Former Education minister David Coltart is a victim of Zanu PF politician Jonathan Moyo’s acerbic rants on social media, which always have racial undertones.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
President Robert Mugabe does not hide his disdain for people like Coltart and once encouraged his supporters “to drive fear into the white man’s heart”.
The MDC secretary for legal affairs has also been repeatedly accused by Moyo of being a former member of the infamous Selous Scouts, or a Rhodie, as part of crass tactics to silence him.
Yet Coltart remains one of the most vocal opposition politicians in Zimbabwe as he uses social media to speak truth to power.
He is one of the few still standing after the likes of former MDC-T treasurer-general Roy Bennett were driven into exile through persecution by Mugabe’s government.
Coltart said he had been able to stand the heat because of his love for Zimbabwe.
“It is quite simple really,” he said. “First of all, I was born in Zimbabwe and have lived here my entire life, so I know nothing else.
“Secondly, I have a deep passion for Zimbabwe which enables me to put up with a lot of abuse.
“Thirdly, I get so much encouragement from all Zimbabweans, right across the racial spectrum, that enables me to put Jonathan’s vitriol in perspective — he represents a tiny minority of embittered men.”
The former Senator has a proud track record in post Zimbabwean politics after representing members of late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu at the height of the Gukurahundi atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands in the 1980s.
Former National Healing minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, who is also a Zipra war veteran, said the reason Coltart remained relevant in local politics was because he was above race.
“The best I would say of him is he has his head screwed in the right place over his shoulders, he is an honest, frank and forthright human being who points out people’s mistakes, not because they are black or white, but because such things have to be said,” Mzila-Ndlovu said.
“He stuck his neck out at a time when the environment was extremely hostile to white Zimbabweans and here was a Rhodesian who was saying he accepted the new order but wanted the authorities to stick to their side of the bargain under the call for national reconciliation,” Mzila-Ndlovu said.
“His activities with the CCJP [Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace] and representing a lot of people who were being persecuted by Mugabe under the emergence measurers adopted from Ian Smith impressed me most.
“He has been called all sorts of names, even by his own kith and kin, but has refused to be drawn into racial fights — maybe because of his Christian upbringing and legal background.”
CCJP was instrumental in documenting the Gukurahundi atrocities, where an estimated 20 000 civilians were killed by the Fifth Brigade.
Mzila-Ndlovu said despite his track record in fighting for the down-trodden, Coltart had been abused by fellow opposition figures, especially during the 2005 split of the MDC. Coltart then joined the faction led by Welshman Ncube.
“Even white colleagues were not happy with his stance against [Morgan] Tsvangirai’s [MDC-T leader] excesses and move to overrule the national council over participation in senatorial elections,” Mzila-Ndlovu said.
“Some whites wanted to smuggle into the MDC struggle their supremacist agenda, but Coltart stood his ground on principle and said there would be no reason to oppose Mugabe, if we were to allow Tsvangirai to ride roughshod over collective and electoral decisions even within the party.”
Coltart’s struggles mirror those of other white politicians that have remained active in Zimbabwe’s political terrain.
Former Mutare mayor, Brian James, who was singled out by Zanu PF officials because of his skin colour, said he was fighting for a Zimbabwe that does not discriminate people because of their race.
“Home is home and one always wants to positively help to the development of their country. It is a belief in doing the right things that drives me and being fair to the ordinary people,” James said.
“The abuse, as you might have noted, takes different tones but we continue to do what we can to make sure the rights of the people are observed without regard to their colour.”
James bemoaned MDC’s failure to stand up for Bennett as he was hounded out of the country for daring to challenge Zanu PF misrule.
He revealed that the former Chimanimani legislator was a bitter man.
“Roy is basically in exile along with at least four million others, but they remain as Zimbabwean as you and me,” he said.
“They hanker for home and country of birth. Bennett has lost an enormous amount of money and is as disappointed as I am.
“He is disappointed at the way he was treated within the party.
“He believes the party did not do enough when he was jailed for kicking out at Didymus Mutasa and the scuffle that involved [Finance minister] Patrick Chinamasa,” James added.
“He is also of the belief that not enough was done by the MDC-T to fight for him when Tsvangirai had nominated him to be his choice of deputy Agriculture minister and Mugabe rejected the proposal.”
Mugabe refused to appoint Bennett into his Cabinet after the formation of the inclusive government and never gave reasons.
In the run-up to the 2000 elections, Bennett — popularly known as Pachedu — was dispossessed of his thriving coffee farm before he was jailed for eight months following a brawl in Parliament.
Former Marondera MP Ian Kay, who has also been targeted by Zanu PF because of his race, said his political career was based on principle.
He said some white Zimbabweans were forced to support Zanu PF because of persecution, instead of principle.
“Those who are in Zanu PF are in there for the money, they are allowed to operate and in a round-about way make money out of the party. They therefore get preferential treatment from those in power,” Kay said.
His wife Kerry, a former top MDC-T official, said she had also suffered at the hands of fellow opposition activists.
“At the height of the splits in the MDC-T, mainly due to leadership challenges, yes, I did take flak from some members which was disappointing, but that is to be expected,” she said.
“As for insults from Zanu PF people, yes, there are individuals who were racist and derogatory about whites, but that is their well-known rhetoric.
“One has to rise above such insults. I have never been racist — unfortunately racism is mostly only seen as white against black, but it works both ways.”
She does not regret her 14 years of commitment to the MDC-T cause and fighting for democratic change, but is not happy with the way the party treated her.
“In the final analysis we are all Zimbabweans. My husband was born here, speaks Shona better than most black Shonas, so there is no reason we cannot take part in the governance of the country. He is indigenous.
“I don’t care if whites want to join Zanu PF, it’s their democratic right.
“However, I feel that it is as a means to their own selfish ends because they are benefitting by keeping their land and homes, making money and basically being a part of the ongoing cycle of corruption and beneficiation.”
A few white Zimbabweans such as Timothy Stamps have remained in Mugabe’s corner despite his rhetoric about their race.