Charismatic MP for Tonota Pono Moatlhodi left his colleagues in the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) dumbfounded when he broke ranks with them and took sides with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) during the Friday morning session.
During a debate on whether to put a motion by Bobonong MP Taolo Lucas – calling for the establishment of a Social Justice Commission, Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) called for a division which will result in secret voting. However, Vice President Slumber Tsogwane opposed the suggestion, arguing that the number of voices which were against the motion was enough and there was no need for a division.
Opposition MPs supported the proposal for a vote but to their utter dismay Moatlhodi, who is also the Opposition Chief Whip, agreed with Tsogwane that there was no need for division. “There is no need for division because it is very clear that this house has voted against the motion. We must continue with the business of the house,” he said to a deafening applause from BDP MPs.
This did not sit well with Lucas who pleaded with the Speaker to declare a division. His plea was heeded but the motion was ultimately defeated by 28 votes against 12.
Whilst still smarting from Moatlhodi differing with them, Lucas had another rude awakening when he asked that one of his motions be deferred to a later date, saying he has communicated with the minister responsible. Little did he know that his colleague will berate him. The motion called on the Government to do away with deterrent compensation paid to farmers whose livestock has been put down as a foot and mouth control measure and instead introduce market equivalent compensation for such farmers.
Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Beauty Manake stood up and said that they were ready with response to the motion but Lucas insisted that he has spoken to the minister. Mmolotsi in his usual witty element said that maybe there is confusion at the Ministry of Agriculture and that Minister Dr Edwin Dikoloti should confirm that indeed he has spoken to Lucas about the motion.
“We must take the business of this house seriously and we know the procedure that when the assistant minister has given an answer there is no need to call on the minister to explain, let us not be childish,” hit out Moatlhodi.
This is not the first time that Moatlhodi broke ranks with his colleagues at UDC as he once put his name for the position of the deputy speaker only for him to withdraw on the floor of Parliament after he failed to get endorsement from them. Moatlhodi – former deputy speaker – was recently made the acting speaker of the National Assembly becoming the first opposition MP to occupy the seat.
One furious UDC MP, who refused to be named, said that it is high time Moatlhodi re-joins the BDP. “He is embarrassing us and is always reprimanding us as if we are children and today he went overboard,” he said, seething with anger.