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MDC and the colonial ghost of whiteness

02 Jun 2019 at 07:16hrs | Views
David Coltart, the self-confessed former British South African Police (BSAP) member, who authored a rehashed moribund autobiography, recently rebounded as treasurer of the MDC at the party's congress held in Gweru.

It is almost 19 years since Coltart became the founding secretary for legal affairs of the MDC in 2000, then led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai.

While no-one holds any beef with Coltart's elevation, it is critical for observers to introspect about the psychological malaise that afflicts the MDC inasfar as their attitude towards whites, especially those who served in the Rhodesian police and army.

One quickly recalls the late Roy Leslie Bennet, that boisterous white politician who was the inaugural MDC treasurer at its formation in 1999. Coincidently, just like Coltart, Bennet also served in the notorious BSAP and only emerging as a 'black messiah' in the post-independence era. Bennet's political career as an opposition politician took a nose-dive when he charged and pushed former Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in Parliament when the latter had said he was an offspring of "thieves and murderers".

The burly politician had to serve time at Chikurubi and further attempts for a political comeback after his release came to naught when then-President Mugabe refused to recognise him when Tsvangirai had seconded him to the position of Deputy Minister of Agriculture in a coalition government.

Bennet was later charged with treason. The charge was changed to "conspiring to acquire arms with a view to disrupting essential services".

After his release, Bennet went to live in exile in South Africa. He died with his wife on  January 17 2018 in a helicopter crash in Colfax, New Mexico, USA — assuredly a bitter man to the end. And now enter Coltart.  A man who has enjoyed an unfettered life of privilege both in the colonial and post-colonial era.

We might need to recount his brief history to understand the malaise afflicting the MDC's thinking that whiteness equals excellence.

We need this brief history to understand why the MDC has come full circle in being a purely ungrounded political organisation obsessed with the idea of white appeasement. Born on October 1957, Coltart grew up in Bulawayo.

No matter how much he tries to sanitise his early life, history records that the young Coltart was an enthusiastic cadre of the colonial system who served the BSAP with diligence and candour.

Attempts by Coltart to sanitise his own devious involvement in the murder of black indigenes in his 2016 book "The Struggle Continues: 550 years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe" won't fool anyone.

Equally, his attempts to disassociate himself from the notorious Selous Scouts won't stick.

We need to give a deserved account of this Selous Scouts unit for some to appreciate why Coltart is such a sore in our national consciousness. The Selous Scouts was a special forces regiment of the Rhodesian Army that operated from 1973 until the reconstitution of the country as Zimbabwe in 1980.

It committed atrocities against innocent Rhodesian African civilians in Rhodesia and neighbouring countries.

The outfit was named after the British explorer Frederick Courteney Selous (1851- 1971). Its slogan 'pamwe chete' was a Shona phrase meaning "all together".

Its charter mandated it to undertake "clandestine elimination of so-called 'terrorists' within and without the country".

Created under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Reid-Daily, it was organised as a mixed race unit comprising of recruits of both African and European descent.

Its primary motive was to operate deep in insurgent-controlled territory and wage war on the hostilities' rear through irregular warfare, including the use of pseudo-terrorism as a means of penetrating the enemy.

This is the team that both the late Bennet and young Coltart were part of.

A team that resorted to using asymmetric warfare against opponents with actions ranging from the bombing of private houses, abductions, MI8 Claymore mine attacks against military targets, assassinations, intimidation, blackmail and extortion.

The unit was infamous for weakening popular support for guerrillas by employing all sorts of tactics.  In one instance in Madziwa, the group is said to have accused eight enthusiastic guerrilla supporters of being police informers and beat them up before leaving.

This would leave a very sour taste in the area, especially when the accused were known sympathisers of the freedom fighters.

The Scouts' unusual tactics were the subject of gruesome photographs by one J. Ross Baughaman that won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1978.

Coltart was a sure member of this unit because many of its members were policemen. The soldiers pretended to be guerrillas by infiltrating guerrilla units and committed many of the gruesome acts that were attributed in the Rhodesian media as having been committed by freedom fighters.

Of interest is the unit's regimental badge of the osprey — a fish-eating bird found in small numbers in many parts of the world.

Some of the code names for the unit included 'skuz apo' — a colloquial Shona term meaning  "Excuse me for being here", typically used by pickpocket thieves who bump into people and mutter an apology as they take one's wallet. The other code was 'Eskimos", which refers to the unit operating in 'frozen' areas that were no-go areas for other units.

By 1974, the Selous Scouts had captured or killed 100 freedom fighters.

At the end of 1976, the unit had killed 1 257 innocent civilians in that year alone. Other Rhodesian combined security forces had killed 400 freedom fighters.

Predictably, most of the white Selous Scouts went in droves down South when Zimbabwe attained independence.

Coltart was one of those who went down South. He attained a law degree from the University of Cape Town and an LLB post-graduate law degree in 1982.

So ironic that a man who was part of a devious apparatus that butchered black people would choose to pursue law.

Unashamedly, the man who should have been pleading for mercy to the new black rulers was so enthusiastic in being an instrument of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in compiling data for alleged misdemeanours of the new government during the Gukurahundi period.

The same man who was part of the apparatchik that wantonly murdered black people suspected of aiding freedom fighters would wake up one day as a human rights champion.

The Selous Scouts were evil creatures of an evil force and it is ironic that Coltart wants to dwell on others' past as if he has no past.

One can't help but feel sorry for blind followers of the MDC.  They have no idea of what's really going on.

Putting a white man as the "moneybag" reflects a serious malaise that needs exorcism.

It reflects the mind-set of a bunch of people who think that white people are incorruptible and can bring the much-needed money through their shadowy connections.

Yes, we live in a reconciled nation where we must let bygones be bygones but this does not mean that the same people who thrived on the murder, subjugation, and humiliation of our forefathers can today be so hallowed as to be put on a high moral pedestal.

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