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Matlhabaphiri bounces back to Cabinet

Staff Writer
In what could be viewed as a reconciliatory move, President Ian Khama has reappointed Molepolole North Member of Parliament (MP) Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri to the Cabinet.

Matlhabaphiri is one of the influential members of the Barata-Phati faction of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and is close to the party chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe. 

Matlhabaphiri, or Gas, as he is popularly known in BDP circles, has been appointed assistant Minister of Health, replacing Maxwell Motowane who has been deployed  to the Ministry of Trade and Industry in the same capacity.  Motowane has replaced Dorcas Makgato-Malesu who has been promoted to head the Ministry of Trade and Industry. 

She takes over from veteran economist Baladzi Gaolathe who has stepped down due to ill health.  Gaolathe, who was previously the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, has not been well lately.  Last year, former Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) direct Kenneth Matambo was appointed to act after Gaolathe went on sick leave. After the general elections, Gaolathe was moved to the Ministry of Trade and Industry while Matambo held the fort at the finance ministry.

Matlhabaphiri held the same post just before the general elections.  But after the elections, President Khama dropped him from the Cabinet following an acrimonious BDP congress, which was held in Kanye last July.  Khama did not appoint members of the Barata-Phathi faction to the Cabinet after last year's general election.

During the countdown to the BDP congress, Khama made it clear that he was not willing to work with members of the Barata-Phati faction.  The president frustrated the Barata-Phati members who won the BDP central

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committee elections, to the extent that they were forced to resign. Khama took decisions without consulting with other members of the central committee who were predominately associated with Barata-Phati.  Former BDP secretary general Gomolemo Motswaledi was suspended for five years due to his differences with Khama.  Last year, there were reports that BDP MPs who are associated with the Barata-Phathi faction had hatched a plot to connive with the opposition MPs  and vote for specially elected MPs of their choice.  This was after the BDP had submitted its list of specially elected MPs.  Khama is said to have got wind of this plan to sabotage him.  Just before Parliament convened, Barata-Phati MPs received calls from the Office of the President (OP), informing them about their imminent appointment to the Cabinet. The Barata-Phati adherents abandoned their plan with opposition and voted for the party approved list of the proposed specially elected MPs. The opposition MPs were thus left in the lurch.  The Barata-Phati MPs accused one another of betrayal. When the Cabinet posts were announced, Barata-Phati MPs were not included.  But since last year, Mmegi has learnt that there have been talks behind the scenes to reconcile the BDP factions.  But one of the demands of the Barata-Phati faction is that their members should also be included in the Cabinet.  Last year the BDP experienced one of its worst feuds that threatened to split the party. 



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