Responding to questions on whether it was proper for the ruling party to take its festivities to Masvingo, where thousands face starvation due to drought, Zanu PF youth league secretary, Pupurai Togarepi said Mugabe’s birthday will be celebrated even in a war situation in recognition of the “great works he has done to free” the people.
“We won’t force anyone, people who are paying know how the party operates and no one was forced. The birthday is important, it is like the birth of Jesus, who was born to rescue us, the same way President Mugabe was born in 1924 to free all of us, including you journalists to start writing like you are doing now,” he said.
Mugabe turns 92 tomorrow, with the main festivities set for Masvingo next weekend, where an over $800 000 fete is planned.
Togarepi said Mugabe and the youth league were not to blame for the hunger and drought in Masvingo.
“This is not unique to Zimbabwe, but they celebrate the lives of their heroes. So why is it an issue to relate the two? It has been there in drought and bumper harvest and there are authorities in Zimbabwe that are supposed to look at the drought issue. Are you not celebrating your birthdays? We are going to celebrate this day even in war situation because to us it’s important,” he said.
The Zanu PF youth boss was also on record pushing for February 21 to be declared a national holiday and be called the Robert Mugabe Day or Youth Day.
Togarepi distanced the youth league from a declaration of war against former liberation fighters by his deputy Kudzai Chipanga, whose statements angered the ex-combatants.
“If we say let’s go to war today, how many war veterans are there? They are very few. We (youths) constitute 65% of this country…so be ready and we are going to call you when the time comes,” Chipanga was quoted as saying.
But Togarepi said the youth league “was in love” with the war veterans.
“As the youth league, we don’t belong to any faction and we wouldn’t want any of our members to purport to be in any faction as advised by the leadership of the party.
“We support our President; we don’t belong to any groups, whether they are there or not. We support our President and it is him, who we believe in and I am speaking as the leader of the youth league and chief executive of the youth league,” Togarepi, who was flanked by Chipanga, said. “There could be issues and other people could say something at certain events, but we belong to the President of the party and not the so-called factions.”
Togarepi said the youths were not happy with officials attacking the party leadership in public.
“There are people, including the media, enjoying denigrating the leadership, our President, our two Vice-Presidents and our First Lady. As the youth league, we are not happy and anybody, anywhere, whether in Zanu PF or outside must not attack our leadership,” he said.
This was in apparent reference to some party officials, among them Zanu PF women’s league official, Sarah Mahoka, who belittled Mnangagwa in public recently last week.
War veterans have been accused of bringing the party into disrepute by denigrating First Lady Grace.