A video of Zanu PF youths chanting the “down with Mugabe slogan” during a meeting addressed by President Emmerson Mngangagwa went viral last week as it dawned on Zimbabweans that relations between the ruling party and one of its long-time leaders had reached rock-bottom.
Zanu PF youth secretary Pupurai Togarepi (PT) was quoted saying the party would deem Mugabe an enemy if reports that he was behind a splinter party, the National Patriotic Front (NPF), were true.
Our reporter Obey Manayiti (OM) yesterday spoke to Togarepi about the fallout with Mugabe. Below are excerpts from the interview.
OM: You have threatened to deal with Mugabe if you establish that he is involved in the newly-formed Zanu PF splinter party, the National Patriotic Front. Why is there too much focus on Mugabe? Do you fear him? Do you fear that he will cause problems for your party?
PT: No, it’s not out of fear, but the whole reason why we respect Cde Mugabe is to preserve and protect our legacy.
He has a rich history, which he worked and toiled for with us and we wouldn’t want him to be punished by our history or the future saying that at the end of his long time he failed.
Without Zanu PF and the people that he worked with, I don’t think he will cause any political challenges. He is just Cde RG Mugabe and nothing more.
OM: The country’s constitution says everyone has a right to freedom of political association and it means you are infringing on his right, is it not so?
PT: We are talking about our internal issues as the revolutionary party to which Cde Mugabe belongs, but should he decide to go out there and form or support another party we are only warning our dear comrade that we will consider him as an opponent, a contestant against us.
We will not be kind; we will just make him look (like) who he (really) is.
Any person is important as the institution that builds that person and he is only important when he is relevant. If he decides to go out there, he will become a nobody. Tell him that if you want.
OM: Are you able to face him and call him an enemy? This is in light of all the glorification that you, as Zanu PF, used to give him locally and on international forums.
PT: My friend, even in the Bible you are only holy if you die holy and you then go to heaven. If you sin at the last moment, it will be a different case altogether.
What he is doing now, if proven, will tarnish everything that he did. If he chooses to be part of the opposition, then he will be dealt with.
OM: There are reports that during the meeting with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, some members of the youth league called for Mugabe to be placed under house arrest. Is this true?
PT: No, I didn’t hear that. What will be the point of placing a 94-year-old man under house arrest?
OM: Don’t you fear that this will tarnish the image of Zimbabwe? Some people are alleging that you are now persecuting the former president.
PT: There is no reason to persecute Cde Mugabe. As far as we are concerned, he is our leader and somebody who is important in our revolution, therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to persecute him.
I don’t know where those people are getting that but as far as we are concerned he is being well-looked after and he is enjoying with his family.
These reports of persecution are coming from social media platforms.
OM: But don’t you think if reports of persecution remain out there they may dent the credibility of the harmonised elections this year?
PT: Look, Mugabe is just one individual and this cannot tarnish the whole of Zimbabwe. It’s only that we have people in our midst who enjoy overplaying things that are not true and we cannot stop that.
Mugabe fought for this country and as far as I am concerned he is one person we love so much and we cannot persecute him.
People might try to misrepresent facts with the intention to tarnish the country but the international community is very much informed on this subject.
OM: So you are confident that these issues will not affect the image of the country, which on the other hand, you are trying so hard to rebuild?
PT: He is just a Zimbabwean like you. He is someone we are looking after so well and we have given him a pension and from my own sources it is higher than any other former president in Africa and so what is it that we should do for him?
The money is coming from that which we are trying to resuscitate —our economy.