PARIS — Iman has become the focal point in a disagreement between De Beers and Survival International, a London-based charity.
This story first appeared in the August 14, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The businesswoman, former supermodel and recently appointed spokeswoman for De Beers LV, has been approached by Survival International to champion the cause of the Bushmen of Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The charity claims the government is forcing the Bushmen to leave the reserve because of diamond deposits in the area.
De Beers operates Botswana’s mines in partnership with the country’s government through a company called Debswana.
“Survival believes the reserve’s diamond deposits are the principal reason behind the evictions,” the charity said in a statement. “Under international law, the Bushmen are the rightful owners of their land: it is likely that in the government’s eyes, this puts at risk future exploitation of the deposits.”
“What we have asked [Iman] to do is, number one, raise the issue of the eviction of the Bushmen with De Beers and her friends in the fashion industry,” said Jonathon Mazower, campaigns coordinator at Survival International. “Second, we’ve asked her to make known her opposition to the eviction of the Bushmen during interviews.”
But Iman isn’t jumping in so fast. “I am not going to take on the [cause] of Survival International,” she told WWD Tuesday. “I had never heard of the Bushmen’s plight before July and I’m trying desperately to educate myself on the situation.”
Iman added: “Up to today, Aug. 13, I have not yet found any wrongdoings on behalf of De Beers.”
Iman said she’s been on “a mission to find the truth” and that she has already consulted with Glenys Kinnock, co-president of the African, Caribbean and Pacific/European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly and Labour’s spokesperson for international development in the European Parliament, who informed her that “diamonds are not responsible for the resettlement.” Iman added that she will also contact the Botswana Center for Human Rights.
Iman said she has not reconsidered her contract with De Beers LV. “I haven’t thought about it, as I haven’t found any wrongdoings,” she said. “If I had thought about it, it would mean that I have a suspicion.”
De Beers and the Botswanan government have denied any link between the relocation of the people and diamond mining.
“We must emphasize most strongly…that the resettlement program has nothing to do with the use of the country’s diamond resources,” De Beers said in a statement.
“[The Bushmen] are moved in order to empower them with a sustainable livelihood,” said G.L. Rebagamang, first secretary at the Botswana High Commission in London. “It has nothing whatsoever to do with diamonds.”