Monday, June 1, 2020

What’s in store for the new Minerals PS – Mmetla Masire?

BY KABELO SEITSHIRO

Whilst many Batswana graduates could, without ease paint a picture of how it feels to be jobless for the longest time, there is one man who can do the same except that his version would be about being unemployed for the record shortest time.

This man is Mmetla Masire ÔÇô the former Chief Executive Officer at the Water Utilities Corporation who has since been named the new Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Green Technologies.

Masire’s appointment comes three months after the former PS at the Ministry -Cornelius Dekop quit the post for a job outside Botswana borders.

Hardly a month after Dekop’s departure, Masire also left WUC under unclear circumstances ÔÇô a move that was pinned to a fallout between him and the board of directors.

Whilst confirming his departure in June 2019, the WUC Board of Directors denied that Masire was being pushed out. Without giving reasons for non-renewal of his contract the Board Chairman – Noble Katse did however confirm that Masire’s contract had not been renewed.

Fast forward to July 2019, hardly a month after failure to secure a new contract with WUC, Masire now finds himself elevated to an even superior position at the government enclave.

“I am aware of my appointment and at this stage I cannot share the details. National service calls are good generally,” said Masire on Friday.

TOUGH TASKS AHEAD…

The departure of Dekop and subsequent arrival of Masire happens at a very critical time at the ministry of minerals. Key decisions, particularly concerning mining are set to be taken.

Botswana is set to engage with global diamond mining giant ÔÇô De Beers Mining Company on talks relating to sales and marketing of the country’s precious stones.

The diamond rich Botswana is set to engage in intense negotiations with De Beers over the sales agreement due to start in 2020 ÔÇô when the current ten-year sales agreement reached in 2011 expires.  The two partners have already started talks over a new deal. While it’s expected that the government will extract strong concessions from De Beers, details have been lacking.

There has been swelling concerns that Botswana could be getting a bad deal, and at worst, being cheated on by its long term partner technical partner. However, in March 2019, Minerals Minister – Eric Molale reiterated that despite the negotiations being confidential, the nation should be assured that they negotiate to achieve an outcome that is in the interest of Batswana, adding that, the issue of transparency does not arise not that of compromising Botswana’s position.

As a PS in the minerals ministry, Masire is as such expected to play a key role and even sit on the government negotiating team. Another immediate task for Masire is the recruitment and subsequent appointment of a Chief Executive Officer for the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB). The company is co-owned by De Beers and Botswana government and closed down its doors to its former Chief Executive Officer ÔÇô Tabake Kobedi in May 2019 after allegations of sexual relation with a minor.

Also on the files before the new PS is the Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) ÔÇô a state owned company that independently sells diamonds from Botswana. The company is set to make a decision on the model to sell a polished diamond named ‘The Okavango Blue’. The Okavango Blue was discovered at the Debswana’s Orapa mine in 2018 and is up to be sold.

Still within the minerals department, Masire can expect to face a tough task of reshaping another state owned entity ÔÇô the Minerals Development Company Botswana (MDCB). In mid June MDCB suspended key of its personnel amongst them Chief Executive – Toby Frears, Director Human Resources Ms Matilda B. Mangole as well as the Technical Specialist Dave Scott.

The suspended chief Executive – Frears who was previously at Okavango Diamond Company took over from South African national – Paul Smith who left the company unceremoniously mid April 2017.

MDCB is a mineral investment enterprise wholly owned by the government of Botswana and has been established to hold and develop all of the government mining interests. Part of its role is to optimise returns to government from its equity stakes in the mining industry.

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