Interview: Lessons from Zimbabwe

Oct 29, 2008 (DVB), Zimbabwean opposition MP Trudy Stevenson said in an interview with DVB yesterday that Burmese and Zimbabwean activists could benefit from closer links in their struggles for democracy.

Drawing on her experience as an opposition representative in Zimbabwe, Stevenson said that strategic planning and the flexibility to adapt to new circumstances were key factors in the struggle for democracy.

DVB: How has the democracy movement in Zimbabwe gained such support?

TS: "From your perception obviously we have more support than you. In my view, Burma has a great deal more prominence in the world media in particular. But how it was achieved was that we strategised as members of the opposition and as politicians.

"We strategised, we communicated with the Western countries, with Europe, America and so on, on ways to put pressure on the Zimbabwe so-called government and the idea of targeted sanctions was adopted because ordinary blanket sanctions hurt the ordinary people. But if you can have targeted sanctions so it's simply the members of the government that you are attacking, the regime who are targeted, and the sanctions don't affect the ordinary people then that does put pressure on that government to come to the table, to come to the party as we say.

"So it was strategic thinking and a strategy plan. And that's what you have to do in politics and in a struggle. You need to strategise and if one strategy doesn't work or no longer works , and in my view the targeted sanctions have run their course and it's now time to change tack , but you have to operate rather in a military frame of mind. So you're strategic and then you constantly review and monitor and when it no longer works then you adopt another tactic."

DVB: Do you think the Burmese democracy movement should move on from sanctions and find another approach?

TS: "If sanctions have not worked or are no longer working or are causing too many problems, maybe it's time to look for another tactic. One has to think as a military strategist."

DVB: Do you have any other comments?

TS: "I can only say that we don't have many links at the moment. Zimbabwe, we are an African country , even though I have a white skin I am an African , and you are an Asian country. So we are far apart and we don't have many links. But if we can establish links, I think it will help both countries and we can find much in common."We sympathise with your struggle as well I can assure you, and we wish you all the best. And what you must not do is give up; you must keep going because democracy is everyone's human right and the Burmese people will not develop until you have freedom and democracy. That is what will allow you to develop your country." Trudy Stevenson is a Zimbabwean member of parliament and was one of the founding members of the MDC opposition party.

She currently serves as the MDC national secretary for policy and research.

Reporting by Nay Too

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