Saturday, September 19, 2020

There is need for a Truth Commission on the diamond industry!

Making sense of information recently released by the diamond industry’s longtime insiders like former Minerals Minister David Magang and former Debswana senior employee, Todd Majaye, is an awfully difficult, heart-wrenching task that could drive any patriotic citizen to tears.

Just how was it possible that a whole nation was led astray by a few self-seeking mercenary-like individuals?

In the end, however, one inevitably comes to the conclusion that no single economic sector in this country has been run in a more terrifyingly untruthful trajectory than the diamond sector.

In fact, the deeply ingrained levels of dishonesty, trickery and lies in that industry are reminiscent of the mafia underworld.

The biggest problem is that over the years we have had a government that treated people like animated toys, especially when it came to the diamond sector.

Because of its seedy past, the industry shall forever remain under uneasy suspicions of corruption, however hard it tries to reinvent itself.

The industry shall forever be haunted by the ever present spectre of suspicion that people in positions of influence ganged up against the nation to pursue narrow self-serving interests.

Of course, there is need for a fresh start, and, as a nation, we should applaud what seems to be traces of a turnaround in the mindset.

But it will be difficult for the industry to exorcise itself of the ghostly demons brought about by public murmurs that over the years some powerful interests and personalities were bribed to peddle a reprehensible lie that in Botswana diamond beneficiation was not an option.

It will take a crack scientist to be able to calculate the accumulated loss to the nation in both real terms and opportunity cost as a result of this lie.

One shudders how many people would go to jail if a genuine inquest were undertaken into how the whole nation was duped so much for so long.

Whatever efforts were made to venture into downstream mining activities were often made halfheartedly, reluctantly and grudgingly by those in power.

All efforts were made to ensure that such ventures were frustrated and deliberately failed, as they were never given a chance.

Now that is criminal; especially given the lost opportunities from which the country will never fully recover.

It is lamentable that the lie that downstream activities were not viable was allowed to smolder on unabated until quite recently when personal friendship ties that bound together the key peddlers crumbled and set them against one another.

Exactly how it has been possible that this small crowd ÔÇô for all their material power and influence – was for so long allowed not only to swindle the nation but also replay unfettered their multiple distortions and betray the country into all sorts of wrong directions remains a mystery.

This clique’s breathtaking ability to contemptuously dismiss evidence of the country’s potential to use its mining wealth to create jobs through the establishment of cutting and polishing centres has robbed the nation of massive opportunities.

The role of the country’s Minerals Council in the whole episode also needs to be determined and clarified.

These are senior government officials who, by virtue of their positions, decide on the direction, orientation and parameters of the country’s mining laws and agreements.

Did it not appear weird that a country that prided itself as the world diamond miner had no diamond related industries to show for it?

Did it not strike the powers that be as criminal that decades on the world’s most celebrated diamond miner still country could not produce a single expert who understood in detail the industry’s intricacies beyond just surfing the ground for rough stones.

Over the years, the nation was fed the nonsense that diamond cutting and polishing in Botswana was not sustainable.

All of a sudden now we are told that cutting companies are lining up to set up shop in Botswana.

To win back the public confidence, there is need for truth telling.

Before the nation forgives, the public should be told what motivated the small group of decision makers to drive the nation astray into the darkness and against all sense of patriotism.

A truth-telling exercise in the mould of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is in order.
At that particular forum the nation would be told what has since happened to make the argument so forcefully peddled by De Beers, Debswana and government to immediately lose currency.

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