Umbrella for Democratic Change legislator Pono Moatlhodi has once again been appointed the Acting Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.
The Tonota Member of Parliament (MP) will hold down the fort for substantive Deputy Speaker Mabuse Pule for an unspecified period.
Moatlhodi’s appointment comes at a time when there is growing speculation about his possible return to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) following a recent fall out with his party and Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando.
The two fell off following the Umbrella for Democratic (UDC)’s decision to suspend Moatlhodi from his position as Opposition Chief Whip over criminal charges filed against him. He had allegedly assaulted and injured a minor in 2019 for stealing a neighbor’s mangoes.
Saleshando announced they had dropped the Member of Parliament for Tonota as Chief whip pending his court case.
MP for Shoshong Aubrey Lesaso was appointed as the Interim Chief Whip until Moatlhodi’s court case is decided. The Botswana National Front constituency branch also slapped Moatlhodi with a 60-day suspension pending a disciplinary hearing. The suspension letter accused the veteran legislator of disrespecting the coalition UDC and Vice President Saleshando.
Moatlhodi protested the suspension as Chief Whip citing the “disrespectful” manner in which his suspension was effected saying Saleshando announced it in Parliament without prior warning. He threatened to dump UDC protest, saying he could not be in the same party as Saleshando.
Moatlhodi, who has previously served as Deputy Speaker during his time as a BDP legislator, threatened to leave the UDC following the fall out.
Speculation has been growing that the BDP intends to recruit the legislator with the aim of appointing him to the position of Deputy Speaker permanently with the current Deputy Speaker Pule taking over a cabinet position. It’s not the first time that Moatlhodi takes over as acting Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly having been appointed earlier this year and becoming the first opposition MP to occupy the seat.
Moatlhodi had another fall out with his fellow opposition legislators late 2019 when he put his name up for nomination as Deputy Speaker of the 12th Parliament. He eventually withdrew his interest after failing to get endorsement from both his party and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. On Monday when Moatlhodi finally ascended to the deputy speakership, the BDP MPs did not oppose the appointment giving signals that preparations are ahead of schedule to finally hand over the seat on permanent basis in exchange of the elderly MP crossing the floor.