The Zanu PF youth league was behind the ruling party’s controversial million-man march on Africa Day where calls were made for President Robert Mugabe to rule until he dies.
First Lady Grace Mugabe said her 92-year-old husband would actually rule from the grave. In this week’s The Big Interview, our reporter Obey Manayiti (OM) spoke to Zanu PF deputy secretary for youths Kudzai Chipanga (KC), the face behind the march held in Harare and is still on everyone’s lips. Below are excerpts of the interview.
OM: What is your assessment of the march, did it live up to expectations and how many people do you think turned up?
KC: The march went on well, more than we expected given the scarcity of resources. So that huge turnout was quite satisfying. We give salutation to the electorate; we give salutation to the Zanu PF membership and to our President Robert Gabriel Mugabe for attending that historic event.
Given the fact that many people attended, I could not see where the crowd ended. From that angle where I was seated, I could not see how far the crowds went.
So, it is even difficult for me and others to estimate the possible number because there were hundreds of thousands of people. If someone has to say they exceeded one million, I would not disagree with them.
OM: How much was spent on the march and where did you get the money from?
KC: It’s difficult for anyone to say the actual amount which was spent on the march because we did not ferry our people. They came on their own and used their own resources from their respective provinces, districts and wards. So, it is very difficult for me to come up with a budget or to say so much was used.
OM: Most of the buses that ferried the marchers to Harare belonged to schools. Did you compensate the schools for wear and tear of their vehicles?
KC: I was not the one doing the transport arrangements, neither was it our office at headquarters level. People did what we call self-funding and they came on their own.
I don’t know what mode of transport was used. I only saw people at the Robert Mugabe Square. At the same time, you should understand these people were not dropped off at Robert Mugabe Square, but were dropped at various assembly points.
What I just noticed is that people came in their numbers marching, not being driven, so that question I think should be asked to the people who attended the solidarity march.
OM: What made it necessary to bus people from across the country instead of mobilising your members in Harare to attend the march voluntarily?
KC: That solidarity march was being organised by the national organisation of the youths, not the provincial executive of the youth league or the provincial executive of Harare. It was a national event, so we could not instruct a particular province to organise it because it was a national event.
OM: You accused ministers of living in luxury while Mugabe had a modest lifestyle. Do you think these ministers get such perks without the president’s approval and if so, what does it say about his leadership style?
KC: I didn’t accuse our ministers of being corrupt. I accused our ministers of having misplaced priorities.
I gave several examples whereby our ministers are driving posh vehicles, our CEOs from parastatals are driving posh vehicles, our CEOs from local authorities are driving posh vehicles, our directors in government are driving posh vehicles at a time we are saying as a nation, all is not well financially.
That lifestyle is completely contradicting what is actually on the ground.
We are advocating that instead of the government spending that much on vehicles and other luxury programmes like holding seminars in resort towns, let’s try to drive most of our resources to production.
More resources should be channelled to agriculture because this country is agro-based and let’s put more attention to production so that we produce and export.
When the economy is stable, that’s when we can afford luxury. This is not the time for luxury.
OM: But this happens under Mugabe’s watch, is he not supposed to stop that?
KC: The president doesn’t work under government’s procurement department.
The president is the Head of State and he appoints several ministers to execute duties on his behalf.
So it is not the responsibility of the president to purchase vehicles, that is not the responsibility of the president to tell local authorities to go and hold seminars in Kariba, Victoria Falls or Mazvikadei resort areas.
That is not the duty of the president to advise or direct parastatal boards to go and hold seminars in these areas I have mentioned. No. They are just using their own discretion.
OM: But for ministers, is it not his duty?
KC: To do what?
OM: To put checks and balances so that they will not overspend.
KC: That is why you see the president sometimes reshuffles his cabinet. It means that he is concerned. He is making an effort. He is putting in place those checks and balances.
OM: In your speech you were clear that the majority of ministers are corrupt and incompetent. Is that not an indictment on the president, the appointing authority?
KC: You have a problem, you Cde reporter in your personal capacity. I never said our ministers are corrupt. I said our ministers have misplaced priorities.
OM: In the run-up to the march, war veterans accused you of driving the agenda of a Zanu PF faction that was allegedly misleading First Lady Grace Mugabe. What is your reaction to that?
KC: War veterans and the youth league have one leader, that is President Mugabe. Yes, we might have some misunderstandings on an individual level but no one can afford to separate these two institutions; Zanu PF youth league and war veterans. We are one.
Yes, we might differ here and there about the modus operandi but we are going in the same direction, that of serving our country, our party Zanu PF and our president.
OM: Do you think Zanu PF still has factions? You have been linked to G40, do you belong to any faction?
KC: There has never been a time when Zanu PF has had factions.
OM: There are reports you are linked to G40, explain.
KC: Given that there are no factions in the party, therefore, I will not belong to any faction.
We only have a political party called Zanu PF under the leadership of President Mugabe and that is where I belong.
OM: You are among some people pushing for Mugabe to remain in power until he dies. What motivates you to push such an agenda and is this an admission that Zanu PF has no capable leaders that can take the party forward after Mugabe?
KC: What is motivating us, not I alone and particularly the youths to say the president should be in power until death do us part is the fact that only President Mugabe can serve black majority interest not only in Zimbabwe, but even in Africa, so he is an asset to us and we cannot afford to lose him.
OM: In the event that he dies, do you see any capable leader taking over in Zanu PF?
KC: I don’t know since I have never thought of living without President Mugabe.