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READY FOR THE CHALLENGE

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KEEPING FINGERS CROSSED: Pono Moatlhodi

Pono Moatlhodi discuss drawn daggers in the fight for Tonota

The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Pono Moatlhodi, who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Tonota South has refuted allegations that he was not in the running for the 2014 general elections.

Moatlhodi who is expected to face Thapelo Olopeng, a close acquaintance of President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, says he was not  worried about the challenge. He says although some of his ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members were seemingly still suffering from “factional hangover,” the party, at grassroots level is united and ready to vote for him in the next year’s primary elections.

Q. Are you going to contest for the BDP primary elections?
Of course. Of course! I have long made it known that I will be back and the constituency knows that. I have from time to time rebutted these allegations that I will not be contesting. I have even told people through kgotla meetings that those who tell them that I am not interested in contesting, are not telling the truth. I will contest like everybody else.

Q. But where do the rumours originate from?
I wouldn’t call them rumours but rather green lies perpetrated by those who wish to see themselves as Members of Parliament for Tonota South constituency.

Q. I am told that your chances of winning are very slim given that you would be contesting against the President’s preferred man, Thapelo Olopeng.
That is another lie. Whether I would be standing against the President’s man or not, quoting your language, I don’t care.
It is the voters who will decide who to vote into Parliament. Ours is a democratic governance, of the people, for the people and by the people. The people will decide, come 2014.
I don’t have to wear any golden or maroon jacket for the constituents to know me. They know me as Pono Moatlhodi.
I have served them diligently and I still intend to continue representing them.

Q. In essence are you saying that you don’t feel threatened?
Exactly. I am not threatened and nobody is going to intimidate me.

Q. But seemingly Olopeng has an early start in as far as campaigns for 2014 are concerned because I hear he has been distributing new blankets to some pensioners in your constituency. Don’t you feel disadvantaged in that regard?
That is true. Naturally I feel disadvantaged not threatened.
It looks like he is allowed to do it, but we don’t know who is allowing him.
I have written a complaint letter to the central committee about the matter and we are yet to see what kind of action would be taken against him.
According to the Party regulations if one starts campaigns before they are open, they can either be warned not to continue doing so or in severe cases they can be vetted out and barred from contesting the next elections.

Q. Is that why you haven’t started the campaign?
I have to be seen to be obeying the law because I am the man on the chair. I am more experienced than all these other aspirants.
I can not copy them for I don’t know their intentions and their backup. When they continuously break the regulations they are probably covered and I do not have what they have.
What I have is Setho (Humanity) and respect for the law.
To answer your question, I am simply handicapped by the law,  so I will  just wait for my time to come and then I’ll start campaigning.
Like I said, I don’t have to blow trumpets for people to see my existence. They know me. I am their leader.

Q. By the end of the current Parliament you would have served three terms or at least 15 years in Parliament. What is your most outstanding achievement to date?
I have brought into existence the much talked about Tonota Sub District, taxi rank and many other infrastructural development. There is a lot that I have done for the people of Tonota South and for the whole nation as a legislator.

Q. When the BDP split and resulted in the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) you were among the leaders who were expected to join the latter, but you never did. What happened?
Factions were cancelled from the party and that is when our loyalty to Barataphathi stopped.
It is true that I used to be a member of Barataphathi but I never had plans to join the BMD and I never made a promise to join it.
I hate factionalism. The reason why the opposition won some of the BDP stronghold constituencies and wards in the last elections was because of factionalism.
We really had to end it before it brought crisis in our beloved party.

Q. You hate it! But you were actively involved in the Barataphathi faction.
Well others were also active in their A-team faction, so during those days you could not survive outside a faction.
It was a defence mechanism because A-team had its own pressures. You had to belong in either one of the factions for you to be cushioned.
Many of us did not have a choice because we needed support, so you either got it from team A or B.

Q. I am told the factions are resurfacing again within the BDP and this time around they are allegedly even more fierce that before. Tell me about it?
It is only suspicions and I am one of those people who suspect that there are some people in the party who have begun to brood such wrong ideas, but we have our eyes and ears wide open to guard against such irregularities.

Q. But what can you do about factions? How would you prove your cases against factionalists when factions do not have name registers?
We would report those who entertain the idea by acting contrary to the party’s expectations.
Our party has structures in place. Let’s take primary elections for instance, if you create a lobbyist for primary elections, you would be advocating for a faction and that is contrary to the party’s wishes.
That is why the party no longer have lobby lists for congress elections.
We view those who secretly do it with suspicion because there are some who still suffer from factional hangover.

Q. But just recently lobbyists were produced and used to campaign for the BDP’s National Youth Executive Committee elections. Don’t you think that did not reflect the very efforts that you are talking about?
I did not attend the youth elections and did not follow the campaigns for simple reasons that I did not want to be blamed for meddling in youth affairs. I always want to keep my hands clean from matters such as these, so I cannot comment on that one.

Q. Alright then. Let’s talk about the standing orders of Parliament. Don’t you think they are outdated?
The standing orders were recently reviewed. They were like that since 1965 until the iron lady, the sterling lady, the wonderful lady, Margaret Nnananyana Nasha took over as Speaker of the National Assembly in 2009.

She came up with brilliant ideas like the Friday session. Come to Parliament on a Friday, Members of the house would be having a field day grilling Ministers with question, holding them to account due to Nasha’s initiating of Ministers question time.

She brought in a representative from the House of Commons in the United Kingdom to come and share with us what their house does and what we could adopt to make ours more interactive and open, basically to bring our style of debate to international standard.

Q. Yes. It is a good initiate. Are you happy with the dress code?
Yes, it is still a jacket and tie.  Nasha prohibited the wearing of party emblems, so no more small party coloured brooches on the jackets.

Pono Moatlhodi
HOPEFUL: Moatlhodi

Q. Are you aware that Journalists are not allowed to use laptops to take notes during the debates while the whole world is talking technology and e-governance?
Of course. All visitors are not allowed to use electronic devices in Parliament. Journalists are also our visitors.

Q. But they are not just visitors. They are there to take notes and news to the people and laptops make news processing faster and efficient.
Journalists are part of visitors. We have our own electronic devices that are making the life of this Parliament tick and when you bring your own gadgets, the chances are you would interfere with our system.

Q. How?
So you haven’t heard that electronic devices can cause the system to jam! Forget it. All the electronic devices have to be switched off, it is the standing orders. Whether you are a Journalist or not,you have to abide by the standing orders.