THE INTERVIEW: Tichaona Zindoga
Pupurai Togarepi has bounced back as zanu-pf Secretary for Youth Affairs following the ruling party’s reconfiguration after the removal of the G40 cabal. Cde Togarepi (PT) tells The Herald’s Political Editor Tichaona Zindoga (TZ) that his team will do things differently and cleanse the image of the party, dissociating it from criminal elements. Here are excerpts of the interview:
TZ: Now that you are back at the leadership of the ruling party’s youth league, how do you intend to do things differently from Kudzi Chipanga?
PT: I think my major thrust going forward is to unite the youth, to try and refocus them. Yes they are political animals, they are in a political party and they must grow politically. I also have to help them economically as well as socially, to be responsible citizens of our country.
We have to try and reconnect them with the ideals of the revolution, inviting people who are straight forward, who will be role models. But you know because of divisions that were there, there could be desire among the others to be vindictive, to try and attack those they perceive as having been advantaged by the former cabal and so forth.
The approach is not going to be the same; we are not going to be vindictive. We will try by all means to unite our youth, to create harmony, to ensure that those who may have strayed from the proper party line are corrected.
They must be brought to their senses, to respect the party constitution, to respect the leadership, to respect freedom fighters and be future as well present leaders. They must be exemplary. We are not going to dismiss any youth because they did something wrong in the past. Many of these were influenced. Some could have been influenced by money, some could have been threatened.
The cabal was so powerful, they could give you instructions that you could not say no to at that stage. So my duty is to tell them that this is the approach: Let’s support the party, let’s work within the party constitution, let’s be responsible citizens, let’s not be vindictive or purge any member because there was this perception about the person, but it’s not going to help the party.
It’s not going to grow those people because as long as they feel stigmatised, they will feel that they are no longer wanted; but the party wants them. They have to be corrected. Nobody should be removed from the party as long as they still pledge allegiance to ZANU-PF, we should find a way with each other to move the party forward.
TZ: ZANU-PF is the majority party. Zimbabwe experiencing a transitional phase with elections coming up. How do you intend to reach out to the generality of youths and attract them to the ruling party?
PT: I will not tell you all our strategies, suffice to say we are geared for them. We are going to mobilise the youth. We strongly believe they constitute a bigger number of the voting population. We are going to engage every youth, whether they are in the opposition; we have already started. We have droves of them who are coming already to work with ZANU-PF; to be members of the party. We intend to engage youths at all levels, we are not only going to look at elite youth who are educated, we are going to engage every youth to ensure that they are aware that the future of this country is theirs.
And they must defend it, they must ensure that they work with the ruling party. It is here in ZANU-PF that you are sure of where we are going. We have a background, and that background is pro-Zimbabwe and that is found in the constitution of ZANU-PF.
The way we had been doing it since independence has been to drive the agenda of the people of Zimbabwe and we expect the youth to embrace that as they go forward.
It means they will inherit a country they will be proud of, they will defend, that future generations will also find in a good state. So we are going be moving around, it’s not going to be business as usual. We are going to prove to the people of Zimbabwe that we can protect the future of this country both in terms of its resources, economic and political future. We will not allow a situation where Zimbabwe can become a pseudo-liberated country.
We will remain free as long as people protect the liberation ethos. Those grievances that we had for our people to go to war must be fulfilled and our President has said to us that he intends to make sure that youth are employed, economically empowered and that youth are responsible citizens.
This is what I am going to strive for and of course getting support from the leadership of the party. Getting ideas on how we will do it, we will consult widely but our main objective is to come up with a complete leader out of the youth league. A complete youth who will be responsible and economically empowered for the good of this country.
TZ: Some people are worried about the perceived violent nature of ZANU-PF and excursion of other people from accessing resources such as land. How do you intend to be more inclusive?
PT: We are going to be very inclusive in all our approach, we insist as we engage our youth that there is no reason for violence. All Zimbabweans are very important and should be protected. Their interests should be protected and their views should be heard.
We are the ruling party. If we hear what the citizens are saying and we correct it, they will give us more years of ruling this country. It will also give us credibility and real support from the populace as we move the country forward.
It’s zero tolerance to any violent activity or criminality; no looting of resources in any way. The land baron issues where youths were involved in dirty land grabs are not going to be tolerated. In fact, those will be dealt with through the law enforcement agents. The party is not keen on working with criminals. So all youths at all levels we have already done enough communication with them. Nobody is going to be grabbing people’s property, nobody is going to be beating up anybody. The law will deal with all criminals.
Never take the law into your own hands because it doesn’t help you. Violence soils the name of the party and you risk being arrested. The law will not segregate and say because you are ZANU-PF you can do whatever you want. You will be arrested. We are clearly instructed by the President never at any point allow any youth to be involved in criminal activities. So I told them, if you engage in criminality I will just report you to the police and they will deal with you.
TZ: A concern that was raised when you were appointed was that you were not the typical youth, that you are old. How do you reconcile such a grievance with your position?
PT: I understand people do have a misconception, a youth leader is not a youth. I am here like a chaperon. Youth select each other, the national executive of the youth, they will go to election excluding me.
From deputy secretary to the last member, all of them are selected through an election. The President then appoints somebody to ensure these youths work within the confines of the constitution, or the views of the party. We monitor that these youths are being raised in our way of doing things.
So it’s not about me being a youth, but it’s all about me being the youth leader in the view of the party to monitor activities of the youth. To help them understand the constitution of the party, the expectations of the leadership of the party so that they grow to become political leaders.
TZ: Lastly, the previous leader of the youth league was known to be extravagant in terms of idolising the leader of the party; are we not going to see you turning the leader of the party who is the President into another demi-god?
PT: I will always respect my leader, and I will respect him because he is a revolutionary leader, he is the leader of my party. But I will not be extravagant even with resources or my words. I will not create a demigod but I will create a leader and protect the interests of the party through my leader. So when I look at my President, I look at him as my leader not a some near god. If my leader needs advice, I will give him advice. I will not keep quiet because my leader is a god, no.
I will say, comrade President, I think here we should do things this way. He will give me his views, he is my leader, the constitution of the party tells me what to do in the event that things are not moving in the direction that we expect. The President told the whole gathering of congress to stop praising his name but to sing revolutionary songs to motivate and mobilise the party; not to create some god out of him. He has always been humble, and I think he will look at me and say, am I losing my senses or something is happening in my mind.
I will continue to respect him and respect all the other leaders of the party, the Vice President of my party, the senior leadership of the party, Central Committee, my leaders in the Youth League and all the Executive, I will respect them. But I will not create gods out of them. I will protect the revolution more than protecting an individual.