Prague - Closing down the Czech embassy in Zimbabwe is illogical and immoral just when Zimbabwe has started to move forward, says a Zimbabwean politician Trudy Stevenson who attended this year's Forum 2000 conference in Prague.
Founding member of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Zimbabwe and the first white woman to have been voted to the Zimbabwean parliament, Stevenson has been freshly nominated for a post of an ambassadoress to Senegal. Although she is no longer an MP, she has not quit politics because it is like a drug to her, as she says.
Aktuálně.cz: Recently there has been much talk about the EU sanctions. Should they be cancelled or should the EU wait a bit longer?
Trudy Stevenson: It is very difficult to say. The sanctions have not achieved a lot. The regime has continued, the violence has continued. In my personal view I would say get rid of the sanctions because then Mugabe does not have anything to beat the EU with. He uses the sanctions as an excuse for everything.
Is it safe for European investors to enter the Zimbabwean market and donors to give aid or is it still shaky?
It is safer than the European market! Look what happened to the European and American markets. Investment is worth a risk. The stock market is actually doing well, so it is a good time. If you are trying to send a signal and support the inclusive government, which in my point of view is the only solution we can have in Zimbabwe, the only thing that can take us out, then you need to support it not only morally but financially.
In my view careful investment, particularly companies which have good governance policies, which support openness and transparency, would give a signal to Zimbabweans to also have confidence in our own economy and investment. Of course, we know Zimbabweans should lead in the investment field but we actually don't have any money to invest because we are all broke.
What about the controversial figure Gideon Gono whom the MDC blames for failing the economy and hyperinflation. Should he stay or should he go?
It would be better if there was somebody else appointed. It was supposed to be agreed between all three parties as who would be the next governor of the reserve bank. Robert Mugabe went ahead and appointed him without consulting the other two. So that process has to be reviewed again. Gideon Gono is a capable person himself. It may be all three would agree he should remain but at least they should be consulted.
Zimbabwe used to be called the breadbasket of the region and since 2000, Mugabe's controversial land reform program has driven more than 4,000 commercial farmers off their land, destroying Zimbabwe's once prosperous agricultural sector. Now there are only 400. Some of the farmers say things are even worse today than they used to be back then. Do you agree with them?
The top leadership in ZANU-PF sees the end of the goodies for the boys coming and want to quickly grab what is left before the end comes. But there are black farmers also targeted. There is violence and because it is nearly the end, the ones who have not got anything yet are trying to grab something quickly before the end comes.
While international media are no longer banned in the country and can actually report on anything, the local media still feel oppressed. In general, it seems like nothing has changed. Is that really so?
Yes, media people face the same situation and it is very disappointing. If there anybody wants to launch a new paper, Mugabe people threathen him. Not much has changed in that.
Shouldn't the EU use pressure here?
Pressure is always good but it is better if the EU uses the pressure on our neighbors, particularly SADC. But our bigger problem now is we don't actually have the funds to do anything much.
At the moment there is not much that actually can change things every much. You can buy things in the shop, yes but you need US dollars and quite a lot of them. And people in the countryside cannot afford that anyway. We still don't have electricity, we don't have water, and infrastructure is very poor. As we are approaching the rainy season, we may have another cholera outbreak. The whole sewage system is not working properly. We are in a dangerous position, when we could have a backward slide any time.
What is your experience as a white woman and an opposition politician working in Zimbabwe?
It has been a bit lonely, especially as white, I must say. As you know, I was beaten up (in 2006 until now by unknown perpetrators) but I would have been beaten up whatever my color was. To some extent being white protects me. Because I am more visible. I am certainly more protected than a black woman. Male politicians respect me perhaps a bit more. Because they don't know how to deal with me. They deal very roughly with a black woman politician in their traditional way where the black women are down. I love politics and it is a like a drug - once you have been bitten by the drug politics, you cannot let go.
The Czech embassy may close soon because of savings. have you heard about it? If yes, what was your reaction.
I was horrified when I heard about this. Any embassy, particularly Western democratic embassy to pull out now when we are just starting to move forward gives us a very bad impression. It removes a bit of our courage. It makes us a bit nervous: Have we done something wrong?
The presence of the country like the Czech Republic when you yourselves have overthrown an authoritarian regime and succeeded is what gives us courage. It seems illogical and to me immoral for the Czech Republic to abandon us particularly as Myanmar is going to set up an embassy and the Czechs are pulling out. This is bizarre.