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'Mugabe is untouchable'

03 Jun 2017 at 11:10hrs | Views
With political parties gearing for up for the 2018 election, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Collaborators Association (Ziliwaco) has begun campaigning for the ruling party Zanu-PF.

The Herald's Christopher Charamba (CC) spoke to Ziliwaco national chairman Pupurai Togarepi (PT)about their work, their thoughts on factionalism in the ruling party and how the youth can gain a better seat at the political table.

CC: Togarepi, what are Ziliwaco's views on the situation that is transpiring within Zanu-PF? There is all this talk about factionalism and succession politics, where does Ziliwaco stand on the political issues taking place?

PT: Ziliwaco stands for the revolution. We believe in the unity and strength of the party, as well consistency and one direction lead by the leader of the party at the moment.

So Ziliwaco looks at the present situation with a lot of grief. We see that within the party there are these factions, factional fights and instability that is happening in the party at the moment.

It is not incommensurate with our background. We know Zanu-PF will always be united and fight together against its enemies, defend the interests of our people at all times. But we see now that because of these fights people are now second as we concentrate on personal interests and personal ambitions.

So we find the party being disadvantaged as leadership. Some of the leaders in the party fight for whatever reason, maybe for positioning themselves for within the political matrix.

So we really are concerned as Ziliwaco, but we remain focused and believe that these problems will solve themselves and we will participate in finding solutions to those problems so that our party remains united.

CC: Looking at this situation in Zanu-PF, the national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, has come under fire from different provinces as well as different organs and affiliates. My understanding is that Ziliwaco has also taken a position against the political commissar. What informed this position and what is Ziliwaco looking to going forward?

PT: Ziliwaco follows what the people say and Zanu-PF is a people- driven party. What people have said should be taken seriously because these are the same people that keep us in power.

If people have concerns, it's not like he may be totally wrong, but in the view of the people something must be done to correct the situation in the Commissariat Department.

We expect the leadership of the party to look and do what is expected by the people of Zimbabwe, especially by the members of the party. We as Ziliwaco we are Zanu-PF through and through and most of our members are in the party structures.

These are the same people who are saying some decision has to be taken to correct the situation in the Commissariat Department. We are guided by the party; the structures of the party have spoken; the provinces have spoken.

It's not about him as an individual or personal hatred but we follow what our people say and Zanu-PF is owned by its membership. When their representatives say things, it would be a disadvantage or an ill-informed position to ignore what our people are saying. So we encourage the party leadership to review the situation in the Commissariat Department.

For the interests of the party, the commissar should also ask himself whether it will help to the party for him to say because I am right I should stick around. If he loves the party, he should do the right thing to defend the interests of Zanu-PF not his individual interests.

That doesn't mean he is wrong, it doesn't mean those who are saying whatever they are saying are truly very correct. But if the perception is that they will damage the image of the party, I will advise him, though unqualified to protect the interests of the party.

CC: You speak about people and about people being informed by the people. There are some people in different quarters who have called for President Mugabe to step down, some among the war veterans, for example. What is your view as Ziliwaco on this position?

PT: That's not the culture of the revolutionary party. I don't know what informs those people but President Mugabe is our leader chosen at the Congress to serve for a period of five years.

For anybody among the leadership or the war veterans or the war collaborators or any other quarters that are affiliated with the party, to come up and say the President must leave, it defeats any reasoning and it is very unfortunate we find this from war veterans, freedom fighters for that matter.

Robert Mugabe is our President. Congress has already spoken, and it is the highest decision-making body of the party.

So whether the Central Committee, Politburo, provinces, war veterans, war collaborators or anybody, all of them are below Congress and Congress has spoken.

Anyone who would want the same position should wait for Congress. As far as we are concerned as Ziliwaco's point of view Mugabe at this juncture is untouchable. Let him do his work, defend the revolution, he is our leader and for us he has done everything that a revolution expects from its leader.

CC: What is the relationship between Ziliwaco and the war veterans as it stands today? The chairperson of the War Veterans' Association, Christopher Mutsvangwa, is no longer part of Zanu-PF, Mandi Chimene at one point attempted to seize leadership of the association, so how do the collaborators and war vets currently relate?

