President Festus Mogae this week hitched his defence on a fabricated Debswana Board resolution against reports that he unilaterally gave former Debswana Managing Director Nchindo the powers to represent the interests of Botswana during the De Beers restructuring of 2001.
Mogae said Nchindo was given those powers by the Debswana Board.
This is despite the fact that, at the time of the restructuring, all of the Debswana Board members were kept in the dark about Nchindo’s enhanced status as Botswana’s Chief negotiator at the table.
Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that the resolution was fabricated by the Debswana board, as a crisis management step, a year after the multi billion Pula restructuring exercise was concluded. This was after some members spoke out against the decision to appoint Nchindo in secrecy saying it presented the country in a bad light.
After the De Beers restructuring, the Botswana government emerged with a 15% stake in the Johannesburg based diamond giant.
“Mr. Nchindo was appointed by the Board of Directors of Debswana to represent that company in the negotiations. It is a matter of record that the appointment was by a series of Resolutions passed by the Board. While the Botswana government is represented on the Board of Directors, both the Government and the President were no, directly or indirectly, involved in the appointment of Mr. Nchindo to this function.
Certainly, at no time did the President give Mr. Nchindo any authority, whether by Power of Attorney or in any other form to participate in the negotiations and any matter attending the said restructuring,” said the statement signed by Special Advisor, Sidney Pilane.
Investigations by The Sunday Standard have, however, revealed that the decision to appoint Nchindo as Botswana’s sole negotiator was taken at a meeting by President Festus Mogae, Louis Nchindo, Jonathan Oppeinheimer and Nicky Oppeinheimer of De beers.
It was only after the deal to restructure De Beers had been completed and some Debswana Board members started querying where Nchindo had derived the powers to represent Botswana that, as a face saving strategy, a board resolution was passed to give him the then Managing Director powers in retrospect.
Other Board Members had also started to raise issues of corporate governance.
They were worried by Nchindo’s proximity to De Beers on whose main board he set in his own capacity.
“It was like asking him (Nchindo) to negotiate with himself,” said a source close to the Board.
Other than President Mogae and Nchindo, the other two people who were privy to this shocking corporate governance setup were the De Beers Executive Chairman, Nicky Oppenheimer, and his son Jonathan.