Masisi Calls for Diamond Industry Reform Amid Dispute with De Beers

  • “We must refuse to be enslaved,” he says, sounding ever more strident and determined. “If this issue costs me electoral victory, then so be it.”



In a speech delivered in Mmadinare, President Mokgweetsi Masisi voiced his concerns about the current agreement with diamond mining giant De Beers, highlighting the significant financial losses incurred by the nation under it.

The President emphasised the urgent need for reform, asserting that as a major global diamond producer, Botswana should benefit more from its valuable natural resource.

Under the existing agreement, Botswana sells its diamonds to De Beers in a raw, unprocessed state. President Masisi said this state of affairs results in massive loss to the nation every year.

Global diamond producer

“We have learnt a lot from our relationship with De Beers, including the fact that we lose $15 billion every year by selling our diamonds raw without beneficiation,” he noted.

“We are a major global diamond producer, both in terms of value and quantity. We should therefore benefit more. Our benefit from the potential $15 billion is at most $8 billion.

“Further beneficiation of our diamonds into gems and jewellery is worth $100 billion. Where is our benefit from there? Clearly our agreement with De Beers is very limiting for us and we must either get a better deal or walk away completely. We must refuse to be enslaved.”


Comparing the situation to cattle ownership, President Masisi said a herdsman cannot claim greater ownership or benefit from the cattle he tends to.

At once disclosing and lamenting the agreement’s stipulation that disputes should be resolved under British law, the President said Botswana signed the deal out of ignorance when the country was still finding its feet in the comity of nations.

“According to the agreement, our differences should be resolved under British law,” he said. “We signed out of ignorance because we were a new economy but we will soldier on. We can decide to surrender and settle for crumbs or fight to the bitter end.

British law

“Even if we lose the dispute under British legislation, our diamonds will remain ours and we will never back down. I am not a coward and I refuse to allow Batswana to be robbed on the basis of an agreement that we entered into because we didn’t know any better. If this issue costs me electoral victory, then so be it.”

De Beers is a multinational company that specialises in diamond exploration, diamond mining, diamond retail, diamond trading and industrial manufacturing.

The company is active in open-pit, large-scale alluvial, coastal and deep mining. It operates in 35 countries, including Botswana.


De Beers’ major shareholder is Anglo American, which owns 85 percent of the company. The remaining 15 percent is owned by the Government of Botswana.



De Beers Group and its partners produce around one third of the world’s rough diamonds by value.

The mining giant sells rough diamonds to global diamantaires through its diamond trading and auctions businesses. It sells polished diamonds and diamond jewellery via its Forevermark and De Beers Jewellers businesses.