The Debswana Orapa and Letlhakane Mines General Manager, Seb Sebetlela, recently made a passionate plea to Batswana to support the government’s efforts and use whatever platform is availed to them to praise the country’s diamonds as “diamonds for development”.
Sebetlela diverted from the program of events at a recent Debswana ceremony to make an appeal to Batswana to take it upon themselves to fight tooth and nail in protecting the precious resource that has contributed to so much development in Botswana. He told the gathering that while Botswana diamonds have generally sold well in international markets, they face stiff competition from other diamond producers in the world.
“At the same time, buyers set strict rules and regulations, especially on origins of the diamonds, mining procedure, ethics and mining standards,” he said. He added that the buyers insist on knowing the mode of mining, interaction with the community, safety and society and whether there was any influence from unscrupulous characters.
Sebetlela also said that it is a fact that some countries produce diamonds of questionable origins, use child labour to produce such diamonds and then use the proceeds from the diamonds sales to fund wars and corruption. He reiterated the government’s stand that evidence is there for all to see that Botswana’s diamonds are strictly for development.
”We are presently embroiled in efforts to refute false allegations by some people in the international community, who are looking to labeling our diamonds as blood diamonds. It is important for Batswana to join us in this fight because protecting the integrity of our diamonds should not be the responsibility of Debswana only,” he said.
He urged all Batswana, as the rightful owners and custodians of the diamonds, to work hard to deter those who are trying to tarnish the good name of Botswana diamonds.
”We must, at every opportunity, stand up and vocally declare the purity of our diamonds and the integrity of Debswana operations because our diamonds are mined according to standard and using ethical means,” he said.
Sebetlela said that the media, in particular, must join the chorus and sing the song of Botswana’s diamonds for development.
This passionate appeal for support comes in the wake of recent announcements by Survival International Director Stephen Corry that they will launch fresh campaigns against Botswana after the government failed to live up to the landmark High Court judgment which granted Basarwa the right to return to the CKGR. SI had suspended its campaign against Botswana as it was still observing if government would comply with the judgment.
After the short lull, the London based Survival International has come out with guns blazing, categorically stating that they will be launching yet another onslaught against the Botswana government.
Before the landmark case between the government and Basarwa, SI was at the forefront of a bruising campaign during which it lambasted government for forcibly removing Basarwa from the CKGR claiming that it was a move meant to improve their lot while, in fact, the forced removal was to pave way for diamond mining. At the height of their campaign, SI called Botswana diamonds blood diamonds, lumping them with diamonds from some African countries, which are used to fund civil wars. Backed against the wall, the Botswana government also launched a defensive campaign, hiring a public relations expert to improve the country’s international image and courting the patronage of influential personalities to vouch for local diamonds. On the home front, President Mogae appealed to Batswana to invoke their patriotism and stand tall to fight an enemy whose actions, if left unchecked, could cripple the country’s economy.
But it seems that after a short hiatus, the war against SI has not ended and, once again, Sebetlela has led the call to arms, urging Batswana to unite and rally behind their leaders in defense of the one commodity that drives Botswana’s economy: diamonds.
Responding to a questionnaire from The Sunday Standard, Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Clifford Maribe, dismissed Cory’s threats saying that the government will continue to provide the public and the media with the true facts of the CKGR relocation and other true facts relating to the welfare of remote area communities in the country. He said that they are happy to note that those who have made an effort to establish the facts can attest to government’s good intentions, urging those in doubt to come and establish the facts first hand.
Maribe went on to state that Corry and his Survival International have found a cash cow in the CKGR issue as they entirely depend on and use the relocation issue as an avenue through which they can raise funds.
”They beg for donations from unsuspecting members of the public, particularly in the UK and other European countries, under the pretext that the money will be used to improve the welfare of Basarwa,” he said, adding that SI uses some targeted journalists whom they regularly feed with false information to publicize and amplify their false allegations.
“For as long as they can personally benefit from these deceitful activities Corry and his advocacy group will never stop their smear campaign,” he said.