PT: War veterans and the war collaborators fought in the same trenches. Naturally, we should be close and standing together defending the revolution.

But, of course, we differ with individuals within the war veterans' association who sometimes come out uttering conflicting statements that are in my view not revolutionary.

We have certainly discussed this with the war veterans and advised them of our position that we do not agree with any antagonistic attitude against the President.

While we recognise that they have their duty to choose who their leadership is, at the moment, as far as we know, the Mutsvangwa executive leads the war veterans. But that doesn't mean we then agree with them on everything. Where we differ we tell them.

When some of their membership started speaking negative about the party and the President we told them to their faces that we will part ways, we will not move together if they decide to fight the party and President. We hope they take our advice and rethink and reconsider their position.

If you are not happy with an individual, it would be wrong to take everybody into the fight. Focus on who is your enemy. During the struggle, war veterans could be confronted by the Smith regime in a place where there were a lot of people. They would run away instead of firing them back, in order to save innocent lives.

This is the same today, there could be elements in the party who have gone astray, who have started to be antagonistic or anti-revolutionary. Those are the people we should correct, those are the people we should talk to and fight if it is necessary.

But then fighting the whole party because there is one individual you don't agree with is wrong. Fighting the President because within his structures there a people who are behaving in a way that we don't like, it will be wrong and it doesn't appear that it is coming from people who are trained, people who are so schooled about our revolution.

So we urge the war veterans to reconsider their behaviour and reconsider their attitude towards the party. They cannot run away from the party at this juncture. As revolutionaries this is our party and we cannot give it to anybody. Our leader is Robert Mugabe so we have to defend him and defend the revolution.

CC: Looking ahead to the 2018 elections, considering all that is taking place within Zanu-PF, with the factions and the disagreements between the war veterans and Zanu-PF and also considering the fact that some opposition parties are moving towards a coalition, what do you take Zanu-PF's chances to be in the election and how do you as a party guarantee that you gain a favourable outcome?

PT: Victory in 2018 is not questionable, we are going to win that election. People will not vote for our differences but what Zanu-PF stands for.

We may have personal clashes and misunderstandings within the party but our membership doesn't look at that. There are very people who might also be aware of the root cause of these misunderstandings. They simply consider the party as their mechanism to defend the revolution. They also look up to the President, championing the direction of the revolution. So winning is not an issue. Coalitions, to me those are coalitions of misdirected people and I don't think the people of Zimbabwe will take them seriously. It's unfortunate that as Zanu-PF we disadvantage ourselves, giving ourselves a bad name by fighting for no reason.

If you want me to tell you, observing why the party or membership is fighting, it's all rumours, unsubstantiated allegations and so forth. People are really just fighting over nothing.

I foresee the leadership of the party, as we go forward, bringing the party together, taking action against those who are wayward and this is a day's job in my view. Nobody can stop the party when it wants to win elections.

CC: You say it's a day's job but these factional fights have been ongoing for quite some time. Why is it then that they haven't been dealt with if this is something you believe can be dismissed so easily?

PT: I think I can best express this in Shona. There is a saying, ishwa haibatwi nemusoro, you wait kuti ibude mumwena. Once it is out haikwanise kudzokera mumwena.

So the President and the leadership of the party might just be saying, let the real truth about these challenges manifest, be so open, so that they don't make wrong decisions about issues are being alleged against people.

That's all. They are only waiting. It's not that they can't solve this overnight. If we are loyal to the party, I think we should be asking ourselves, whatever are doing in our different ways, what is good for the party?

We should tell ourselves when we realise, that this is not good for the party, let us stop all this. But if you want the President or the leadership of the party to (take corrective action), I am telling you it's just a day's job for him to tell them to stop.

The people of Zimbabwe, the membership of the party are loyal to the President. His word will be final and out there none of these people will have support if he says something.

CC: Going back the elections, Ziliwaco has started campaigning on behalf of Zanu-PF, how are you carrying out this process and what are some of the outcomes and observances thus far?

PT: Ziliwaco has started campaigning, we believe that it is never too early to start mobilising. We have a duty as a revolutionary arm of Zanu-PF to defend the party, to ensure that come 2018, Zanu-PF wins.

