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Office of the President Responds to Sunday Standard

This is a response to the front page report in the January 13-19, 2008 issue of The Sunday Standard, entitled “Mogae appointed Nchindo Chief Gov’t Negotiator”. The article alleges that the President appointed Mr. Nchindo the Chief Government Negotiator to represent the Botswana Government in the re-structuring of De Beers in 2001. The publication further claims that the President signed “secret, full and exclusive powers of attorney” to give Mr. Nchindo authority to represent the Botswana Government in the said restructuring.

The claim is false in the extreme. The Debswana Board, together with representation of other shareholders in De Beers, conducted the restructuring, a complex process. As is public knowledge, Debswana is owned equally by De Beers and the Botswana Government. 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 Debswana, both the Government and the President were not, 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.

In matters involving negotiations on behalf of the Government, there are clear and established procedures employed in identifying the individuals who are to conduct relations as representatives of the
Government of Botswana. The applicable procedures were followed in respect of the representation of the Government on the Board of Directors of Debswana.

Specifically, the Government is represented by the Mineral Policy Committee in all negotiations involving minerals. The Committee comprises the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Permanent Secretary to the President, and the Attorney General. The Committee reports through the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources. The Committee is a standing one and is guided by Minerals Policy formulated by the Government. Such policy is not dictated by the President; it emanates from and is informed by extensive consultation within Government in which all Ministries participate. Cabinet finally decides its content.

Naturally, Government as a collective, and not the President alone, had an interest in the restructuring of De Beers by reason of being a shareholder in both Debswana and De Beers.

Accordingly, the representatives of the Government on the Debswana Board were guided, inter alia, by the Minerals Policy committee on the outcome expected by the Government. This outcome incorporated the expectations of the De Beers representatives on the ebswana Board, for Debswana had to negotiate and participate in the restructuring as a team and not as disparate teams representing two shareholders. Mr. Nchindo, as the Managing Director of Debswana, was the natural person to be appointed by the Board to represent Debswana. He was not appointed by and he did not represent the Botswana Government in that process. Having been appointed by the Board, he derived his authority and took his instructions from the Board. The President had altogether no involvement in any of these matters.

Perhaps it is timely to make the following plain.
The decision to and the institution of the prosecution of Mr. Nchindo and various others by the Director of Public Prosecutions has generated extensive publicity in which all manner of accusations and innuendo have been made in respect of the President. It does not become his Office and the dignity of it to engage in this debate. If for that reason alone and no other, he will not. Nonetheless, he wants it stated once and for all that his relationship with Mr. Nchindo has not at all deteriorated. The commencement of the investigation of the charges now before the Courts occurred a few years ago in the ordinary course of the conduct of the functions of the law enforcement agencies of this country. The President did not instigate the investigations by the DCEC, and has had nothing to do with the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring the prosecution.

The President bears Mr. Nchindo no ill-will, nor does he wish destruction upon him. The Constitution and our laws from which these officials derive their functions and authority preclude the interference of the President either against or in favour of Mr.
Nchindo.

The President’s private views on the matter could not properly have had, and did not have, a role in all that has passed to date. Nor does responsible governance permit him, indeed enjoins him, to remain dispassionate and uninvolved. It is these considerations, to some extent, which explain the little distance which might appear to have developed between the President and Mr. Nchindo.

It would be quite wrong for the President to publicly promote a relationship, however strong, with an individual in whose affairs and conduct law enforcement agencies have, justifiably or not, taken a professional interest. The office of President properly requires aloofness, for the President’s continued closeness to Mr. Nchindo or anybody else concerned, could have been construed by some, perhaps with some justification, as calculated to influence law enforcement agencies in the conduct of their functions by fiat of the law. It is a matter for much regret that the press and others have misconstrued the conduct of the President in this particular matter as a cooling off of relations born of ill-will and enmity. It is altogether not so.

Sidney Pilane
Special Advisor to the President
Office of the President
GABORONE
17th January 2008.

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