Lloyd Gumbo THE INTERVIEW
The zanu-pf Youth League has hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons this week, with its officials making unfortunate statements at a time the country readies itself to mark the 21st February Movement commemorations in honour of President Mugabe. Our Senior Reporter, Lloyd Gumbo (LG) speaks to zanu-pf Youth Secretary Cde Pupurai Togarepi (PT) on the controversies and preparations for the big celebrations set for Masvingo next weekend.
LG: The 21st February Movement celebrations are coming up in Masvingo next week against the background of serious differences within the party, not least in the youth wing. Hasn’t this affected the preparations?
PT: The preparations and the celebrations themselves will go through smoothly and we will achieve what we want to achieve which is a very well done celebration of our icon. We believe the President has done a lot for this country and he deserves better from his people.
But even in terms of unity we can give him a better deal by being united as people of Zimbabwe, as Zanu-PF and as the Youth League. I think he will be very happy in his celebration of 92 years of his life to know that the people I have led for this long are united.
So I can tell you that the programme which we have set ourselves to achieve has gone on smoothly and everything is in place so we don’t foresee any challenges. There could be differences here and there.
As Zanu-PF we are much stronger and will always survive in such storms because we stand on a very firm foundation, the foundation of the liberation struggle which has taught us how to resolve issues. It is my wish as a leader of the youth and leader in the party that solutions are found where there are misunderstandings among the membership as soon as possible.
Luckily, we have this intelligent and very strong leader and I foresee us in the near future getting correct leadership so that we concentrate on that which builds the party and keeps it strong and united.
LG: But there are statements that were made this past week by your deputy along the lines that as the Youth League you were ready for war against the war veterans. Is that the position of the Youth League that you want to fight the war veterans?
PT: I will not be able to comment directly on what someone else said because I was not there so I don’t know the authenticity of that statement. But our relationship in the Youth League and with the war veterans is strong. They are the people who showed their resilience in liberating this country so there is no reason whatsoever. The majority of our youths who are in the executive of our structures are children of veterans of the liberation struggle who are war veterans, war collaborators and ex-detainees. So they would not fight their own parents.
The position of the Youth League is that these founding fathers of our revolution are critical for us to learn from and move forward with our revolution. I have talked to my deputy (Cde Chipanga) about that issue and he showed me that he had no intention to have any misunderstanding with the war veterans but it could have been a statement that was misread or misunderstood.
LG: Your deputy also made pronouncements that he would want to mobilise the youths so that they could go to The Herald and burn newspapers because it’s not covering issues according to his expectations. Is that the position of the Youth League or his own view?
PT: The Herald must continue to do its work and must continue to do that without any fear or favour. There won’t be youths coming there to have any confrontation with the media there or any person there. It is not our way of doing things.
We are a revolutionary youth, we are people who have been trained and advised correctly by our leadership to conduct ourselves in a decent way.
Otherwise we have nothing against any journalist but obviously we get offended when journalists time and again insult our leaders. It has become a norm that journalists will insult the President, insult the Vice Presidents -Cde Mnangagwa and Cde Mphoko – the First Lady and many other leaders are subjected to a lot of abuse.
LG: Are you not being disingenuous as a party that you are trying to shift blame to the media when the confrontations are happening in the party at public functions where you have party officials attacking each other in public or using other forms of media to attack their colleagues or their leaders and then the media just reports what happened. Can you then say the media is wrong when it’s just relaying what has been said by Zanu-PF officials?
PT: What I can tell you now is the Secretary for Information and Publicity, Cde Simon Khaya Moyo, can respond where an individual goes against the policies of the party. Cde Khaya Moyo is the right person to comment on those issues. What we wish for as the youths is the unity of the party and the unity of our leadership.
And as youth we say and emphasise that they must stop any form of divisive tendencies, any form of fighting or factionalism. We emphasise that they must stop. It doesn’t help them in terms of their growth in politics, in terms of their growth as leaders of tomorrow. So they should be the first people as the youths to shun any division and not be used by anybody against anyone but to follow the leadership of Cde RG Mugabe, he is the leader.
Myself as Secretary for the Youth I am appointed by the President and I do this work of looking after the youths, giving them direction on behalf of him, not for myself. I don’t just do it, I consult him. When I see these challenges coming I go to him and say “President here is a challenge, how do I proceed?” He gives me prudent and tested advice and then I move forward.
LG: The President recently announced that he wanted to meet you so that you could deliberate on a number of issues. Have you met him yet?
PT: Yes, I was advised on how to proceed looking after the youths, advising them in terms of their standing within the party. Things like being loyal to the party line, being correct always, not being misled, not to be handled elsewhere but to remain within the founding principles of the party.
When I was talking to my leaders, I was telling them that he who leads us would like to see us united. Where there are problems we will correct them using the party constitution and then move forward behind the President. Any other leader who wants support from the Youth League must be behind the President. If you go outside that party line, if you go outside the leadership of the President, we won’t work with you.
The President said ensure that youths are busy. They work for themselves and work for this country. He said there is no need for them to involve themselves in areas that affect their stature as responsible youths. So he said do whatever you can to direct youths to be responsible, well-groomed, well-educated and advised as future leaders.
LG: Some people are claiming that you are throwing a birthday bash for the President yet you could have used the money towards buying food for those facing hunger. What is your reaction to that?
PT: We understand that the country is facing a terrible drought which could result in poor harvest and difficulty in getting food. But the Government has structures and they have been mobilising food throughout the world to save the interest of the people of Zimbabwe so that nobody starves. So the Government is doing its part because its business is to ensure that the citizenry does not end up dying of hunger.
As the Youth League we also look up to those who have contributed to the history of this country. So we sit and celebrate the President because he is just not an ordinary person. He is President of the country so whatever happens to him affects all of us. His birthday is not only his, it is also our birthday, the birthday that we recognise for being critical because it gave birth to a person who has done so much for us and for future generations, for Africans and for the downtrodden throughout the world. So us as Zimbabweans, we are lucky people to have lived in that period where we can interact and talk to this great man.
By the way, we also celebrate Christmas which is a day Jesus was born, we were never in Palestine we don’t even know whether it’s true or false, isn’t it? But we believe Jesus died for our sins and we celebrate on Christmas Day, which is the day he was born and we really give homage to him because saved us from sin to freedom of sin.
Robert Mugabe was also born like Jesus was born and to us he then led us to fight colonialism, subjugation kuti tibvise vanhu vakatigara matumba. He led us as a messiah against colonialism. So if we then look back and introspect as Zimbabweans and say why are we in this stage today when at one point we were under subjugation, we cannot say that without the name Robert Mugabe coming into our minds.
LG: But won’t the current infighting leave a dent on his legacy as leader of the party?
PT: I don’t think we have fights that have gone out of hand. It’s just misunderstandings here and there by specific individuals. But I don’t think that has gone into the root of the party. No, it hasn’t gone that deep. It’s just on the surface and I think the leadership will nip that in the bud and remove it as early as possible. So it’s not an issue that will affect his legacy. His legacy is too big for any small people to do things that can damage what this person has contributed to this country, no you can’t!