Tichaona Zindoga Harare Bureau
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2006 trained bandits in South Africa in preparation for a violent takeover of power in Zimbabwe, a new book by former MP for Bulawayo South, David Coltart reveals.
In his controversial memoirs, “The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe” Coltart, a founding secretary for legal affairs in the MDC, reveals how the split in the original party came about because of Tsvangirai’s knack for violence.
According to Coltart, Tsvangirai not only engaged in intra-party violence where he used “agents provocateurs” such as one Tonderai Ndira, but sought to escalate violence into a nationwide confrontation with the ruling Zanu-PF.
He said at party level, Tsvangirai had become paranoid as he thought that there were efforts to muscle him out of leadership, especially when the party had proposed during constitutional amendments presented to Parliament that a national President needed to have at least a university degree.
He also felt that the only way he could wrestle power from Zanu-PF was through violence, says Coltart.
It was on this basis that Tsvangirai refused to participate in the re-introduced senatorial elections, causing the split of October 2005.
Coltart says the use of violence, which was meted against officials such as Peter Guhu and Trudy Stevenson resulted in the split the party.
But, it was the training of bandits that shocked Coltart, and which led him to cut ties with Tsvangirai and opted to join the other faction that was then being led by Arthur Mutambara.
He said the training camp for MDC operatives in South Africa was being conducted “by ex-South African policemen under the supervision of an ex-Rhodesian soldier”.
“There was confusion as to whether the training was ‘offensive’ or ‘defensive’ but weapons were clearly involved,” says Coltart. “The South African National Defence Force had been bribed to allow these trained men back across the border,” he said.
Coltart says he had learnt about the development from two journalists who had filmed the training operation.
He concluded that the operation “appeared to be chronically amateurish” and would also play into the hands of the ruling party.
“While I understood the desperation and helplessness that many felt in the face of Zanu-PF’s oppression, this was, in my view, a foolhardy response,” he writes.
“Even if one believed in a violent solution, the training was on such a small scale that it could never mount a serious challenge to Zanu-PF’s hegemony. What it would provide was the ideal excuse to crack down even harder on the MDC.
“The revelation was the final straw. Principle aside, I was unwilling to have any part of an organisation that was prepared to take such risks,” said the Bulawayo lawyer.
He said he wrote a circular to his constituents telling them that MDC-T had “shown no inclination to deal with violence” and he could not join that party.
“All that was left for me to do now was to decide whether to stay in politics and, if so to get assurances from MDC-M that they would root out ‘the scourge of violence’”.
Coltart said Tsvangirai and his party were spoiling for “yet another war” in the country and took the risk to join the smaller MDC faction.
“I would rather lose my seat in Parliament than compromise certain principles, which are fundamental to my belief system,” he said.