We would like to congratulate the former President, Sir Ketumile Masire, for having gone against advise “to withhold comment” and tell the nation what he remembers of the De Beers scandal which has been in the front pages of the local newspapers lately.
We can not agree more with him when he says, “But, given our culture of accountability, I have concluded I would be shirking my social responsibility if I failed to address those allegations┬áthat are of undoubtedly wider concern”.
We hope others who have been mentioned in this scandal will follow suit and not┬áshirk┬átheir social, political, corporate, and moral responsibility. Until they say their side of the story, there will be lack of clarity and it will remain public perception and opinion that they benefited because of their vicinity to┬ápolitical decision making.┬áWe accept Sir Ketumile’s┬á“confession” that what he did is not consistent with “rigorous guidelines of good governance”. ┬á
The solution to this scandal does not particularly lie in accusations and counter-accusations, but in allowing for a process which will reveal the truth. While the former president has admitted to┬áhaving had private dealings with De Beers, what is needed is an enquiry to allow an independent body to look at the relevant information and then make a determination as┬áto whether there was┬áabuse of power, office and authority or not on┬áhis part and others┬áwho have allegedly benefited from not only De Beers but Debswana which is partly owned by government.
Sir Ketumile is confessing now after so many years and therefore we can not completely rely on him. De Beers, on the other hand, has been a bad corporate citizen┬áand therefore┬áwe can not fully rely on what it says. Its presence in this country has been driven by self-interest and desire to achieve its objectives regardless of the┬áaccompanying costs to Batswana.┬áContrary to the BNF position,┬áDe Beers┬áhas over the years either refused to or failed to┬áset up┬ádiamond┬ábeneficiation operations in the country which could have created employment opportunities for our people. All this was happening with the nod and tacit approval of the BDP government.┬á
It can not be denied that De Beers, as a private company, can enter into any transaction with whoever it deems fit though the case is different with Debswana.┬áThese were no ordinary transactions. They were┬átransactions between┬ácompanies┬áwhich got and continue to get most of┬átheir throughput from┬átheir mining activities in Botswana and┬áthe country’s┬áHeads of state and other decision-makers in the country’s diamond industry.┬á
┬áWith Sir Ketumile and Mr Festus Mogae,┬áwho┬áare allegedly┬ásome of the recipients of such benevolent gestures, being┬áformer Heads of State, they┬áwere┬ácustodians of national resources, which included diamonds.
They had the final say on how the resources could be mined┬áand what kind of an agreement the government could enter into in their mining.┬á
┬áThis De Beers scandal strengthens our long held position that all decision makers in both┬ágovernment and parastatals should declare their interests.
┬áThe former Head of State,┬áSir Ketumile Masire┬áis also a former leader of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP),┬áwhich also allegedly benefited handsomely from another instance of De Beers benevolence but omits to say anything about the BDP donation in his statement. To us this donation, which was┬ásecretive, was meant to warm up BDP┬ágovernment to De Beers’ interests.┬áSuch donations┬áhave┬ádistorted our democracy and ensured that we have Plutocracy, a situation whereby power rests with the rich. The consistent suffering that Batswana have been subjected to by the BDP has been sustained by┬ácompanies like De Beers.
┬áThe┬áBDP government┬áhas introduced labour laws┬áwhich we┬áhave repeatedly said are biased in favour of employers.┬áWe can not remember a single legal strike that has taken place in this country. This is not because workers do not have grievances, but it is because the laws have been drafted in such a way that strikes are technically not allowed.┬áThis is not by accident but by design. We have said it and we will continue to say it!
The BDP┬áis a neo-colonial party which was formed to protect the interests of the Haves in this country and International Capital. It was formed to play a compradore role as the Botswana People’s Party (BPP), which┬ácame into being┬ábefore the BDP, was perceived by the British, who were already preparing to leave the country, as too radical.┬á
The BDP government has made the laws and the courts are┬ájust administering what BDP has pronounced.┬áFor as long as the BDP is in power,┬áwe will continue to have a distorted democracy and disregard for social justice. The dismissal of the Debswana 461┬áand BCL 181 workers becomes relevant. What matters is that the interests of companies like De Beers, because they finance BDP activities,┬áend up being the wielders of what we┬áperceive to be illegitimate┬ápower. They can engage and pay a consultant to advise on how the dwindling political fortunes of the BDP in the elections can be reversed so that their stay in power is prolonged.┬áThis they did in the late 90s when they engaged Professor Lawrence Schlemmer,┬áwho has also done some work for the Democratic Alliance (DA)┬áin South Africa. That is why acting on one of┬áthe┬árecommendations of Schlemmer they, through their influence, caused Sir Ketumile,┬áwho was a┬á“democratically elected President”,┬áto leave and decide who should succeed him.
┬áThe truth has been revealed. The party does not belong to its members. The only honour given to them and sense of ownership they┬áhave is to make short term decisions. Long time and serious decisions are reserved for those who are paying the piper.┬á┬áThey can even buy┬áone out of┬áthe presidency┬áand are not even ashamed to admit it. What a tragedy!┬á┬á
Companies like De Beers do not fund BDP because they like it. They are using it as a tool to achieve their objectives. It is coming across as a willing partner. It is a party that can be easily manipulated and bought.┬á
The allegations raised in the De Beers scandal┬áare so serious and border on treason. We hope the BDP government will relent to calls for a┬áCommission of Inquiry. The findings of such an Inquiry should be made public and action taken against those who come about badly in the report.
*Moeti Mohwasa is BNF Information and Publicity Secretary┬á