ZAPU’s youngest candidate aims to rebrand the party

ZAPU’s youngest presidential candidate, Bernard Magugu, believes young people need to put a facelift on the revolutionary party so that it puts people at the forefront in political processes.

The challenge for Magugu (44) is to convince the elderly within ZAPU that their nostalgic days are over and convince them that young people can also deliver.

Magugu will battle for party presidency with Sibangilizwe Nkomo (63), son of the late nationalist Joshua Nkomo, and Mark Mbayiwa (65), current party Treasurer General, for the top post at the congress to be held this October.

Other aspirants such as Dr Strike Mkandla (70), Matthew Sibanda and Sithembiso Nkomo in their mid-fifties seem to have fallen off the race as they lost out on nominations.

In an interview with CITE, Magugu said ZAPU needs to rebrand by having young leadership who are innovative in their thinking.

“ZAPU needs a facelift, it must be re-engineered and revived. My slogan is ‘Let’s revive ZAPU together,’ but some comrades don’t understand this term as they say, ‘ZAPU was revived in 2008 December when it left Zanu-PF.’ These people say, ‘the party was also revived in 2009 when it had a special congress in May and again in 2010 when we had the people’s congress.’ However, there is a difference between pull out and revival. The party pulled out from the Unity Accord and it’s not yet revived.”

Bernard Magugu

Magugu said he wanted to revive the vibrancy of the party structures. 

“We have spent lot of time without a vice president and this is an indicator ZAPU is not yet revived,” he said. “We have participated in two elections and ZAPU failed to get a single MP seat. We have spent a period of 13 years now and issues such as Gukurahundi, political disturbances, land question haven’t been addressed. ZAPU is quiet and silent, yet it sharpened the spear of the armed struggle and must be active in addressing these issues.”

A young leadership that is robust and aggressive, according to Magugu can push out Zanu, through legal means.

“We want leadership that will challenge Zanu head on and correct some of the economic issues of the country even when out of the government,” he said. “This is leadership we are looking for. This is the reason why I have accepted to take up the challenge. Young people have energy and change has to start within ZAPU then it will spill over to the country as a whole. Winds of change are stripping across Africa with young leaders coming in. Yes, you meet resistance but we need to be stronger than resistance.”

Magugu said he had no intentions of contesting until some young and elderly people including former ZPRA cadres asked him to join the race, after the late leader, Dr Dumiso Dabengwa, made a clarion call to have a young leader.

“I believe people looked across all the structures within the party and they picked me to be the face of the organisation,” he said.

“At first I doubted it but they continued pushing until I yielded after consulting with family, friends, relatives and village members in Zhombe who all urged me to take up the challenge.

“Before I knew it, I saw posters coming from South Africa and Harare advertising me as a presidential candidate so I was forced to accept and not to betray my comrades.”

When he embarked on his campaign, Magugu realised that some members were unwilling to accept him as a leader and opposed his views.

“The challenge is to convince and convert those people,” he said.

“It is challenging not to be accepted by the party’s national executive council members, who have own preferences. People have different opinions but congress comes, I pray we have one leader and I am prepared to work with anyone.

“We have elders within ZAPU who still believe their next leader has to be Joshua Nkomo, but he’s dead and no longer with us. Some in their minds think the next president should be Dumiso Dabengwa who is no longer with us too. I was groomed by Dabengwa and worked with him closely. I learnt from him, political intelligence, humility, courage, confidence, political management, security issues and how to protect the organisation, yourself and your family.”

Magugu said his greatest task after the congress would be to unite ZAPU, as political campaigns tend to fragment people into different factions.

“I have been embarrassed, humiliated, called names but I respect ZAPU and I know we will group together because we are disciplined,” he said.

The presidential candidate also conceded that resource shortages had affected ZAPU’s growth but he was ‘ready’ to employ “heritage economic strategies” where local resources were pooled in to keep the party going.

“We can formulate our structures using local resources, group people together, formulate branches as what we have been doing in communities, then we can challenge the government itself and political wing of Zanu,” Magugu said. 

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