Following an unusual amount of media speculation, De Beers and Botswana are trying to avoid discussing their ongoing contract negotiations in public, the two parties said in a joint media advisory that seemed to signal increased confidence about a new deal.
“In view of the fact that the [Botswana] government and De Beers are currently in the midst of important negotiations, they will not be participating in any panel discussions arranged by private individuals or organizations to discuss these matters until such negotiations have been concluded at the end of June 2023,” said the advisory, co-signed by De Beers CEO Al Cook and Emmah Peloetletse, permanent secretary to Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi.
“Those who will be participating in such discussions do not represent the views of the Botswana government nor De Beers Group,” it added.
It was not clear if the advisory was aimed at any particular planned discussion. However, former De Beers Botswana CEO Sheila Khama posted a notice on Twitter that a “diamond debate” planned by the Botswana Editors Forum had been called off.
“Many of the panelists had announced [at] the eleventh hour that they were no longer able to continue,” it said. “In the end, the atmosphere had become too toxic for a fair and robust exchange of public views on an asset that is an economic mainstay of the country.
“The fact that this muzzling of a public debate happens on a week to celebrate media freedom is indeed a sad day for Botswana.”
A De Beers spokesperson tells JCK the media advisory was meant “to reiterate the fact that, given that we are currently engaged in negotiations with government, and therefore bound by confidentiality commitments, we are not participating in public commentary about the negotiations.”
The government of Botswana did not respond to inquiries from JCK by press time.
The Botswana-De Beers advisory said the two parties “welcome constructive debates about the critical role that diamonds play in the socioeconomic development of Botswana … Open discussions on the role diamonds play in Botswana’s future are important, and to this end both parties look forward to sharing and discussing the principles of their agreement once it is concluded.”
De Beers and Botswana signed their last agreement in 2011. It was set to expire in 2021, but has been renewed three times, with the latest renewal due to run out in June.
In February, Masisi made headlines by suggesting that the five-decade-old relationship may be on the rocks. “If we don’t achieve a win-win situation, each party will have to pack its bags and go,” he said. Since then, he has said Botswana “desires to continue strengthening and reinventing her relationship with the De Beers Group.”
This article has been updated to note the cancellation of the “Diamond Debate.”
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