Coltart and Gukurahundi conspiracy against Mnangagwa

Coltart and Gukurahundi conspiracy against Mnangagwa
Published: 31 January 2018 (306 Views)
Last week, opposition politician and lawyer - one of Zimbabwe's few politically active white men - David Coltart, published on his blog a statement "on Rhodesian atrocities, his time in the BSAP and an apology for his role in sustaining an unjust system of government, which discriminated against people of colour".

The 1 000-word statement was then circulated widely on social media and privately-owned media. In it, Coltart denies killing or torturing blacks during his time in the British South Africa Police, and claims that the only incident he encountered a guerilla death was when he was asked to dump the body of a slain fighter in a disused mine shaft. He pleads that he was young, at 17, and that his conscription was mandatory.

He then goes on to "unreservedly condemn the atrocities committed by the Rhodesian regime . . . the unjust system of governance in Rhodesia" and "for the role that I played in propping up a racist regime as a young man in the police". Coltart says he does "deeply regret" his failure to stand with blacks, coloured and Asian friends.

"I have repented before God and ask for forgiveness from the millions of people whose lives were terribly affected by that dark period in our history," he purports.

Lastly, he suggests the need "for a truth commission, which covers atrocities perpetrated by and against all races going back to at least 1965 (when UDI was declared) and up to the present day".

Coltart's "apology" needs to be looked at in its proper context. It is coming at a time when there is a deliberate and systematic local and international attempt to raise, in 2018, the issue of the Gukurahundi, a codename for military and security operations that took place during dissident and insurgent disturbances in the early years of Zimbabwe's independence nearly 40 years ago.

In that conflict, civilians were caught in the crossfire, resulting in injuries and deaths of innocent people through acts of commission and omission by various actors, including foreigners. The victims were people of different ethnicities and races: Ndebele, Kalanga, Shona, and white people, including tourists.

It is a dark period in Zimbabwe's history, which was supposed to be comprehensively healed in 1987, when the main political protagonists — Zanu-PF under the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe and the late national hero Dr Joshua Nkomo,-PF Zapu's leader — signed the Unity Accord on December 22.

The Unity Accord, among other things, provided for an inclusive national Government whose power configuration reflected converged national interests. Leaders had identified the dangerous extent of conflict and had travelled the country and affected areas to build consensus and peace.

But, as we have come to observe and experience, the process may have not been adequate and papered over deep divisions in national politics, psyche and soul. The nation needed something more comprehensive than the kissing and making up of political leaders.

There were issues of post-traumatic therapy, personal and community healing, restitution, compensation, social support for families and orphans and so on, what is now being called transitional justice.

To the extent that these things were not addressed adequately, comprehensively and with finality, there could have been some failure of political leadership at the time. However, the success of the processes of the time is reflected in the lasting peace and national unity that subsists today.

We are left with deep psychological issues, though, underlined by strong feelings of anger and tribal resentment. These may even trump material and existential differences among Zimbabweans.

With the fluid political developments in Zimbabwe, it has increasingly become norm for certain politicians to raise the issue to mine political capital out of Gukurahundi. These actors seeking political capital out of the dark past have ranged from individuals to organisations seeking to exploit the deeply emotive issue.

This is where our Coltart comes in. At one level, he is approaching the matter as some white missionary-messiah standing up for the oppressed people of Matabeleland. He may be doing so to compensate for his role in the murderous Rhodesian regime.

Coltart was one of the authors of the controversial Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace report that documented alleged atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands. The report itself put the number of civilian fatalities at 1 791 deaths, but Coltart wants to tout 20 000, a racially contrived pseudo-scientific figure that is in turn peddled for political purposes and perhaps to wash the guilt of whites like Coltart who were part of a racist killing machine.

The second level to understand Coltart's abuse of Gukurahundi relates to an emerging conspiracy against President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is just two months into office.

The conspiracy involves the political lynching of President Mnangagwa by local and international opponents that seek to reopen wounds of the so-called Gukurahundi and lay the blame for the operation solely on President Mnangagwa whom the world must believe was the custodian and enforcer of the operation.

This seeks to advance the incredible view that President Mnangagwa, then State Security Minister, acted alone and above the then Head of State and Commander-in-Chief and other arms of Government, including the Fifth Brigade, which was the military unit deployed to restore order and pacify dissident activity.

This conspiracy to open old wounds is based on the calculation that President Mnangagwa is popular and unstoppable, not least that the main opposition party is in disarray, that the only way to stop him is to stoke fires of tribalism based on a historical incident of over 30 years.

Coltart sees himself leading this cause and leading secessionists, disgruntled former Zanu-PF officials such as Jonathan Moyo, opposition and other forces that can be ranged against President Mnangagwa. To do this, Coltart had to offer an apology and wash his hands clean of Rhodesian atrocities.

It will be critical to note that, even then, he is dishonest and does not disclose the full extent of Rhodesian atrocities, limiting them to Nyadzonia. He is silent on Chimoio. He is silent on Tembwe, Mkushi, Freedom Camp, among other refugee and training camps and rural "butchers" where blacks were killed.

Rhodesians used chemical and biological war against guerillas and civilians. Rhodesians herded black Zimbabweans into concentration camps where they died by their numbers. Blacks killed during the war by whites and Rhodesian forces like Coltart have been estimated at 50 000. And that is not a figure plucked from thin air.

Yet, Coltart only puts across a paltry figure of an "estimated 1 028" (apparently less than the stated Gukurahundi fatalities) to be accounted for at Nyadzonia (even then, the figure is understated for the over 3 000 recorded by other sources.) This is how duplicitous Coltart is.

The third and final level to understand Coltart's statement is to view it as an object to undermine the Government process of redress that will soon take place through the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, which comes into effect following the signing of the enabling Act, has the following functions:

(a) to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation;

(b) to develop and implement programmes to promote national healing, unity and cohesion in Zimbabwe and the peaceful resolution of disputes;

(c) to bring about national reconciliation by encouraging people to tell the truth about the past and facilitating the making of amends and the provision of justice;

(d) to develop procedures and institutions at a national level to facilitate dialogue among political parties, communities, organisations and other groups, in order to prevent conflicts and disputes arising in the future;

(e) to develop programmes to ensure that persons subjected to persecution, torture and other forms of abuse receive rehabilitative treatment and support;

(f) to receive and consider complaints from the public and to take such action in regard to the complaints as it considers appropriate;

(g) to develop mechanisms for early detection of areas of potential conflicts and disputes, and to take appropriate preventive measures;

(h) to do anything incidental to the prevention of conflict and the promotion of peace;

(i) to conciliate and mediate disputes among communities, organisations, groups and individuals; and

(j) to recommend legislation to ensure that assistance, including documentation, is rendered to persons affected by conflicts, pandemics or other circumstances.

Coltart wants to undermine such a comprehensive programme and to gain relevance. Government must resolve the issue once and for all to heal the nation and shut out chancers like Coltart.

- the herald

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