Botswana: Debswana MD Race Shenanigans

3 February 2021

Behind the scenes boardroom shenanigans have taken centre stage at Debswana Diamond company, as the search for the substantive Managing Director enters the final home stretch.

Information gathered by this publication from highly placed sources at the global diamond mining giant have revealed that there is a deliberate plot to get rid of the two general managers for Jwaneng and Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines (OLDM) Messrs Koolatotse Koolatotse and Bakani Motlhabani respectively. "There is a plot to sweep out the old guard which is associated with the late Albert Milton and fingers are pointed at the two GMs," sources alleged.

While Motlhabani is regarded as a potential candidate for the MD position, Koolatotse is viewed as a dark horse but the two are said to be influential in decision making as they are regarded as products of Debswana.

"Debswana has a standing culture of always believing and trusting those that they have trained and the two were sponsored by the diamond company from BGCSE at Maruapula School until tertiary education," revealed the source.

The Acting Managing Director who is in pole position to take over as the substantive for Debswana and becoming the first woman to lead the diamond company, Lynette Armstrong, is alleged to have ordered a lifestyle audit on Koolatotse and Motlhabani.

The audit is said to be led by Head of Internal Audit, Mmametsi Setlhare and some are reading malice over the audit of the two GMs who are her immediate subordinates, second in command in the hierarchy at Debswana.

Both Setlhare and Armstrong worked together at BCL Mine in the Finance department. "While is normal to do audit on the executive, this one raises eyebrows as it comes at a time when the board is about to make determination on the next GM," revealed a source at the diamond mining company.

Already some of the targeted executives have been sent some short messages warning them about the impending audit. "Guys I must tell you today, your sins are to pronounce citizen empowerment with much vigor and unapologetic voices. Should the planned frivolous audit miss you, watch out for your social life! You're disturbing a very powerful and deeply rooted cartel," reads a short message text (SMS) sent to the targeted executives.

Koolatotse, who was appointed GM Jwaneng Diamond Mine in 2018, denied ever applying for the MD post, saying he is relatively new in his position and still has a lot to learn and make his mark. Further, Koolatotse denied ever receiving any warning about a looming lifestyle audit on him or any executive in the business. "I am not aware of any impending lifestyle audit in the company, which could affect me," said Koolatotse.

Koolatotse confirmed being a strong proponent and supporter of the Citizen Economic Empowerment policy that advocates for economic empowerment of locals by being awarded contracts in the value chain of the business. He is not apologetic about it, he vows. "We have to empower Batswana and allow them to participate in the mining industry and this we will achieve at Debswana," he said, confidently.

In a brief response late Friday, Motlhabani declined to comment on the allegations. "Kindly contact our head of Corporate Affairs as she is mandated to speak to the media," he said.

Debswana Corporate Affairs Manager - External, Agatha Sejoe also dismissed allegations of a suspected witch-hunt saying they are not aware of any on-going lifestyle audit in the business. "In reference to your enquiry, please be informed that Debswana is not aware of such an audit, therefore we have nothing further to share," she said in her short response.

This publication wanted to know if it is true that the acting Manging Director has instructed Head of Internal Audit to conduct a lifestyle audit on Koolatotse and Motlhabani and what led to that decision. Although she had been asked about the candidacy of Koolatotse and Motlhabani for the MD post, Sejoe did not answer the question.

The citizen economic empowerment policy (CEE) which has seen contracts of some foreign entities terminated is said to be not sitting well with some companies. The leadership of companies that lost Debswana businesses in recent times are said to be adamant that executives aligned to the late Milton are behind their termination. "There is a deeply rooted and powerful cartel which has some former senior government officials in their books, which is not happy with the CEE policy at Debswana and want to get rid of all its proponents," revealed a source.

Most of the former and current senior government officials are said to have been benefiting from foreign companies as they facilitated their coming to Botswana and registration process and recruitment of personnel.

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