BULAWAYO - Former Education minister David Coltart says he is ready to face Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in court after the Midlands godfather threatened to sue him over remarks that the VP allegedly made at the time of the Gukurahundi massacres in the early 1980s.
In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Coltart said he stood by what he wrote about Mnangagwa in his just-released autobiography — The Struggle Continues: 50 years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe — in which the beleaguered VP is controversially quoted describing dissidents as “cockroaches”, and the Fifth Brigade that killed an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians at the time as “DDT”, a deadly pesticide that is used to kill vermin.
“In the circumstances, Mnangagwa would be very poorly advised by his lawyers to institute legal proceedings . . . suffice it to say that any action brought by Mnangagwa will be defended. I repeat that he will be very poorly advised to sue,” Coltart said.
The prominent opposition figure also questioned why Mnangagwa now wanted to sue him over this reference when he had not sued, or even moved to correct what had been reported by the government-controlled Chronicle newspaper 33 years ago.
“These extracts (in the autobiography) confirm that what is recorded in my book accurately reflects what the Chronicle reported him as saying then.
“In the 33 years that have elapsed since these news reports were published, he has never denied what the Chronicle reported him as saying and has never sued that paper.
“One would assume that if what he was reported as saying was false, he would have sought to correct that long ago,” Coltart said.
On his part, Mnangagwa has dismissed as false and malicious the claims that he had made these inflammatory statements attributed to him.
“The Vice President E D Mnangagwa wishes to communicate that all the statements attributed to him . . . are a total fabrication and that at no stage during the 1980s did he address a rally in Lupane nor did he at any other venue utter those words . . . in question.
“The vice president’s legal practitioners are currently perusing . . . Coltart’s autobiography . . . before considering appropriate action to be taken to address these false and malicious statements,” a statement from Mnangagwa published in State media yesterday said.
In his autobiography, Coltart highlighted the inflammatory remarks that were reportedly made by Mnangagwa in 1983, that appeared to urge the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to escalate their operations in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces — resulting in the death of many innocent people.
Mnangagwa served as State Security minister at the time of what later came to be known as the Gukurahundi massacres.
However, the VP has always denied responsibility for the mass slaughter of mainly Ndebeles during that time.
But Mnangagwa was also quoted in the Chronicle edition of April 5, 1983 telling a rally in Victoria Falls: “The campaign against dissidents can only succeed if the infrastructure which nurtures them is destroyed.
“Blessed are they who will follow the path of the government laws, for their days on earth will be increased.
“But woe unto those who will choose the path of collaboration with dissidents, for we will certainly shorten their stay on earth.”