We have started in Manicaland, we are mobilising our membership, advising them go out there in full force, do door-to- door campaigns, wherever they meet, in churches for example, talk to people and tell them that the time has come and that we need a renewal of our mandate as a revolutionary party to lead this country.

So they are going throughout the country to talk to the membership of the party, ordinary individuals, business people, intellectuals, the youth, everybody. We are informing them that it's time to organise ourselves and defend the revolution.

We will be doing that throughout the provinces. We were in Masvingo, we have already done Zaka, Masvingo and Gutu, mobilising people. We are excited that the people of Zimbabwe are still very loyal to the leadership of the President and Zanu-PF.

We won't take anything for granted because we are being confronted by antagonists from within the country, the opposition, sponsored surrogates of the imperialists, also the outside world which would want to see us collapsing. This is why we are going around, sensitising our people and telling them it is time to start preparing for the defence of our revolution.

CC: You mentioned the youth as part of the people you have tried to mobilise. Some might argue that virgin voters particularly among the youth will be critical in the 2018 election. How does Ziliwaco as an organisation appeal to the youth? Is there a relevance that the youth can find in Ziliwaco?

PT: Yes, there is. We are the first youth of the revolution after all. We were the mujibhas and chimbwindos, the young ones who were sent by the freedom fighters to do reconnaissance, provide accommodation and food for them. We had to mobilise our parents and everybody else to come to pungwes to get revolutionary education in order to defeat the enemy.

Because of this background we always teach the youth that without money or education, we could understand that it was important to defend the revolution. Added to that, as Ziliwaco we have a membership of about 200 000 and we have asked all members of Ziliwaco to bring their children, say an average of five children per family. That gives us about one million.

We have formed an organisation for our children which is called Ziliwaco Trust. As I speak, it has already registered about 175 000 members. We want to go on and register more members.

If we can go to Zanu-PF as an affiliate organisation and say we have one million people, voters, already the party will start from the one million that we have mobilised within our ranks plus what we can then mobilise from the general public. There is also what war veterans can mobilise and other affiliates, the youth themselves have been mobilising.

I think by the time we go to elections we will be sitting at about 2,5 million people before we even start campaigning and we assure all the people will vote for Zanu-PF.

Nobody can challenge that. I don't think the opposition is doing itself any service in purporting that by any chance they will be able to win an election in Zimbabwe because they themselves they have no agenda, nothing that is related to the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.

CC: You were once the Secretary for Youth within the Zanu-PF party and by virtue of that worked with the youth. What are some of the challenges that you saw young people facing in Zimbabwe and what would you say can be done to address these challenges? Also consider the fact that there have been different youth organisations sprouting that have been expressing their displeasure with the current Government, Temba Mliswa's YARD is an example, so too Acie Lumumba's VIVA Zimbabwe.

PT: I will tell you that Zanu-PF has a very vibrant youth constituency, there is no doubt about that. Working with those youth, I was very excited. Whatever happened to me was something I could not stop.

But the efforts by the youth, whatever they are doing now, has an impact beyond whatever these small players like your Mliswa, your Tsenengamu or anybody else. Those people cannot in anyway match themselves with the Zanu-PF Youth League.

So looking at what they are doing now, to go throughout the country, inviting the President to meet with the youth, this will answer a lot of some of the challenges the youth are facing.

The youth are facing a lot of challenges, economic challenges, their aspirations to get into political positions and so forth. These are diverse and found everywhere in the world. It is not peculiar to Zimbabwe. But fortunately there are a lot of programmes that are being put together by our leadership in the party and Government. We have a fully-fledged ministry that deals with the youth and there are programmes there that the youth can take advantage of.

But, unfortunately, there is limited capacity given that resources are a challenge and scarce everywhere, not only in Zimbabwe. The youth at this juncture can be assisted more in coming up with projects and creating employment for their peers.

I think that is where we are going and that is what Zanu-PF has always been driving at, empowering the youth to have their own capacity to be productive and also create employment.

