Reflections on David Coltart’s apology

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It is sixty days since the inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa as the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe on the 24th of November 2017. In his inauguration speech, he promised visible changes within the first hundred days. Let us look at the issues and the progress thus far.
It is interesting to note that the political culture in Zimbabwe and indeed in the diaspora towards our politics has changed. In fact, an online poll pitting Mnangagwa against Morgan Tsvangirai saw a reversal of fortune for the previously popular Tsvangirai in the diaspora.
It is, however, disheartening to note that the opposition has now resorted to gutter politics in their quest to remain relevant in a political environment that is increasingly rendering them irrelevant.
The Gukurahundi question at Davos
Over the last few weeks, Mnangagwa has been scoring quite well in the diplomatic offensive to put Zimbabwe back on the global map and domestically to get Zimbabwe working again. At the Davos meeting, Mnangagwa was asked by BBC interviewer, Mishal Husain, the Gukurahundi question and if he would apologise for it. He answered it well.
Mnangagwa confirmed his role as State security minister and that he did not trivialise the issue but that he wants Zimbabwe to learn from it as we move forward. He has put in place enabling legislation, the National Peace and Reconciliation Act to allow this issue to be investigated and his government will stand guided by its recommendations. It is on the backdrop of this development that we must look at the David Coltart apology.
The David Coltart Apology
In a statement posted on social media entitled, ‘My Statement regarding Rhodesian atrocities, my time in the BSAP and an apology, David Coltart, attempts to sanitise his role in the murderous Ian Smith regime. He does this by downplaying his role as a police officer in the BSAP (British Southern African Police) by taking responsibility for only throwing the ‘dead body of a guerrilla down a mineshaft’. Coltart’s explanation for how this ‘guerrilla’ died, is gunfire exchange between ‘Rhodesian forces’ and the guerrillas.
A bit difficult to believe, here is why. He is at pains to distance himself from the actual conflict between the Rhodesians forces and the Guerrillas. He was merely a junior police officer for two years, he says. Is it not strange that a junior police officer would be tasked with disposing of a dead body down a mineshaft if you were not part of the murderous unit? I find that very hard to believe.Advertisement

In his statement he makes reference to his book, in which he condemns the atrocities committed by the Rhodesian regime, the Nyadzonya massacre, he confidently states authoritatively in his statement, the body count of that massacre was about 1028 men. This is not true.
A simple research online will tell you that based on documents made available to the United Nations, 31000 Zimbabweans were killed by Rhodesian Selous Scouts through the systematic use of chemical and biological warfare though international conventions on armed conflict prohibited their use. Now, if David was not a politician he may have got away with that rudimentary apology based on the distortion of history. There is a common saying, ‘those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’.
Coltart’s apology is tied to his political ambitions. It is a poor attempt to upstage Mnangagwa by being ‘the first’ to apologise for perceived atrocities. The truth of the matter is Coltart is indeed a war criminal who has distorted the body count of the Nyadzonya massacre by the Rhodesian forces to sanitise his political ambitions. This kind of creative rewriting of our history must be condemned by all right-thinking Zimbabweans.
The indigenous people, those affected by these atrocities need to write their history correctly and pass it down to our children. It is foolhardy to think that people like Coltart, a man who was part of that Rhodesian institution of repression and murder should tell us what truly transpired. We have a similar challenge with regard to Gukurahundi.
Gukurahundi question
The Gukurahundi issue must be understood in the context of a political conflict between the two leaders of Zapu and Zanu in post liberation war politics. The differences between Nkomo and Mugabe after Lancaster were the catalyst to the conflict that followed. I will talk about the details of that conflict another day, suffice to say the ensuing conflict was a dark period in the history of Zimbabwe.
I will focus on the political solution. It is instructive to note that the unity accord was the political solution to the conflict as represented by Mugabe and Nkomo. They both sat down and realised that it was the Zimbabwean citizen in the Midlands and Matabeleland that was being affected by their political difference. The two-vice presidency arrangement in the constitution is symbolic of this solution. The downside to this political solution was that it failed to deal with the actual victims of the conflict on both sides of the conflict. The National Peace and reconciliation act signed in into law by President Mnangagwa to deal with this aspect of the conflict will go a long way.
The National Peace and Reconciliation Act
Within the first 30 days of his tenure, Mnangagwa assented to the National Peace and reconciliation bill. Its terms of reference include the Gukurahundi conflict with a view to bringing closure to the matter.
It would also be in the national interest for the inquiry which falls under one of the vice president’s office be given a wider mandate to cover pre-independence conflicts that include but not limited to the Chimoio and Nyadzonya massacres.
It would be a tragedy if we don’t have an all-inclusive inquiry with the broad mandate to hear evidence from the likes of Coltart with regard to the ‘real’ role they played in the human rights violations of the Smith regime. A comprehensive all-inclusive investigation in all the atrocities will bring about the envisaged national peace and reconciliation.
In our sincerity as Zimbabweans, we need to find a better way to compete politically. The tragic situation we find ourselves in, we use sad and conflicted events in our history for political mileage. This will only have one outcome -conflict. The people of Zimbabwe are aware of the real body counts in our history of conflict, be it be Chimoio, Nyadzonya and Gukurahundi.
And until we truly know and document what really transpired at Nyadzonya, Chimoio and Gukurahundi from our own Zimbabwean perspective, the victim perspective through information gathered by our own people, not international proxies, former Rhodesian Selous Scouts or NGO’s who generally will have an agenda for their investigation. They will sanitise their own murderous role in these conflicts whilst amplifying the negative things done by others, Zimbabwe will not know peace.