A year after playing ignorant to a local company’s request to assist them auction their diamond stockpile at the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE), the Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) has gone behind the company’s back to carry out the same.
Compadre Solutions Managing Director Isaac Leshona could hardly believe it as reports of ODC’s Dubai activities began to trickle in this past week. The company had offered to facilitate ODC’s market exploration in Dubai at a time when the state owned Diamond Company had seemed to be struggling with diamond sales.
“ODC shines in Dubai” reads one news headline. An announcement by Dubai’s hub for global commodities trade, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), confirmed Leshona’s worst nightmare. “DMCC hosted a successful trade networking event to welcome Dubai Diamond Exchange’s newest member, Okavango Diamond Company, to the Dubai Diamond Community.”
The statement said the event was graced by Minister of Minerals Lefoko Moagi who “expressed his gratitude for the support in building relationships to further diamond trade between Botswana and the world through Dubai”. The Minister was accompanied by, among other delegates, newly appointed ODC Managing Director Mmetla Masire.
The Dubai market exploration follows various unsuccessful attempts by Leshona to convince ODC that Dubai could provide a lucrative alternative for the sale of their diamond stockpile. ODC conducted an auction sale for the first time in Dubai. The company’s auctions usually take place at ODC’s headquarters in Gaborone.
In an interesting revelation the state owned rough diamond marketing company had denied any interest in diversifying their market through Dubai according to their email exchanges with Leshona’s Compadre Solutions.
In April this year, six months prior to ODC’s first ever Dubai auction, Leshona expressed to Sunday Standard his apprehension about the state company possibly bypassing him and implementing his idea.
“I suspect that my proposal and the reasoning I advanced in my emails to both Mr Mmetla Masire and Mr Marcus Ter Haar played a significant part in the resignation of Mr Ter Haar, as well as the subsequent employment of Mr Masire at the ODC. Furthermore, I also suspect that Mr Masire intends to implement the ideas I have shared with them in his new role,” Leshona told Sunday Standard early this year, April 19, 2021.
The conversation about exploring the Dubai market began in October 2020 when Masire was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals. Marcus Ter Haar was at the time, Managing Director of ODC.
Leshona sent an email to then PS Masire proposing to facilitate ODC diamond stockpile auction at the DDE.
“I was of the view that ODC needed to diversify the market of Botswana diamonds, as well as cultivate a strategic partnership with the DDE to develop a local diamond Bourse and ensure citizen participation. This was also with the knowledge that ODC had failed to sell stones at two of their auctions in the year, including one in Antwerp,” Leshona said.
Compadre Solutions Managing Director sent several other emails throughout November 2020 but without success. He sent emails to the Diamond Hub, a Ministry of Minerals subsidiary, and again to Masire on the proposed sale. Diamond Hub Chief Minerals Officer Kabelo Matshetshe acknowledged receipt in one of the emails.
Executive Assistant to Ter Haar at ODC, Rosemary Brock, also acknowledged receipt of the proposal and said they had their own sales channels and were not interested in exploring Dubai.
Leshona sent another email to then PS Masire on November 18, 2020, in which he copied Brock expressing his “displeasure” at being responded to by a PA (Brock) on such a serious matter. He also complained about how ODC has failed to empower Batswana and diversify its market as per its mandate.
Later on the same day (November 18) Leshona received an email from Brock, claiming that her initial response was actually from Sales Director Tim Lee and that it represented the general ODC management stance. Again later in the day, Sunday Standard broke the news that Managing Director Ter Haar had resigned with immediate effect. Masire replaced him seven months later in July this year.