David Coltart: 'why I cannot join Tsvangirai's faction'.

Author:Coltart, David
Position:ZIMBABWE: Sponsored supplement - Morgan Tsvangirai, Movement for Democratic Change

Last year, David Coltart (pictured), a former Rhodesian police officer and now the MDC's white MP for Bulawayo South, wrote a piece for the website, NewZimbabwe.com, explaining why he could not join Morgan Tsvangirai's faction of the MDC. His major reason: Tsvangirai's faction has a propensity for violence and has not taken any action to discipline its members who had used violence in the past. In fact, it had rehired members who were expelled or suspended for using violence against fellow MDC members. Coltart's piece undermines Tsvangirai's recent claims that he doesn't "believe in violence" and has "on many occasions restrained [his] supporters from being violent".

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Moments after Morgan Tsvangirai walked out of the national executive meeting on 12 October 2005 [at which the MDC split into two], I proposed that the remaining members of the management committee meet with him urgently to convey our continued support for him as MDC leader and our desire to accommodate his concerns.

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During October, November and December [2005], I met with and wrote to MDC national executive members in both factions urging them to refrain from making the vitriolic statements that so badly exacerbated the tensions between the two camps.

For example, on 12 November, I met with Tsvangirai in Bulawayo and urged him to rein in those in his camp making divisive and inflammatory statements. On 19 November, I met with Gibson Sibanda, Gift Chimanikire and Job Sikhala. I urged Sibanda, likewise, to rein in those in his camp and I challenged Chimanikire and Sikhala regarding some of the statements made by them.

I repeatedly wrote and spoke to Eddie Cross during October, November and December about some of his newsletters which in my opinion exacerbated tensions between the two factions.

Believing that the unresolved intra-party violence was one of the main stumbling blocks to reconciliation, I put forward proposals to both Tsvangirai and Sibanda in November and December 2005 as to how that issue could be dealt with.

When it became apparent to me in January, for reasons I will elaborate on below, that those proposals would not be accepted, I accepted that reconciliation was unlikely. I, however, made a few further attempts to reconcile. I met Tsvangirai and a few leaders of his faction in Bulawayo on 27 January 2006 and urged those leaders who were responsible for making divisive statements to stop.

I met with other leaders in both factions in January and early February 2006, but by mid-February, it was clear that both factions were determined to go ahead with their respective congresses and that the holding of separate congresses would end any hope of reconciliation.

Accordingly, on 20 February, I wrote identical letters to both Tsvangirai and Sibanda advising them that I would attend neither of the congresses and would not seek office in either faction.

I offered to assist with others to mediate a settlement between the two factions. In doing so, I did not offer to arbitrate (in other words, I did not suggest that I be given any power to decide finally on the various contentious issues).

I concluded by recognising that both leaders would have to await their respective congresses and the election of respective national executives before responding to my offer. I also said that once the mediation process was over, I would then have to decide on my own political future.

Both letters were hand delivered. On 29 March 2006, I received a letter from [Professor Arthur] Mutambara's faction accepting my offer to mediate. Having not heard from the Tsvangirai faction, I spoke and wrote to several national executive members of the Tsvangirai faction to ask them whether the issue had been discussed.

Eventually on 2 May 2006, I received a letter from Tendai Biti, in his capacity as secretary general of the Tsvangirai faction, rejecting my offer to mediate. I can but speculate why my offer was rejected.

One of the reasons given by Tendai Biti was that I was not neutral, something I readily concede and indeed made mention of in my original letters to Tsvangirai and Sibanda. I pointed out that no one is genuinely neutral, and I am no different, but some have to at least try to mediate if litigation is to be avoided.

Other national executive members of the Tsvangirai faction I have spoken to, state that they found themselves in a Catch 22 situation. If they agreed to mediate, that would undermine their claim that there is in fact no division and therefore no need for an amicable divorce (with the corollary that the Mutambara faction is not a faction at all but just a small renegade breakaway group), and yet if they turned me down on those grounds it would appear petty in the minds of MDC supporters who are generally distressed by the divisions and who would like the dispute to be resolved amicably.

Political violence

The reasons for the split in the MDC are numerous and complex. It has become a deeply emotive issue and many are so entrenched in their positions that they have stopped listening. Accordingly, it will serve no purpose to enumerate or analyse all the reasons for the split.

I will simply deal with what is for me personally the key issue, namely, our commitment to non-violence in waging this battle against tyranny. I reiterate that there are many other important issues involved but our approach to this particular issue is pivotal for me.

I have had the misfortune of experiencing two civil wars in Zimbabwe. As a teenager, I saw the horrors of war firsthand during the liberation struggle. As a young lawyer, I had to represent many victims of the Gukurahundi and my wife, a physiotherapist, had to treat many of the injured.

These experiences made me vow that I would do all in my power to prevent further conflict in Zimbabwe. Those experiences taught me to be very sceptical of elderly politicians who are very happy to sacrifice the lives of gullible and impressionable youths to achieve their own political ends.

Zimbabwe is afflicted with a disease akin to alcoholism, namely, endemic violence. For well over 150 years, leaders of this beautiful country bounded by the Zambezi and Limpopo have used violence to achieve their political objectives.

Violence was used by...

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