PRESS RELEASE OF FULL SPEECH TRANSCRIPT
I am pleased to be here on this important occasion and delighted to welcome to Botswana and to Orapa so many distinguished guests.
PRESS RELEASE OF FULL SPEECH TRANSCRIPT
PRESS RELEASE OF FULL SPEECH TRANSCRIPT
I am pleased to be here on this important occasion and delighted to welcome to Botswana and to Orapa so many distinguished guests. The opening of this Mine is a major achievement in the history of our nation. Orapa is the first really significant mining project to be established in Botswana. And it constitutes a most important stop forward in the diversification of our economy. The opening of Orapa has ended our hitherto almost total dependence on beef as our biggest revenue earner and export commodity.
It is very easy when looking at the Mine as it is today to underestimate the painstaking efforts which went not its creation. I am thinking of the many years of exploration work which preceded its establishment, and in particular of the record speed at which the Company worked to bring the mine into production. I should like, therefore, to take this opportunity to express to all who were involved in its tremendous exercise - and I mean all of them, without any exceptions - the appreciation of the Government and people of Botswana for the energy and skill expended in pursuit of this project. I want to say also how pleased I am that Government and De Beers have, despite occasional differences, succeeded in establishing a frank and friendly basis for our negotiations over the establishment of the mine and the taxation and marketing arrangements. I am confident that the same spirit of co-operation will continue to be a feature of our working relationship.
Now that the problems of exploration and of the establishment of the mine have been overcome, it is all too easy to assume that we can simply sit back and enjoy the numerous benefits that his project will bring us. After the long years of hard work, uncertainty and rising expectations that preceded the discovery and ultimate establishment of this mine, it is very tempting to adopt such an attitude about its future. Some of us may find it difficult, perhaps understandably so, to admit that after such a dramatic breakthrough, there could be any more thorny problems ahead; but there are. And I should like today to say a few words about some of them.
I should like to speak first about the need to ensure that workers at this mine do not enjoy benefits from their employment that are unnecessarily out of proportion to those of workers and farmers in the rest of Botswana. This, of course, is in line with the recent Government Papers on Rural Development and Incomes, Price and Profits. The two Papers reaffirm the Government's intention on ensure that the benefits of development are spread equitably throughout our country, thus helping to bridge the gap in living standards between the urban and the rural areas.
What this means for Orapa, as for our other major industries in the private sector, is that the basic salary levels for all employees of this mine, without any exceptions, must be determined by reference to a common standard or yardstick, namely, that of the salaries paid in the public sector. And I should like to impress upon you all that we are not, by insisting on this, begrudging you the full rewards that you are entitled to as employees of this most profitable venture. We are merely appealing to your sense of commitment to the well-being of all the people of this country, and asking you to help us turn Botswana into a better place to live, in, not only for the privileged few, but for all its people. For if a few arrogate to themselves all the benefits of development they will not be allowed much time to enjoy them.
Let me now speak on another matter which will need our constant attention - that of illegal diamond buying. And when I say "our attention" I do not mean the attention of the Government and the company alone, but also that of all the people of Botswana. I am saying this because illegal diamond buying is an evil of national concern. To sell Orapa diamonds illegally is nothing less than to rob the people of Botswana of the rewards which they are entitled to get from the exploitation of one of their most important natural resource.s It is not only the De Beers Company and the Government of Botswana which suffer as a result of illegal diamond buying, but also the people of Botswana. And I say this because every diamond sold illegally means a loss to Government of revenue which is desperately needed to build schools and hospitals and roads for our people.
This Government is determined to spare no effort in the fight against those who engage in the criminal business of illegal diamond dealing. We shall work closely with the mining company in our campaign to wipe out the illegal diamond traffic. To this end, the Government is training a special section of the Botswana Police to deal with the problem with the thoroughness and vigilance which it requires. Illegal diamond buying, as I have already stated, poses a serious threat to the welfare of our nation. It is essential therefore that this evil should be tackled vigorously, and with absolute firmness and determination.
I shall turn now to the question of labour relations. The labour movement in Botswana is a relatively young movement; and the Government is concerned to encourage its development. This will require enlightened leadership as well s understanding and co-operation on the part of both workers and management. Above all, it is very important that employers and employees in this country should always regard themselves not as enemies or rivals but rather as partners in a national effort to create throughout our nation healthy and constructive industrial relations. For it is only on the basis of such relations that Botswana's workers and their employers can contribute effectively to the development of our country.
