Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Scannex: Either Morupisi or Khama is not telling the truth

Truth has become the first casualty in the raging war between Debswana and the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism over the use of Scannex body scanning technology at Debswana mines.

Defending the Scannex technology is Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi who is fighting from the Debswana corner. Morupisi is also Chairperson of the Debswana board.

On the opposing corner are former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, the Mine Workers Union, the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama and his former Permanent Secretary Elias Magosi who is now Morupisi’s deputy at the Office of the President.

The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama and Magosi argue that Scannex technology is not good for the health and safety of Debswana workers, Morupisi and Debswana on the other hand have provided information from the local scientific community stating that the technology is safe. The truth as always may be somewhere in between.

A lot is riding on the words  of Morupisi and Khama. Should either of them get away with lying a lot of people may get hurt or Botswana may lose millions in diamond theft.

Khama states in a letter to Debswana that he has received “counter arguments from the scientific community on the health and safety of using Scannex on employees as security tool in the mines. That alone became the biggest challenge considering that under normal circumstances it is the health of the workforce that is prioritised lest the government will be reviewed as prioritising diamonds over employees’ health.” Tshekedi Khama indicates in his letter that the position was taken following consultation with HE (former president Lt Gen Ian Khama).

The Minister however does not disclose the identity of the scientists who spoke out against the Scannex technology, the nature of the consultation with the scientists and details of their concerns with the technology. This tendency by Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism to deal with the Scannex issue in a vague manner runs throughout their correspondence with Debswana, suggesting that ministry officials may be fudging the truth.

Debswana on the other hand presentment documented reports that the local scientific community approved the Scannex technology as safe. The Radiation Protection Board on May 22nd 2012 approved the use of Scannex technology with conditions. The University of Botswana’s Department of Physics in a letter dated 15th October 2013 also supported the use of SCANNEX technology, with conditions, The Department of Public Health statement of March 2014 also stated that they do not object to the use of the technology, The Department of Mines also issued a statement of no objection to the use of Scannex in a letter dated 8th July 2013.

In a savingram dated 13th May 2016, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Elias Magosi suggests that Debswana lied when it stated that Scannex was the only technology on the market that could detect stolen diamonds. Magosi, however does not disclose which other technology could be used to detect stolen diamonds. “It is not correct that Scannex Machine/Technology is the only mechanism capable of detecting stolen diamonds concealed within a human body. This is one reason that those who are against use of Scannex raised considering other options that do not have negative impacts.”

Debswana on the other hand insists that there is no other proven technology that can detect stolen diamonds. In response to claims by Magosi, Permanent Secretary to the President and Debswana board chairman wrote in a letter dated 11th September 2017 that, “with respect to the concern that Debswana does not wish to consider either options without negative effects compared to the Scannex machines, Debswana position is that there is no other proven technology which we are aware of that can detect diamond material concealed on or within the human body. We believe that Scannex is safe as it is also used in hospitals.”  Search data however suggests that Morupisi may be telling the truth. An independent investigation and internet search by the Sunday Standard confirmed Morupisi’s insistence that there is no technology on the market that has been proven to detect diamond concealed in the human body.

Magosi further suggests that Debswana was economical with the truth in its campaign to promote the use of Scannex technology. He states in his letter: “It is correct that Scannex has been used for a long time in South Africa and Namibia. The fact that is not being told here is that Scannex is installed at De beers mines who are also by extension, owners of the technology through their relations with the manufacturer.  It is also known that other renowned Mining Corporations around the world and security agencies are banning the use of Scannex in their operations on the account of threat to health due to ionizing radiation in the body system.” Magosi as is characteristic of his savingram however does not disclose the names of mining corporations that have banned the use of Scannex technology

The Debswana chairperson on the other hand states that, “our position with respect to the concern that the use of Scannex is being banned in other countries, is that the machines are being used in countries such as Poland, United Kingdom, the United States of America, Tanzania and Congo. Scannex has also been successfully used to screen people in neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Namibia viz: Finsch Mine, Kimberly Mine, Cullinan Mine, Venetia Mine, Namaqualand mines and Namdeb. Debswana intends to implement the use of these machines in a strictly monitored manner with full regard to the health of its employees, while safeguarding the security of diamonds.””Sunday Standard independent investigations could not raise any public information on any mining corporation that has banned the use of Scannex technology. Instead, there is only information that Lodox, which is part of the Scannex technology, is used internationally by hospitals in the United States of America, Taiwan, Venezuela, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Further investigations have revealed that 13 Lodox machines are currently in service in South Africa, primarily in public hospitals and in public units too. The low x-ray dosage of the technology is reported to be safe for patients, pregnant women and children.

Morupisi further states that, “we have noted the concern that the Scannex devices are to be sourced from a company related to De Beers. The Scannex machines will be purchased from De Beers technologies (DebTech) the specialised diamond technology division of De beers, which Debswana utilises for some of its own research and the development of requirements. DebTech has developed the Scannex technology over a long time, hence it being in active operation at De Beers operations in South Africa and Namibia.”

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.