Cabinet's decision to rename Francistown International Airport after the late former Botswana People’s Party (BPP) leader, Philip Gaonwe Matante has divided public opinion, with many accusing the ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP) of seeking to gain political mileage ahead of national elections due in four weeks.
The current BPP leader, Motlatsi Molapisi told this publication that even though they whole heartedly accept such a decision to rename the international airport after PG -as the late Matante was popularly known, the timing is very suspicious as the country is about to go to the much anticipated general elections slated for October 23. “As the BPP, we are convinced that Matante should have long been honoured by naming one of the public institutions after him, considering his immense contribution to the development of this republic. We once tabled a motion in Francistown City Council requesting that Mahube Primary School be named after Matante but the ruling Botswana Democratic Party councillors used their numerical advantage to shoot down the motion. The late Matante is one of the pioneers of the present day Botswana,” Molapisi said.
The veteran politician further held that the late Mathomola Modise once came up with a proposal that Nyangabgwe referral hospital should be named after Matante but once again, the proposal was rejected. Molapisi opined that the BDP was not willing to name any institution after Matante since he was an opposition politician.
According to Molapisi, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government did not consult the late Matante’s family and his party before the decision was taken. He is of the view that a proper consultation could have been done prior to the decision being taken. “The decision was taken quickly because President Mokgweetsi Masisi is trying every trick in the book to canvas for votes for the ruling party to retain power. Masisi is under pressure to retain his presidency and he can see that the opposition is now posing a real threat. To me these are the last kicks of a dying horse since the BDP will be dethroned at the upcoming election,” he continued, predicting that once the airport has been renamed, the BDP could start using the issue during their campaigns particularly in places where Matante is well known.
Molapisi who is also the coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Chairperson, indicated that in 1962 and 1963 Matante addressed the United Nations committee on decolonisation demanding immediate independence for Botswana but such important historic information is deliberately omitted just because Matante was an opposition activist. He showered the late Matante with praises saying he advocated for Botswana to have its own currency adding that Matante was the one who came up with the motion for the formation of Botswana Defence Force.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to officiate at the event to rename the international airport in mid-October. Matante was the first Member of Parliament for Francistown in 1965 under the Botswana People's Party. He was also the leader of opposition in parliament from 1965 to 1979.