly increased to 15 percent, with the Oppenheimer family through their Central Holding Group holding 40 percent and Anglo American Group 45 percent.
While it’s likely, it is not clear if Nchindo, together with other De Beers directors, were given any payouts at the time of the De Beers privatisation.
Indications are that while Mogae entrusted Nchindo with the lifeline of the nation, the two men have since fallen out.
This new information comes in the wake of what promises to be a marathon case in which Nchindo and four others are accused of theft and fraud.