I think that is being done very well and I am excited that the youth have taken it forward and invited the leader, their icon the President, to join them in their mobilisation processes. It will give them a plus in their ability to mobilise the youth.

CC: What of those who were either expelled from or left Zanu-PF, some who you worked with during your tenure. What is your relationship with and attitude towards some of these individuals, the likes of Godfrey Tsenengamu, considering the utterances they have been making towards Zanu-PF as a party and its leadership?

PT: My view is that there are still youth, they still have a lot of opportunities and they should be able to introspect on some of the wrongs that they did that could have caused for them to be suspended or expelled from the party.

They should submit themselves to the party if they are really loyal cadres. Things happen, they may have had rough encounters with some of the seniors of the party or duly made mistakes that they offended the leaders of the party which then forced decisions to be made to expel or suspend them.

I am saying these people must just come back to the party. It's time to come back and apologise if you can, present your case and stand to be corrected and follow the ideals of the party.

People like Tsenengamu, whatever he has done, he knows where he has come from. All these numerous political statements that he then makes, I have tried to understand where they are coming from. I have spoken to him and asked is it about money? Is there somebody who is paying him to do all of this because I know him as somebody who is an ardent Zanu-PF supporter.

But going about things the way he is, denigrating the party, that doesn't represent what I thought he was. So that is not helpful. I don't think even if they do anything for or are influenced by opposition parties, those people will genuinely love them. They are only being used by those people and will in the end be dumped.

Their home is in Zanu-PF, they should just find a way to come back to the party. They can go to the leadership of the party; they know the structures of the party.

I don't think in our leadership we have hard-hearted people who will then ignore their plea to come back to the party. But they just have to be loyal and accept that in one way or another if you have erred, the party will take action.

It's not because of hatred, but to correct you to be a future leader who will adhere to the principles of the party. In my view, many of these youngsters still have an opportunity if they come back to the party and present their problems. They shouldn't insult the leadership of the party.

Antagonism is something we would not accept in the revolutionary party. Contradictions, misconceptions or mistaken ideas you may have, but when the leaders say this is wrong, know from there that the correct path is this one.

CC: Could it be that they might be frustrated at the lack of opportunities within the Party in terms of their own political ambitions and frustrations in terms how to put forward their own ideas?

PT: Yes, they have to put forward their own ideas but one must be guided by the principles of the party. How do you put forward your ideas?

The issue of being frustrated, I don't think so. It's only that as people are growing there is too much energy in their body. They sometimes then misuse it and start doing things that are not constructive to their own political growth and the interest of the party.

So it's about the energy which must be correctly directed to serve the interests of the party. This party is theirs, they will inherit it from the leadership of the party. If you want to have a position in Zanu-PF, a higher position, you don't have to bulldoze and maybe throw away everybody and then rise because you want youth to be in the highest echelons or corridors of power, no.

You wait for your time. Patience will pay. Fighting and dislodging those who are in front of you is counter-revolutionary and not good for the party. So the young ones, the opportunities are there. If you have been whipped into line, use it as a learning point that you can then use for your own political growth.

CC: But what steps can these young people who aspire to political office take now to ensure that they find themselves with a seat at the table? There is this talk that the political space is dominated by an older generation and that younger generation should be given a chance. What room is there for the youth to engage and how do they get themselves into those spaces?

PT: We have the best policies in the political parties that I have looked at personally. We might be second to the Chinese Communist Party in youth empowerment programmes especially politically.

If you look, we have our youth in Parliament, we have the President deliberately appointing the youth into ministerial positions. We also have many of the youth in many areas, some of them are chairpersons of committees in Parliament and so forth.

That gives a clear indication to any youth who would want to participate in politics especially under Zanu-PF, that the opportunities are there and accessible. If they want to join or put themselves on the table to be elected as MPs the opportunities are there.

After that if they win the elections and have the confidence and competence, the President can still appoint them to higher positions. So our youth have all the opportunities. What one has to do is come up with programmes that are attractive and that society will accept.

Zimbabweans have already shown that they accept the youth to lead them. As long as you show focus, the people will support you.

The general policy of Zanu-PF is accommodative to youth and we will see a lot of them coming in as long as they are straight forward and they are not going to distort the image of the party.

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