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Debswana somersaults on ‘spygate’ saga

Diamond mining giants, Debswana, have made a u-turn on their earlier claim that they had nothing to do with spying services by private investigators, Infotrac.

In their new claim filed before a Gaborone High Court last Thursday, Debswana says the spying equipment was used for investigating diamond dealings.

While their lawyer, John Carr-Hartley, did not quite elaborate on how that did not border on the invasion of the employees privacy, he told the court that the equipment was not regularly used. “Debswana’s version on the spy equipment is that the covert surveillance is not regularly used. It is only used when investigating illegal trade of diamonds,” he said, contrary to assertions by Infotrac Managing Director Mompoloki Motshidi who responded: “I was given a brief by the heads of security that the equipment would be for intelligence on mine workers union members.”

When trial began last week, Motshidi told the court that he was engaged by Debswana to supply spy equipment and acquire intelligence on mine workers union employees.

These, according to Motshidi, were intended to be installed at offices, private vehicles and private homes of the union employees.

The new statement by Debswana in court is also in contrast to an earlier comment they gave The Voice Newspaper back in 2020.

The Voice had sent a questionnaire to Debswana regarding allegations that they had acquired the equipment to spy on their employees.

In an email response by Head of Corporate Affairs, Rachel Mothibatsela, Debswana said. “With regard to purchase of spy equipment, Debswana does not sanction its security spying on employees. Furthermore, senior leadership is not aware of any spying on employees, nor would such be sanctioned. Knowledge regarding the purchase of the alleged equipment came out as a result of the whistle-blowing report received, as well as the ensuing investigation.”

Whilst back in 2020 they denied this, Debswana went head and suspended and eventually fired heads of security involved in the matter before the court.

Debswana is currently embroiled in a P110 million lawsuit, with Infotrac demanding payment for spy services rendered, which they maintain was an agreement between the private investigators and the Debswana employees in their personal capacities.

The defence has since closed its case and trial resumes this week with former Debswana Managing Director, Balisi Bonyongo taking the stand.

@sharonmathala
sharonm@thevoicebw.com