Mystery surrounds the alleged souring of relations between President Lt Gen Ian Khama and mining giant De Beers shortly before Khama ascended to the presidency in 2008. Electronic mail correspondence from the Texas headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor to a “diamond client” interested in setting up in Botswana reveals that “De Beers recently ran afoul of Khama and later lost the renewal of a mining permit. The VP doesn’t weigh in on all applications, but sometimes does influence top-level applications.”
Stratfor fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The e-mail message warned the client that one of the major geopolitical considerations to make when entering the Botswana market “is to avoid running afoul of the government.
Most mining permit activity (e.g. getting a permit) is straightforward unless you make enemies with high politicians. The current Vice President Ian Khama is the son of Botswana’s founding president and is the heir apparent when elections are next held in 2009. The VP keeps a close eye on diamond mining, and he is an important person with whom to maintain friendly relations.” The relationship between Khama and De Beers have since warmed up and the mining lease renewed. De Beers was instrumental in ensuring Sir Ketumile Masire’s exit to make way for former president Festus Mogae at the State House. Mogae brought in Khama as his vice president following recommendations by political consultant Lawrence Schlemmer. In their report to the diamond client Stratfor further states that “Botswana presently produces raw diamonds, but in 2008 will move up the value-added ladder when DeBeers relocates sorting and distribution of diamonds from London to Gaborone, Botswana. The facility is expected to replace London as the center of sorting and distribution for all of DeBeers’ southern African diamond production.
Botswana is a very stable country. There is zero threat of insurgency or insurrection. The government under President Festus Mogae is stable and is considered to have one of the best, if not the best, systems of governance in Africa.
The greatest geopolitical threat to diamond supply chain in Botswana is NGO interference, especially for any new mining developments. NGOs would be expected to be in opposition to any mining developments in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (until very recently off-limits to mining, and is also the traditional home of the pastoral San tribe).
NGOs are not violent in Botswana but can be vocal and raise national and international attention. The Gaborone government itself is not disrupted by the NGOs, however.