Botswana threatens to cut ties with De Beers

Botswana threatens to cut ties with De Beers

Botswana threatens to cut ties with De Beers

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Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi has warned that his country may sever ties with diamond giant De Beers if talks to renegotiate a sales deal prove unfavorable to his government.

The country is Africa’s leading diamond producer, and Masisi called on the nation to rally behind his government as it tries to hammer out a better deal.

A 2011 sales agreement governing terms for the marketing of diamonds produced by Debswana, a 50-50 joint venture between the government and De Beers, which auctions most of the gemstones, was set to end in 2021.

It was extended by the parties citing the outbreak of coronavirus as the reason for the delay to conclude negotiations and it will run through June 30, 2023.

“If we don’t achieve a win-win situation each party will have to pack its bags and go,” Masisi said at a rally of his ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in his home village, Moshupa, about 65 kilometers from the capital Gaborone.

Masisi said he was kickstarting the campaign for the 2024 legislative election, adding that Botswana was facing a “Goliath” as far as the negotiations were concerned.

Under the 2011 agreement De Beers sold 90 percent of diamonds while Botswana auctioned 10 percent through its Okavango Diamond Company. In 2020, Botswana’s share was raised to 25 percent.

Now “we got insight into how the diamond market works and we discovered that we had been receiving less than what we should get,” said Masisi, who spoke both in English and the local Tswana language.

“We also discovered that our diamonds are making a lot of profit and that the [2011] agreement had not been
beneficial to us.”

“We are upping the stakes because we want a larger share from our diamonds. It can’t be business as usual,” he warned.