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LESEDI LA RONA: Iconic diamond name displeases some Batswana

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Some Batswana are not happy with the winning name for the 1,111 carat gem quality diamond that was recovered on November 16, 2015 in Botswana. Lucara Diamond, a diamond mining company operating at Karowe Mine in the country, announced that the diamond has been named “Lesedi La Rona” which means ‘Our Light.’ The winner of the competition is Thembani Moitlhobogi who hails from Mmadikola village and has received a prize of 25,000 Pula for the name.

Those not happy with the chosen name argue that Lesedi La Rona is rather a three-word phrase than a proper name and feel cheated as they were given the impression that Lucara wanted a one-word name the way naming is done in Botswana. Some who claim to have been close to the winning name argue that instead they only sent in the word ‘Lesedi’, which means ‘Light’, as they never imagined a phrase could be accepted by the name competition organisers and judges. 

On January 18, 2016, Lucara launched a competition to name this spectacular Type IIa diamond, the biggest diamond ever recovered in Botswana and the second largest ever found in the world. The competition was open to all Botswana citizens including the company’s Batswana employees. Entrants were invited to submit their suggested name and their rationale for their choice. More than 11,000 entries were received. To ensure transparency and independence during the name selection process, the audit firm of Ernst & Young were retained to oversee the competition. The judging panel consisted of a total of five executives from both Lucara and the Karowe mine. Entries were submitted to the judging panel on an anonymous basis with Ernst & Young retrieving the winner’s name after the panel had selected the winning name for the diamond.

One such complainant, Tumo Siele of Mmathethe village said he had actually thought of submitting the names ‘Lesedi La Batswana’, which means ‘The Light of Batswana’, as well as ‘Lesedi La Sechaba’, translated ‘The Nation’s Light’, but felt his submissions would not be accepted because these were phrases. “I ended up submitting ‘Lesedi’ as it sounded more like a real name with many Batswana also using it. That’s why I feel cheated because if I had not confined myself to a single word, I may have won,” the 14-year old junior secondary school student said.

Others who shared their views on facebook felt it was also too common a phrase the diamond deserved a better name. However, many others have praised the winner, even finding it a perfect fit as he comes from a Boteti sub district from which the diamond was recovered.

William Lamb, Lucara’s CEO and President commented, “The outpouring of pride and patriotism shown by all the participants in the contest was incredible. The diamond industry has played a vital role in the country’s development, allowing for significant and ongoing investment in world-class healthcare, education and infrastructure. “Lesedi La Rona” symbolizes the pride and history of the people of Botswana.”

The diamond was first given a generic name Karowe AK6 after the mine (Karowe) and the pipe (AK6) where it was found. Thembani stated that his reason for the name was that “the diamond is a pride, light and hope of Batswana”.

The exact value of the stone cannot be determined until it is decided how it will be cut and more details about its colour are known. Former diamond-mining geologist Phil Swinfen estimates, based on other similar sales, that the stone could be sold for $40–60 million. The process of selling and cutting the diamond will likely take years to complete.

THE WINNER: Thembani Moitlhobogi pictured with his wife after receiving the P25 000 prize money for his name

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