THE INTERVIEW Lovemore Ranga Mataire
It is one week before President Mugabe turns 91 and preparations for celebrating his birthday, under the auspices of the 21st February Movement, are on course. Our Senior Reporter Lovemore Mataire interviewed Zanu-PF Youth League Secretary Cde Pupurai Togarepi (PT) on the celebrations scheduled for Victoria Falls on February 28, and greater issues concerning the revolutionary vanguard wing, the Youth League.
RM: People may not know who Cde Togarepi is. Who is Pupurai Togarepi?
PT: Cde Pupurai Togarepi was born in Gutu under chief Makore. I am war collaborator who was involved seriously in the prosecution of the liberation struggle. I am a pioneer of the Youth Brigade which on which the present structure of the Zanu-PF Youth League was founded. I have grown working for the Party and have been in the structures of the Party all along. I am the current National Chairman the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Collaborators Association (ZILIWACO), an organisation representing liberation war collaborators. Cde Togarepi has vast knowledge and experience in the financial sector as well insurance and pension industry regulation.
RM: President Mugabe will soon be celebrating his 91st birthday. What are you putting in place to ensure that the day will be memorable?
PT: Indeed, the President is turning 91 next week and the celebrations will be held in Matabeleland North Province, in Victoria Falls to be precise and the celebrations will be done in style. The programme is fully packed and for the first time we will take all the 21sters by air to Victoria Falls. Children will also be given an opportunity to visit the Falls and some game parks in Victoria Falls. The children will have joyous moments of sampling tourist attractions in the resort town and above all we are expecting the children to have a one-on-one discussion with the President.
RM: In your view what is the significance of the 21st February Movement?
PT: The main objective of the 21st February Movement is stipulated in the trust deed spelling out that its significance is to facilitate the positive development of the child in the socio economic, intellectual and moral spheres of life through emulating the exemplary life of His Excellency President Mugabe. This implies that the movement should not be viewed as a political entity. Instead, as has been numerously enunciated by its Patron, the President, the movement has over the years attracted children from across the country and it’s a developmental organ for the young people to emulate the good character of our revolutionary leader.
RM: What is the legacy of President Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Africa and the world?
PT: President Mugabe has brought independence, education, which has seen us being rated as the top African country in terms of literacy. The President has remained principled and his love for his country endeared him with his countrymen and abroad. He has given Zimbabweans freedom to champion their destiny and without hesitation we are the freest people in Africa if not in the world. He has managed to give land to the people of Zimbabwe and economic empowerment to all ages. Africa has got a liberator, an icon and leader in the character of Cde Mugabe. He assumed the chairmanship of SADC and recently he was chosen to be the Chairperson of the African Union. He has shown unparalled leadership in Africa in promoting the interests of Africa in the world. The marginalised of the world rely on his courage and wisdom on international platforms to articulate their issues. His admirers and detractors agree that he is an incorruptible and straightforward leader driven by his conviction that human beings are equal and so must not dominate each other. For this reason he gave his people freedom from colonial domination and has continued to defend their independence.
RM: Turning to the Youth League, how have you settled in as the new executive and how do you seek to connect with Zimbabwean youths in general?
PT: As the Youth League, we are only a few months into office and our programme of action includes the need for the Youth League of the ruling party to accept and appreciate the technological developments around them. We are working on a serious and deliberate programme for the youths at both national and provincial level to embrace the ever changing information highway as social network platforms. The Zanu-PF Youth League will be launching an independent website very soon which will be operated by some of our educated young people.
Our youth members at national and provincial level do participate in social networks, we appreciate the participation of the youths on social networks and we commend such participation especially during the run up to the 2013 general elections. All our provincial offices and the National Executive have groups on the Facebook and Whatsapp platforms where they share ideas relevant to their needs.
We also have big dreams as Zanu-PF Youth League of which the majority of these will be up and running before year end.
RM: Briefly outline your vision as the new crop of the Youth League both in terms of your functional role in the Politburo and as the vanguard of the party?
PT: My vision for the Youth League is mainly centered on the full implementation of the aims and objectives of the Youth League as highlighted in the party Constitution. As the Youth League we have to continue with our objective of mobilising the youth for full participation in the political, social, cultural and economic affairs of the country. All and above, we have to prioritise being the vanguard of the party through protecting its interests and the founding principles of the Zimbabwean Revolution.
RM: Your leadership comes into office at a time when the party has gone through tremendous changes in terms of its leadership which saw senior party cadres losing their positions and the amendment of the constitution to empower the President and First Secretary to appoint his two Vice Presidents. What is the league’s view on these changes in the party?
PT: It was a normal process of transformation synonymous with all the changes that can be traced back to the history of the party where some comrades by choice or ignorance regressed from the revolutionary course and they had to be replaced or reassigned for the good of the revolution. The events that took place before and after the 6th National People’s Congress were welcome as they were intended to bring stability in the party. Revolutions always have this unique inbuilt capacity to self- perpetuate themselves so there is nothing unusual at all. There is always next time for those who understand the constitution of the party if they reform themselves especially in case of those who were found wanting. We are very happy about the changes that were made to the party constitution because it empowers our President to select the Secretariat loyal to the mandate he was given by the party membership and creates one centre of power. More importantly, athe changes are in conformity with the spirit and letter of the Unity Accord signed in 1987 which gave power to the President to appoint Vice Presidents of the party.
RM: How united is the party at the moment and what is its capacity to move forward from the fissures that obtained last year?
PT: ZANU-PF is not divided at all but it just readjusted and realigned itself to the ideals of its founding principles. Of course in the process it got rid of some rot elements that had become wayward but these were in the minority. In any revolution, from time to time you find some comrades losing focus or selling out but when they are out of the revolution it becomes stronger than before. The Youth League and all its members are happy about the new leadership in the party and the state of affairs in the party. There is vibrancy in party and a breath of fresh air pervading all levels of the party gives the Party impetus to focus on bread and butter issues including maintaining peace and development of our great country.
RM: How far have you gone with plans to ensure that the youth are represented in boards of national entities?
PT: We are working on an improved strategic plan for the Youth empowerment that includes inclusion of youth in various levels of governance.
That will see us coming up with recommendations for consideration by the leadership.
We are fortunate that the Presidents has always led on issues related to youth empowerment so in my view it will be easy for Ministries to adopt a deliberate policy to appoint youths to Boards.
This a very important area as it allows youths an opportunity to learn the ropes early and also make decisions that will protect the future for it belongs to them.