As I have just said, healthy labour relations require enlightened leadership on the part of both employers and workers. But while the need for such leadership has always been appreciated in so far as trade unions are concerned, it has not always been so with regard to management. The newly opened Trade Union Centre in Gaborone will, it is expected, put leadership training among its top priorities. But it is no use training an enlightened trade union leadership if there is no corresponding effort at training on the management side - I would be a very good thing indeed if all employers in Botswana would appreciate the importance of enlightened personnel management and management training as a contribution to the development of harmonious labour relations in our country. It would also be a good thing if industries which depend heavily in the initial years on expatriates in senior positions would provide orientation courses in depth to ensure that local conventions and the aspirations of Botswana workers are understood.
To the workers I have this to say: Government supports your efforts to organise yourselves into a representative, responsible and effective trade union movement. But you must understand that the objective of an organised labour movement is not only to promote the narrow interests of its members. It also haw a responsibility to the nation as a whole. And so do all its members, Progress swill be made in the emerging mining and related industries if workers discipline themselves, apply themselves to their work, are punctual and do not absent themselves without leave. I am aware that some local workers have not always maintained the high standard which the nation expects of them. Workers on night shifts are in the habit of visiting Letlhakane and other near-by villages during the day, with the result that they go to work in the evening without rest or steep. This has adverse effects both on safety and productivity and cannot be tolerated. Freedom to organise carries with it responsibility - responsibility to your fellow-workers and to the nation.
But it is not only trade union leadership and management training which matter. It is very important also to train local people in the various skills required to run modern industries. We would like to see citizens of Botswana involved at every level in the running of the various industries now being set up in our country. Botswana industries cannot and must not forever depend on expatriates to do all their skilled work and only employ local people for unskilled work.
I am well aware of and very much appreciate the personal concern of the Chairman of De Beers and the Anglo-American Corporation, Mr. Harry Oppehheimer, that people should be employed strictly according to merit, and that once employed their scope for advancement should be limited only by ability. We regret that it has so far not been possible, for obvious reasons, for Mr. Oppenheimer to implement his enlightened ideals in his own country. I know that he takes comfort in the fact that he has here next door in Botswana ample opportunity to put these ideals into practice. De Beers is already doing much to train local people for skilled jobs in the mining industry. This is as it should be and it is to be hoped that the company's example will be followed by other companies which have invested in Botswana.
The last question on which I would like to speak to you today is the important one of race relations. The Botswana Government has time and again expressed its intention to build a non-racial society in this country. We are determined to create in Botswana a society in which nobody will be discriminated against because of the colour of their skin. We are very much aware of the need for harmonious race relations, living as we do next to countries in which racial intolerance is the order of the day. 'And we have gone out of our way to make the non-African members of our society feel at home and secure among us.
On the whole we are pleased at the way most of the white members of our society have adapted themselves to the situation in Botswana. We have noted with pleasure how even most of those among them who came to live here from countries which believe in white supremacy have accepted our way of life and are co-operating with us in building our nation and the kind of society we are pledged to create.
But I am sorry to say that there are others among the white members of our society who apparently are not prepared to adapt themselves to our non-racial policies. I should like to remind all such people, wherever they live in Botswana, that my Government's intention to build the Botswana nation into a truly non-racial society is a very firm one, in pursuing this objective, we shall not allow anything or anybody to stand in our way. Those who are not prepared to co-operate with us in this regard will find that there is no place for them in our society, and will be required to leave us in peace.
These, then, are the few issues I wanted to speak to you about today. None of them is peculiar to Orapa; they are all issues of national concern. My remarks here today are therefore not aimed solely at the people of Orapa but at the people of Botswana as a whole. My intention is to alert the people of Botswana and those who are working among us to some of the problems which our nation already face, and which will become intensific as the pace of industrialization quickens.
The achievement which we can see around is breath-taking. I have been advised that Orapa is the finest planned diamond mine in the world and I can well believe it. We must all new work together to establish a reputation for Orapa as the most efficient and harmonious mine in africa.
I should like to say again how pleased I am to have been invited to take part in this historic ceremony. And it now gives me great pleasure to declare one Orapa Mine officially open.