Pupurai Togarepi’s stock was rising in Zanu PF after he was credited with persuading First Lady Grace Mugabe to enter mainstream politics in 2014, but it was not long before he fell from grace.
the big interview BY XOLISANI NCUBE
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Collaborators Association (Ziliwaco) chairperson was elevated to the Zanu PF politburo where he became the secretary for youth affairs at the party’s congress the same year.
However, two years later he was dismissed by President Robert Mugabe following allegations that he was part of a faction that backed Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed the 92-year-old leader.
Togarepi (PT) on Friday opened up about his political misfortunes in a wide-ranging interview with our senior reporter Xolisani Ncube (XN). Below are excerpts of the interview.
XN: You were once the Zanu PF secretary for youths in the politburo but you were removed after you were accused of being a member of a faction called Team Lacoste. Briefly tell us about your stint.
PT: I respect the opportunity that I was given to serve in the highest organ of the party, that is the politburo, as a member responsible for the youth.
I want to thank President Mugabe for having recognised me and appointing me to serve in that capacity.
It was a very good experience for me and I found the youth that I worked with very cooperative, very focused and I enjoyed what I was doing and I did what I was supposed to do for the good of the party.
XN: But there are some who thought you were misleading the youths, even within the youth league?
PT: In an organisation as big as Zanu PF, yes, you find contradictions and you also find mistaken ideas, people thinking that because you have taken a certain position, it means you support so and so or you are antagonising somebody.
But what I was doing was my job as given to me by the appointing authority. I did all that for the good of the party.
XN: You were accused of belonging to a faction called Team Lacoste. Is this true?
PT: So I heard that I was being accused of being Lacoste, and supporting so and so.
I have never done that and I will never do it. I support the principles. I support the revolution. I support the structure and constitution of Zanu PF.
If at a certain point, we go to congress and a leadership is ushered in, I respect it.
I work with everybody in the party for the good of Zanu PF. But there could be people who may have their own ideas; I have never been to any meeting related to factionalism with anybody, including the so-called Lacoste.
I have never gone to a meeting to plot against anyone. So I don’t know how somebody can say I am a member of a certain faction.
XN: Are there factions in Zanu PF?
PT: Yes, in my view. I have always said and thought, in any political or any institution, there will always be alliances on issues, people who think in a certain way on a certain subject.
These must be cordial, either for the good of the organisation or it’s done to push certain views that will then help even the greater organisation.
Even those people who will be pushing for an opposing view will then finally benefit. But of course media is awash with these assertions.
People talk about factions, Lacoste, G40, all that, the third force. I read about all that and whether you like it or not, this is showing in the day-to-day activities of the party.
Even the leadership has talked about the existence of those groupings. But after saying that, I don’t believe I should belong to a certain grouping for whatever reason.
XN: From your experience in Zanu PF, do factions destroy an organisation or they bring competition which benefits the party?
PT: If they become factions, they will destroy. Alliances are not permanent because in an alliance, it is a view that has been shared.
It is like someone saying let’s go to Chinhoyi and two people say no, we cannot. They have become allied to the view not to go to Chinhoyi but tomorrow, in the same group if one says let’s go to Marondera, the same person who refused to go to Chinhoyi, might change his mind about undertaking a journey.
It’s not permanent in an alliance but in a faction people build deeper roots to antagonise each other even if they know that a view is of benefit to all, they just oppose because it’s a factional view. So it ceases to be a constructive relationship in any organisation. So factions are not acceptable in an organisation that is progressive.
XN: Do you think Zanu PF will ever end factionalism?
PT: Because of the level of antagonism in the party, it is very difficult. People are peddling falsehoods, plotting against each other’s camps. Even blue lies are believed.
I think and strongly believe that all members of the party must introspect and ask themselves whether getting into factions is good for the organisation. Is it good for Zanu PF to have those factions? If it is not good, then each member involved in those factions must find a way or find others when there is still time to throw away those perceptions or that difference and find common ground for the good of the party. We have an organisation that has a history.
We are an organisation that is built in a certain way with values and does not allow personal interest to cloud the common good. Factions are driven by personal interest.
And even the leadership of those said factions may not even know that below them there are people who are building camps to choose leaders.
These people are saying to themselves in the event so and so gets there, I will have these personal benefits, but they may not have communicated this to the supposed faction leaders. So factions are not good for any organisation. They are destructive. Zanu PF is supposed to be running this country but because of these factional fights, we are doing the opposite.
