By Mutsa Makuvaza
MDC Alliance Treasurer-General David Coltart revealed that he was approached by a Zanu-PF councillor in Bulawayo to stand as a ruling party candidate for the position of Member of Parliament in Bulawayo.
The revelations are contained in a book the MDC Senator published in 2016 entitled: “The Struggle continues: 50 years of tyranny in Zimbabwe”.
Says Coltart about the chilling events: “Early in 1990 I was approached by Bulawayo councillor Nelson Sidanile to see whether I would be prepared to stand as an MP for ZANU PF in Bulawayo.
Sidanile was an old client; in August 1985 he instructed me to sue the the Police and its PISI (Police Internal Security and Intelligence) for unlawful detention and assault. He, like so many ZAPU councillors, had been detained at Stops Camp and was severely tortured by two PISI policemen.
“He was beaten up, tied upside down and then subjected to water torture with a wet blanket being stuck over his head. Before we could get legal proceedings under way he was detained again, this time on the utterly bizarre allegations that he had “accused the Police for having arrested (him) for no apparent reason” and that “(Minister) Nkala’s Policemen were harassing people holding peaceful meetings”.
It was apparently an offence to claim that the police had acted unlawfully! Unsurprisingly, Sidanile was never charged with that offence, but he continued to have run-ins with the CIO and PISI.
His swansong with them before the signing of the 1987 Unity Accord happened when he was detained again on 17 September 1987 on allegations that he “was assisting bandits in Matabeleland North Province”.
As he was held under emergency powers regulations, there was little I could do to secure his release, but on 1 October I got a message from his wife that he had been refused his Bible by PISI.
That day I had a meeting with Inspector D Chamba, the head of PISI in Bulawayo, who told me, straight faced, that Sidanile was not allowed a Bible because “Jesus wrote politics”.
My entreaties must, however, have done some good because later that day Sidanile was released, never to be detained again.
In all this we had become good friends and I suppose that is the reason he felt I might be a good ZANU PF MP. I was somewhat taken aback by the request as I had never considered standing for Parliament, far less standing for ZANU PF.
Without turning him down, I suggested that he first see if there was a consensus within ZANU PF regarding my nomination. He went away to find out.
His suggestion apparently went down like a lead balloon within the ZANU PF hierarchy. I was mightily relieved to hear that I didn’t have to disappoint him.
That sense of relief grew as the election campaign progressed and as I realised what a minefield I would have got myself into. Although the 1985 election was pockmarked with violence, at least then there was some excuse in that there were still dissidents and South Africa was still destabilising
There was no such excuse in 1990. There had been no violence for two years and FW de Klerk had breathed a new spirit of reasonableness into South African foreign policy.
The first inkling that the campaign would be bloody came in the form of two ZANU PF campaign messages carried on TV by the ZBC.
The first, as Jonathan Moyo recounts, was watched by viewers “in disbelief and astonishment”. The message started with a vehicle careening down a hill, screeching its tyres, then crashing into another with a sickening sound of crushing glass and metal,
followed by a voice warning harshly: “This is one way to die.
Another is to vote ZUM. Don’t commit suicide, vote ZANU PF”.
The second showed a coffin being lowered into a grave with the chilling refrain: “AIDS kills. So does ZUM. Vote ZANU PF”.
The brazen messages were clear. They were also followed by tangible proof that those who authorised them meant what they said.
The election was marked by widespread and gathering violence, overwhelmingly perpetrated by ZANU PF supporters and operatives against ZUM supporters and candidates. The violence, however, was concentrated in marginal areas where ZANU PF feared defeat.
Matabeleland, because of the dominance of old ZAPU support, was largely violence free. In contrast, areas where high-profile ZUM leaders came from became battle zones.
There was widespread intimidation of ZUM supporters in Manicaland, Masvingo,
Mashonaland West and Midlands provinces.
In some constituencies ZUM candidates were seriously threatened. Death threats were issued against the Kariba candidate and in Chivi South (which included Ngundu Halt, where I spent the last few months of 1977) the ZUM candidate was under siege.
The most serious violence occurred in the city of my birth, Gweru.
The Gweru Central constituency was contested by two heavyweights, Vice-President Simon Muzenda and ZUM’s Patrick Kombayi. Kombayi was a colourful
character, one of Rhodesia’s first black engine drivers, who had gone into
business in Zambia during the war and was a major funder of ZANU PF.
Immediately after independence he became Gweru’s first black ZANU PF mayor, attracting controversy through his aggressive attacks on many white leaders in the city. He had fallen out with ZANU PF and when Tekere formed ZUM he became one of its leaders.
Kombayi was immensely popular in Gweru,
especially in the working-class suburb of Mkoba. Just weeks before the election the Delimitation Commission, the body responsible for electoral boundaries,
removed Mkoba from the Gweru Central (urban) constituency and allocated it to
Gweru South (rural), in a stroke depriving Kombayi of thousands of votes.
But that was clearly deemed insufficient by ZANU PF to secure victory. On the
afternoon of 24 March 1990 all hell broke loose in Gweru.
It started when ZANU PF youths arrived at a store owned by Kombayi singing ZANU PF songs, including one that had the refrain “Kombayi should die”. They then stoned and
looted the shop before setting it on fire.
Shots were fired by someone using an
AK assault rifle, wounding three ZUM supporters. Kombayi was alerted and he
came to the store, at the same time arranging for the wounded to be ferried to
hospital in one of his trucks. As the truck drove towards the hospital, it was fired
upon by CIO operatives.
Its driver was wounded when a bullet went through his spleen and he lost control of the lorry, only to be set alight by the ZANU PF mob where it came to rest at the side of the road.
Kombayi, who had been following the truck, arrived at the scene but before he could even open his door he was fired upon, in the presence of uniformed police officers, by a CIO operative, Elias Kanengoni, and the ZANU PF MP for Chiwundira constituency, Kizito Chivamba.
Ten shots in all were fired, six hitting Kombayi, seriously wounding him in his legs, groin and stomach. Kombayi put his hand out the window, shouting, “Okay, stop, you have killed me!”, before opening the door and collapsing on the tarmac gushing blood. Remarkably, he lived.
Muzenda won the constituency, as did ZANU PF overall in the general election held on 28–30 March.
But as Jonathan Moyo clearly exposed in his seminal book on the election, Voting for Democracy, the entire election was mired by violence and serious illegalities.
Despite all of this, ZUM managed to win seventeen per cent of the vote country wide (although due to the Westminister-style electoral system it only won two constituencies).
Tekere secured 413 840 votes out of the 2.5 million votes cast.
As Jonathan Moyo succinctly put it, despite ZUM’s defeat the election marked a major victory for democracy: “While ZANU PF’s desire for a one-party state remained resolute even after the 1990 elections, the party’s ability to act on its desire was greatly diminished by voters who denied it the total victory it badly needed.”
Mugabe moved quickly to assist those responsible for the violence.
Although Kanengoni and Chivamba were prosecuted, convicted of attempted
murder and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, they hardly spent a night in
jail and were eventually pardoned by Mugabe.
Kanengoni was steadily promoted, ending up as deputy director of the CIO before his death in 2013.
The text is obtained from page 190-4 of the David Coltart book.