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I’m under no illusion, the battle will be tough: Coltart

MDC candidate for Bulawayo East constituency David Coltart was first elected to represent Bulawayo South House of Assembly constituency in March 2000 and was re-elected in March 2005.

MDC candidate for Bulawayo East constituency David Coltart was first elected to represent Bulawayo South House of Assembly constituency in March 2000 and was re-elected in March 2005.

In March 2008, he was elected Senator for Kumalo in Bulawayo.

Senator Coltart was sworn in as Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture in February 2009.

Coltart (DC) says his illustrious track record and ability to bridge the political divide is the ace up his sleeve in his bid to win Bulawayo East constituency.

The following are excerpts of an interview with NewsDay Senior Features Reporter Phillip Chidavaenzi (ND).

ND: Who is David Coltart?

DC: I am a Zimbabwean born in Gweru and raised in Bulawayo. I went to schools in Bulawayo and then went to the University of Cape Town where I studied law. I have been practicing since 1983. I helped in the setting-up of the Bulawayo Legal Projects Centre.

In the same year, I was appointed secretary of the Bulawayo Legal Practitioners’ Association. I was instrumental in getting the Gukurahundi reports published between 1997 and 1998.

In 1999 I joined the MDC at its formation as the legal secretary and worked with (Prime Minister) Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda. ND: What are you promising the Bulawayo East constituency?

DC: I have been the senator for the Kumalo constituency for the last three years. I have demonstrated my ability to set up large and small projects, including the Bulawayo Legal Centre.

When I was still MP for Bulawayo South, I started a variety of projects including an irrigation scheme in Nketa, which is still running to this day. As minister, I have been responsible for a variety of major initiatives that have benefited Bulawayo. These include the renovations at Khumalo Hockey Stadium.

I was also able to persuade government to allocate the Zone VI Games to Bulawayo and that brought a $142 million investment for the rehabilitation of Barbourfields Stadium, White City Stadium and Luveve Stadium.

ND: What do you consider the most pertinent issues in this election?

DC: The most pertinent issues are the national issues that have affected this country for a long time now and my drive is to make sure that the country does not slide back to the pre-2008 scenario.

ND: How do you reckon your chances of winning the seat? Do you see any threats from other contestants?

DC: I am under no illusion. This is going to be a tough battle. I appreciate that this seat was lost by the party that I am standing for in 2008. I am standing against (Thabitha) Khumalo, the incumbent MP, who is very hardworking. I recognise I have a lot of work to do.

But the electorate will see the work that I did while I was holding the senatorial seat (which encompassed Bulawayo East and Central) and they are able to realise that I have been a hardworking senator.

ND: Why have you opted for the parliamentary seat in the forthcoming elections?

DC: This was a request from my party and the reason was that this time, the senators will not be elected directly. So the feeling in the party was that as the incumbent senator who has been in this area before, I should contest in the House of Assembly race.

ND: How has your use of social media ahead of this election impacted on your campaign?

DC: I have been involved with social media for a very long time. My website was set up in 2006 and I have been using Facebook and Twitter for many years now.

I was one of the first MPs to have a website. As of now, I have 2 500 followers on Twitter and about

8 000 on my Facebook page. This is a very useful medium to get messages across to the electorate.

I have since initiated an sms campaign, through which I have reached over 3 000 people in the constituency.

It’s very expensive to have adverts in the newspapers and the electronic media is controlled by Zanu PF, so this has been an effective way of campaigning. ND: What would you say voters should look for when voting for their representatives in Parliament?

DC: I believe in the old adage which says “all politics is local”. People are looking for an MP who has a track record in representing the interests of the constituency. They are looking for someone who has the national interest at heart.

Because the political environment is so polarised, it’s important to vote in people who can reach out across the political divide and take the country forward.

For example, when I was able to persuade Cabinet to allow the Zone VI Games to be held in Bulawayo, I convinced both the MDC and Zanu PF.

ND: Zanu PF accuses you of what it has called “donorfication” of education in their election manifesto. What do you have to say to this? DC: I am actually one of the people singled out by name (in the manifesto) and for me this shows that my contribution has been extensive.

They say I did it illegally. It’s nonsense. This was part of the Education Transition Fund set up by the United Nations Children’s Fund, with the involvement of the Education ministry.

It’s meant to ensure transparency. Donors have not complained and that means there has been transparency.

Had it not been for that fund, we would not have been able to achieve even a quarter of what we have been able to achieve in education in the last four years.

The education sector was supported by donors after independence. The reason why it had collapsed over the years is because Zanu PF has not been able to access donor money.