ZANU-PF national political commissar Major-General Engelbert Rugeje (Rtd) has said the revolutionary party is employing a “spider-web” campaign strategy that focuses on the cell as the basic element needed in revamping party structures ahead of general elections to be held sometime mid-year.
His comments came as the party's secretary for war veterans, Victor Matemadanda, who is also the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association, said the organisation had submitted its request for the re-admission of former war veterans chairperson, Jabulani Sibanda, and other senior members who were expelled in 2014 for allegedly plotting to topple former President Robert Mugabe.
In an exclusive wide-ranging interview, Rugeje said contrary to aspersions that the revolutionary party was invisible on the ground, the party was actively focusing on the lowest organ the party- the cell.
The basic structures of Zanu-PF as enshrined in the party’s constitution are the cell, branch, province, district, province, central committee and the politburo.
Rugeje said the revolutionary party’s commissariat department had employed what he called "dandemutande" or a "spider-web" strategy that ensures that the nucleus structure of the party was functional and intact.
“We are addressing our membership at cell level because the concept that we have adopted this time around is the concept of the 'spider-web' or ‘dandemutande’. We want to concentrate on the cells and link them together just like the web does.
“The web links its web so neatly and makes sure that there is connectivity. That’s the approach we have taken as commissariat (of) going down to the cells, mobilising them; educating them on the importance of voting and on the importance of supporting Zanu-PF,” Rugeje said.
He said the idea of the ‘spider-web’ strategy was to ensure that our cells were intact including ascertaining that supporters were registered to vote and know exactly where they are supposed to vote.
Rugeje said it was imperative for the revolutionary party continuously verify its cell structures because of the constant movement of people from one area to another
“I can confirm that as far as the structures of the cells are concerned; we have done that and we continue to verify our cell structures. Why do we continue to verify our structures? There is this inevitable movement of people from time to time. Either some are transferred because of the demands of their employers or some are resettled.
“So because of that inevitable movement we are bound to ensure that we conduct our restructuring particularly of the cells continuously and we have been doing that continuously. And we have also been encouraging our lower structure that is the provinces, the districts and the branches and the cells themselves to make sure that our members are registered to vote and secondly in our party registers, the cell register itself which comprises of 50 members and (we must make sure) that they are aligned to the polling station where they are going to vote. So because of those changes, it becomes necessary to continue restructuring ourselves to make sure that by the time we get to the elections.”
Rugeje said the fact that the commissariat department was not appearing on television or being read in newspaper did not mean that the party was not campaigning.
“Let those who say we are not visible live in that elusion- they will meet us at harmonised elections. What’s the point in having rallies when you have not verified whether we have structures on the ground? What’s the point of having rallies when we have not verified whether are members are registered? You think a whole General can retire simply to be noticed on the ground. We don’t want to grandstand. It’s not the first time we have contested the election and it’s not the first time we are going to win elections,” said Rugeje.
The combative Rugeje dismissed as reckless and offensive assertions that ordinary people in some outlying areas were not well appraised of the leadership changes that took place last November.
“I have personally been to some very remote areas. I was in Chipinge, (I am not saying Chipinge is a remote area) but I have been to some very distant areas where people believe information does not get there in time and is not transmitted accurately. I addressed a rally in Machona, which is almost close to the Border with Mozambique. I also addressed a rally in Kwale, which is very close to the border with South Africa and Botswana- just trying to establish whether what people are alleging is true. That is false. People know that VaMugabe resigned. People know that the current head of state, the Commander in Chief and President of the Republic is Cde Mnangagwa.”
On the verification exercise for aspiring legislators and councillors, Rugeje said the process was on-going and will be finalising soon to allow the holding of primary elections. He said aspiring candidates had to meet both the party and national constitutional requirements.
He also expressed confidence that the party manifesto will also be launched as soon as other preceding processes are completed.
Rugeje sought to distant himself from his predecessor Saviour Kasukuwere saying his summary expulsion of party cadres was a clear manifestation of lack of understanding of the party’s constitution and its founding ideological ethos.
He said a national political commissar is not supposed to dabble in disciplinary matters as this contravenes his mandate of winning the hearts and minds of the populace.
“For your own information, it is not the responsibility of the national political commissar to handle disciplinary matters. That was actually a misnomer. In the current dispensation, the mandate of the national commissar as I said before is to restructure and mobilise for people to support the party. So I cannot be found anywhere near disciplinary cases within Zanu-PF. We have a secretary for legal affairs who is responsible for handling such issues and the national chairman of the party is the one chairs the national disciplinary committee and as a national political commissar I am not a member of the disciplinary committee. It was actually a contradiction; how can you mobilise and on the other hand prosecute?”
Rugeje said his mandate was to restore the party to its glory days through revamping of structures, fostering unity and highlighting the achievements of the revolutionary party.
He said prior to the current administration, the revolutionary party had been hijacked by people who were not interested in championing what the party represented.
“The revolution had been infiltrated by fifth columnist. People who wanted to destroy the party because they did not understand the history of the party? They did not know why people went to war to liberate this country? These were the people who were at the mantle of leadership within Zanu-PF. And I want to give you example- nobody would be trained militarily before undergoing a 21-day ideological orientation programme,” said Rugeje.
He refused to comment on the newly formed National Patriotic Front being led by Retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri saying he had no business commenting about trivial political formation.
Rugeje said the commissariat department would soon roll out campaign rallies for President Mnangagwa but these would be concentrated on specific economic activities in individual communities.
“We have also taken the President to a number of provinces by way of Presidential tours where he meets the people and the people are introduced to him and its normally juxtaposed with an a visit to an activity of economic interest. Remember the President’s mantra that we should talk about politics with economic, so we in Zanu-PF follow that call of the President not to spend more time talking about politics but also focus on economic issues. So normally when we invite the President to tour we normally arrange that he visit an economic activity in the province first then addresses the people later. And in the process of addressing the public, he will then give further direction or update concerning the economic activity.”
In a separate interview, Matemadanda, has said the organisation had submitted its request for the re-admission of Jabulani Sibanda.
“We have made a formal request for Cdes Jabulani Sibanda, Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo to be re-admitted into the party. Zanu-PF has always been their home. They must come back into a disciplined and rejuvenated party. Jabulani is a cadre of the revolution. I for one don’t want to see his re-admission being delayed any minute longer. As war veterans, we are bound by our shared experiences,” said Matemadanda.
Matemadanda could not be drawn to comment on the application status of former ZANU-PF youth league leader Kudzai Chipanga as he was part of the National Disciplinary Committee chaired by the national chairman Oppah Muchinguri.
Matemadanda said President Mnangagwa was poised for a landslide victory as the opposition was being led by a novice who has nothing to offer to the electorate.
“We had a Look East policy but now we are looking global. There is so much international goodwill for President Mnangagwa and the new political dispensation. I have no doubt that Zimbabweans will resoundingly vote for President Mnangagwa as he has already demonstrated that he is a listening President and not a ruler who is detached from the people,” said Matemadanda.
He said President Mnangagwa was a team leader who consultants and makes informed decisions unlike his predecessor who had become who had become dictatorial and lacked accountability.