This week we had the privilege to catch one of the most prolific lawyers and politicians to come from Bulawayo, Senator David Coltart. He has and still is involved in various spheres of the country, in law and politics. For most people in Bulawayo, the name David Coltart may ring a bell as a Member of Parliament, then MDC Senator for Khumalo. Here is the iterview we had with Senator David Coltart.
My Bulawayo (MB): Tell us a bit about yourself, who is David Coltart?
David Coltart (DC): I think most importantly in 1981 I came to faith. I believe that Jesus Christ is a man who lived two thousand years ago, that he was just more than a mere mortal, and that he makes demands of our lives. This is actually core to my belief system. Secondly, I am a Zimbabwean born in Gweru. My African roots go relatively deep to 1820 and my wife’s side even deeper. I am a proud Zimbabwean. I am a proud African. These two things inform my thinking. I believe in Jesus Christ we see the picture of a man who was humble and clearly believed in non-violence, was compassionate towards the poor and sets an incredible example for us. In Zimbabwe I see a beautiful country, great people with an incredible future and potential. I am really blessed to have an amazing wife who has supported me to the core and I have four children who are a great blessing to me.
MB: What is your career position and how did you come about to work there?
DC: I returned to Zimbabwe at the end 1982 having got a Law degree from the University of Cape Town. I then started working for Webb Low & Barry since January 1983, I became a Law Partner in 1984, and I have been a partner since then. I actually became a senior partner in 1997, which I still am. Although for the last fifteen years I have not practised law much. This decision was taken with the support of my partners, when I got into politics late 1999. My main role was in MDC in its various formations. In 2009, I went into Cabinet as Minister of Education, Sports and Culture up until July 2013. Since then I have riveted to doing more law but I retained interest in education consultancy, am involved in International mediation, and I am writing a book. When the book is finished, I aim to return to law but off course, I retain my interest in politics and that is all dependant on the Good Lord
MB: What is the book about?
DC: It’s an autobiographical political history of the last almost sixty years on Zimbabwe.
MB: When will it be completed by?
DC: Well I have a publishing contract with a South African publisher and I need to send the completed manuscript by September this year. I have made good progress on it.
MB: I can see the thought process and Jesus being your role model it driving you to seek justice for people as a lawyer primarily….
DC: I had already started law when I came to faith. It wasn’t my Christian faith that drew me to law rather my father in particular. He was not a lawyer, although he would have been a good lawyer, he was a banker. He had friends who were lawyers and this saw us having robust debates in the household and this laid a good foundation for law.
MB: What has been the biggest challenge for the past 31 years you have practised law?
DC: The biggest challenge has been practising law in a country where rule of law is not respected. Its been a constant theme of my legal practice. I have had to represent clients over decades whose rights have been violated by the state. In early 1980s I represented ZAPU politicians like Joshua Nkomo, Edward Ndlovu, Welshman Mabhena, Sydney Malunga and others. They were detained and their rights violated. That has continued to the present day
MB: What has been your biggest learning curve?
DC: I think the biggest learning experience has been not to rely on my own power and wisdom but rather trust in God.
MB: How has that shaped you in the way you now do your work?
DC: I think in the past I would have relied a lot more on my own drive to get things done and if they didn’t go the way I wanted them to I would be more frustrated and tense as well as get a lot more anxious. Whereas I now understand that God’s timing is very different to man’s timing. Trials are part of the Christian walk and witness, which is far from this false gospel, which is perpetrated in most of Zimbabwe that is health wealth and prosperity. This is not the story of Jesus. Jesus’ life was one marked by many trials and his life was sacrificed on the cross. We are called to participate in those sufferings. I apply this in my work now. Obtaining things must be through hard work
MB: The work ethic we now see in Zimbabwe and people relying more on corruption than hard work, how do you think we should deal with it?
DC: I think it’s sad actually to see this get-rich-quick syndrome and it’s been a blight on our country. Unfortunately, it starts from the top government officials, this assertion that you can get rich quick through corruption. This has also been seen in the church, meant to be a beacon of hope, where we see church leaders being obscenely rich on the back of a very poor congregation. This actually destroys a nation. Best nations, strongest nations are built on hard work, innovation and ingenuity.
MB: Moreover, Zimbabwe seems to be at a point whereby hard work and ingenuity do not pay but corruption pays more.
DC:The key question to a nation is “What wealth is being generated, what wealth is being made? Not what can I acquire for myself?” Most of the seriously wealthy people in this country have not made their wealth through their innovation but by simply acquiring other people’s wealth.
MB: What is one thing that you think people do not realise about your role and a legal practitioner?
DC: Well I think from the political end, particularly ZANU there has always been an assumption that I have “a white person’s agenda” because I am white. They think I want to bring back Rhodesia, which is false. My vision for Zimbabwe is Zimbabwe for all. I think the Rhodesia was a deeply flawed nation and the injustices propelled then are still causing problems today. No person in his or her right mind would ever want that back. My vision is a nation of meritocracy, where hard work is recognised and rewarded irrespective the person’s background. From the other extreme end, I have worked with people who believe you have to meet fire with fire and fight against them. There are those opposed to ZANU who believe in employing violence. Not only is this morally wrong for me as a christian but it is practically foolish. I believe in the example of Christ, who, on the cross, had all the power at his disposal but chose not to do it but his purposes where achieved as we see 2000 years later. He was utterly committed to the use of non-violence. Also practically, if you are not religious and do not believe in Jesus Christ, I think it’s wrong to fight any opponent playing to their strength. Hence I think its wrong to try to use violence to overthrow the current regime.
MB: Tell us a bit about your family?
DC: As I have pointed before I have a wonderful wife and we been married 32years and she is Zimbabwean born in Bulawayo, we met at UCT. She is a physiotherapist. We have four children, two daughters and two sons; we have achieved gender balance in our family. We are fortunate that all our children love the Lord and are committed to Africa as well. I think the next generation of Coltarts may even have a greater role in shaping Zimbabwe than I have had.
MB: How do you balance work life and personal life?
DC: Time management is critical and time discipline as well. If you can’t manage your dairy you will not get much done. Setting priorities is very important, and I have gotten better at this. My wife would often talk to me about doing things that were ‘shoulds’ and not ‘coulds’. You have to decide what you can achieve not necessarily what you should achieve. Part of this is understanding the balance you need to achieve in life. It is like constructing a building, if you do not have a solid foundation; you could have built the most beautiful building edifice but at the first earthquake will fall down. Fundamentally, my faith disciplines with God, prayer, and reminding of God’s standards though reading the bible helps. Family is also a foundation, my relationship with my wife and children and lastly keeping physically fit which helps to be mentally alert.
MB: Words of advice to any people aspiring to take up a similar role as you?
DC: Well I would say a variety of things. Firstly, make sure your foundation is secure. Know what you believe in to make sure you not blown by every wind. Understand what your vision is, what your goals are. If you do not know what you destination is you will take many unnecessary detours and end up wondering where you are. Finally, if your vision is selfish you will find it very dissatisfying. My wife and I felt called back to Zimbabwe and our vision was to contribute to make this country great. We never wavered from that and we realised it cannot be achieved by it is a life journey. We understood this from Christ’s examples that it can be a struggle but do not get frustrated; it is a marathon not a sprint.
MB: Thank you very much David for your time, we really appreciate it.