We have a mandate to govern this country for the good of every Zimbabwean, but when we concentrate on fighting each other, taking unnecessary and unfruitful stances on issues, we are exposing every Zimbabwean because we won’t have time to defend the interest of every Zimbabwean.
XN: What is your relationship with the first lady? I ask so because your organisation, Ziliwaco, is said to have played a leading role in persuading her to join mainstream politics.
PT: The first lady is a leader in Zanu PF. Naturally, I respect her as my leader and whatever she tries to do for the good of the party, I support it and I don’t think it’s just me.
It’s supposed to be the same with every other member of the party, so I believe that relationship with the first lady still exits and is intact.
I strongly believe she respects me and when we do party work, we do it harmoniously. On the issue that we motivated her to come into mainstream politics, I don’t think it was me alone or Ziliwaco, everyone saw good in that, she was also ready to contribute and support the party.
I think many people in the body politic of Zanu PF thought it was a good idea and she has done well in the party.
XN: Your son [Gabriel] was kicked out of the party in the same way you were removed from the politburo. He was accused of being a member of a faction. how did you feel when you heard this and how did the family receive the news? from your understanding, is he a member of that faction?
PT: It was heart-breaking. I didn’t like it. I still believe whoever created the false story about my son did it unfairly.
If it was me who they wanted, they should have just gone for me than to create unfounded allegations about my innocent son whom I had told Zanu PF is my home.
I wanted my children to protect the legacy I fought for in the liberation struggle and they were supposed to support the values of Zanu PF, but I think in order to destabilise me, they went for my son, which is unfortunate.
I hope this has not destroyed him and I know one day the truth will come out.
XN: How is your relationship with the two vice-presidents who are both accused of belonging to different factions?
PT: I have a good working relationship with both of them. I respect them, they are leaders of the party.
They will remain the leaders to me; as members who are founders of our revolution and as people who were appointed to lead the party which I belong to. They have both been fatherly to me.
I respect them but what I don’t know is what is in their hearts about me.
XN: From your understanding, what is the source of contradictions in Zanu PF?
PT: I will tell you as a revolutionary. Somewhere, somehow in the body politic in Zanu PF, either in the leadership or general membership, there might be those who believe some of us who stick to the founding principles, some of us who believe in the founding ethos of the struggle, are stumbling blocks.
We should be correcting issues. Contradictions will always be there.
There are always mistaken ideas and identities that need to be corrected. When you stick to the methods that have always been used over the years, some may interpret that you are standing in their way and therefore you become an enemy.
So the challenges that we see, honestly, I believe there is a deliberate effort in the revolutionary party to deal with revolutionaries.
This is not about Togarepi, it’s what we stand for that may seem antagonistic to some individuals within the party.
XN: There are some who believe the contradictions are caused by the battle to succeed Mugabe. What is your view on that?
PT: Succession to me is not a subject of note in a revolutionary party.
We have a position, a direction, a way of doing things. People cannot fight for who will be what tomorrow because we have a set down procedure in Zanu PF.
XN: What is this procedure?
PT: That one day if a leader leaves, there will come a new leader from the people. The people of Zimbabwe, the people of Zanu PF will chose their leader because the leader we have today was chosen several times at all congresses of Zanu PF.
Whoever is going to come tomorrow will be chosen by the people, but the problem is there are people who are positioning themselves around preferred people to say maybe if this one gets a chance, I will be better off. They go and congregate around that person without the person’s knowledge, but that is not how the party deals with issues of succession.
People have made this word of succession a very big word within the party, succession is always there but it is done within the confines of the party.
XN: War veterans have accused a faction in Zanu PF called G40 of destroying the party from within. What is your view?
PT: I don’t want to speak on behalf of the war veterans.
XN: Do you ascribe to that?
PT: I have no comment. All I can say is, you cannot separate us from the war veterans; we fought in the same struggle and an injury to one is an injury to all of us.
I don’t know what G40 is and what it stands for. I don’t know who its members are or whether they are there. If they are there and are responsible for destroying the party, they must stop it forthwith.
XN: Do you think Zanu PF will win the 2018 elections and why?
PT: Resoundingly by more than 65% because we know how to mobilise and how to campaign. We have a strong candidate and we will win hands down.