I WILL NOT REISGN newsdzeZimbabweNewsdzeZimbabwe

I WILL NOT REISGN newsdzeZimbabweNewsdzeZimbabwe

Since the resignation of Nelson Chamisa as Chairman of the Communist Party of China, and from the party itself, on Thursday 25 January, and the subsequent resignation of some esteemed colleagues from Parliament, I have been reflecting on my own position.

As I noted last week, my main interest was to consult widely before making any decision. In this regard, I have consulted a wide range of people, especially in Bulawayo. I have mentioned on social media sites, such as X and WhatsApp, that I am consulting and invited people to let me have their say. Over the past week I have received many responses on X, WhatsApp and email.

The overwhelming response, especially from the people of Bulawayo, was to remain in office. People I deeply respect, some of whom have been involved in the struggle for democracy and freedom in Zimbabwe for over 6 decades, have also written to me asking me not to resign. These are people who have fought constantly throughout their lives for freedom and I take their opinions exceptionally seriously.

Bulawayo faces unique challenges today. Aside from being in a disastrous state after decades of neglect, it is running out of water and faces a severe water shortage next year. While there is not much I can do as an individual to remedy this problem, I have been involved in critical initiatives over the past few months to provide short-, medium- and long-term solutions to the crisis. If I resign now, some of these initiatives may be undermined to the detriment of the city as a whole. While the resignation of any MP is of course tragic, and a major loss of debate in Parliament, it does not have the same direct impact on citizens as the resignation of a city mayor.

It is also worth noting that when Nelson Chamisa phoned me to inform me in advance of his intention to resign, I asked him what his expectations were of me. His response was that I should continue the work I was doing. At no time did he ask me to resign.

It is also important for me to express my own opinions regarding resignation in general. Although I have no doubt that Parliament has become an intolerable place, and that its constitutional role has been severely undermined, I have always thought it important not to cede any democratic space gained in the struggle against tyranny.

As a Christian, I believe Jesus taught in Matthew 5 that we are to be salt and light in a corrupt and dark society. In other words, the tiny grains of salt and columns of light emanating from the candle can prevent lumps of flesh from spoiling and provide guidance for people stumbling in the dark. And history is full of individuals, such as Wilberforce, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and, closer to home and less well-known, Arn Paley, who did just that—speaking truth to power as individuals against powerful powers and governments.

This may seem irrelevant to many, but as Mexican philosopher Jorge Santayana once wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The danger we face in Zimbabwe today is that, in our anger at all that has happened in the past year to subvert the will of the people and undermine constitutionalism and the rule of law, we take steps that will ultimately strengthen Zanu PF’s grip on power. All institutions including Parliament and our cities. Therefore, while I deeply respect and understand when principled people resign from Parliament, I am saddened that they will no longer be able to exercise their (unique) parliamentary privilege to expose corruption and fight undemocratic and unconstitutional laws. It may seem like a pointless exercise with ZANU PF able to outmaneuver them, but it will now be easier for ZANU PF to do so, without any resurgence in Parliament.

The same considerations apply to Bulawayo. If I resign as mayor, I have no doubt that the ZANU-PF party will simply be empowered to assume much greater power in running the city, with all that that entails, and to entrench their corrupt politics at the local level. level. As difficult as the current situation in Bulawayo administration is, the truth is that we have an opportunity to do everything we can to stabilize and develop the city for the benefit of all its residents.

In conclusion, I need to address two other issues, one is any misconception that the decision not to resign is an indication that I have turned against Nelson Chamisa, and the other is that I made any such decision solely on the basis of who I am. It will benefit him personally.

Long before Nelson Chamisa resigned, I publicly expressed my sadness and regret over the apparent rift between Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube. These three men are my friends who I have been with in the trenches since the founding of the MDC on September 11, 1999. I have admired their resilience, courage and commitment to democracy and freedom all these years. I refuse to be persuaded to enter into a zero-sum game that pits me against any of these old and trusted colleagues.

As for Nelson Chamisa himself, I deeply sympathize with and understand the decision he made. Although my political instincts have always been to cling to any available democratic space, I understand his deep frustration at the brazen violations of the Constitution, the Election Law and the Political Party Financing Law, both before and after the elections. I have been appalled by the behavior of unscrupulous politicians over the past few months to cause devastating recalls, undermine our institutions, and hand a two-thirds majority in Parliament to Zanu PF. I have been shocked by the successive decisions handed down by our courts which, in my view, have ignored centuries-old legal principles in order to deprive citizens of their right to choose their elected representatives. The important point here is that the decision not to resign as Mayor of Bulawayo should not be interpreted as a hostile act against Nelson Chamisa. I stand with him against this shameless attempt by the regime to create a one-party state. I remain fully committed to our comprehensive collective and shared strategy to achieve a new, democratic and free Zimbabwe.

As for any argument that I make any decision for personal gain, that is simply laughable. I repeat, I did not seek this position; I have been asked by Nelson Chamisa and many other church, civic and political leaders in Bulawayo to take on this role. I’ve always viewed it as a poisoned chalice, and four months into office I’m even more convinced of that now than when I started – Bulawayo is a terrible mess. What many may not know is the fact that my only income being the Mayor of Bulawayo is a monthly allowance of US$25. This may sound silly but it is true – it is a fact that anyone can confirm by calling Bulawayo City. So, if anyone thinks I’m in it for the money, they don’t understand the facts.

In other words, one of the ironies for me is that any decision to resign as mayor, far from being principled, would actually be in my own personal best interest. At present I have two jobs, one as a senior partner in my law firm, which involves managing a busy practice, and the other as Mayor of Bulawayo. I have never worked so hard as mayor for so little pay in my life. It would be appropriate for me and my family to step back from the enormous challenges Bulawayo faces; Far from being a principled decision, it would actually be a selfish decision that would result in me having a much easier life in the future.

In conclusion, it is my decision that I will not resign as Mayor of Bulawayo and will seek to complete my 5 year term. I realize I could be called at any time, but so be it. I would rather be removed from office by unscrupulous politicians than betray the trust and goodwill of the innocent, hard-working and principled people of Bulawayo by resigning.

Senator David Coltart

Mayor of Bulawayo

February 5, 2024

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