FRANCISTOWN: Legislator and deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Pono Moatlhodi has refused to directly address calls for him to be suspended.
Moatlhodi, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tonota, is accused of assaulting a 12-year-old boy on January 30, 2019, in his own constituency.
The matter is before the Francistown Magistrate’s Court. Lately, there has been mounting pressure for the ruling party to suspend Moatlhodi in order to prioritise clearing his name.
There have also been relentless calls for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to suspend another one of its members, the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs and Gaborone Bonington North MP, Annah Mokgethi.
Mokgethi has been ordered by the court to produce records in a case in which she has failed to account for the estate of a dead man.
“Talk to the party spokesperson. I am not the party’s spokesperson,” was Moatlhodi’s curt response when The Monitor attempted to get his position concerning calls that he should step down to focus on clearing his name.
Moatlhodi was reminded that the matter directly involves him, but he interjected saying, “I said I am not the party spokesperson. Talk to the party spokesperson”.
While Moatlhodi engaged with The Monitor, Mokgethi did not respond to questions sent to her WhatsApp number on Friday. This is despite the fact that she appeared to have seen the messages as they were blue-ticked.
She also did not answer her mobile when she got her phone rung. Several attempts were also made to contact her mobile phone on Saturday, but it rang unanswered.
Moatlhodi left the Umbrella for Democratic Change and rejoined the BDP after falling out with the Leader of Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando over his court matter. Saleshando had suspended Moatlhodi as opposition whip in order to allow him to handle the assault case.
Moatlhodi did not take kindly to the suspension as he was infuriated by Saleshando’s move. At the time he said that he felt disrespected. Many believe that the suspension precipitated the Tonota legislator’s move to the ruling party.
The ruling party chief whip Liakat Kablay said yesterday that the party caucus is yet to discuss the matter relating to Moatlhodi and Mokgethi’s legal woes. There were reports that some MPs were pushing for the matters to be discussed at a Parliamentary caucus late last week.
Sources say that the general thinking amongst BDP legislators is that Moatlhodi and Mokgethi should be suspended from the party as well as from their roles as speaker and minister respectively, to allow them time and space to clear their names.
“Maybe the issue will be raised and discussed at the party caucus in the near future. We had a party caucus last week Tuesday and the issue did not crop up,” Kablay said.
BDP spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse referred The Monitor to secretary-general Mpho Balopi when asked if the party intends to take action against the two besieged legislators. Balopi was not available for comment but Kentse confirmed that he had also alerted him about The Monitor inquiry.
Calls for the party to suspend Moatlhodi and Mokgethi are informed by precedence set by the BDP. Early last year, the BDP slapped Nata-Gweta legislator, Polson Majaga with a 60-day suspension after he was arraigned on charges of defilement before the Nata Magistrate’s Court. The suspension was later made indefinite.
The party stated that Majaga was suspended to enable him to clear his name in the wake of the charges levelled against him. Majaga would later be cleared. Also, the party’s Francistown East branch secretary, Boikanyo Bateng was recently suspended after he was arraigned in court for defilement by the Francistown Magistrate’s Court.