THE European Union (EU) will on Monday meet in Brussels to review sanctions on Zimbabwe.
A key ally of the EU, Australia, currently chairs the Fishmongers Group, made up of Western donors, the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Sweden, Netherlands,Norway, Denmark, Canada and Australia. NewsDay (ND) Editor Constantine Chimakure caught up with Australian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Matthew Neuhaus (MN) in the capital last week to discuss the sanctions matter, political and economic developments in the country, among other issues.
Below are excerptsof the interview.
ND: What is Australia’s positionmon sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe?
MN: Earlier this year we removed measures on 84 people. We still have around 150 people that are affected by the measures, but we take seriously the appeal by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to have them removed and I know he is going to make the case directly to my Prime Minister. He
is going to be in Australia at a time (July 23 (today)) when the EU will also be considering the measures.
We are obviously talking very closely with the EU. I was pleased that we removed the measures on the 84 people. We do not have measures like other countries imposed on Zimbabwe companies.
Ours do not affect commercial interaction.
There is need for movement on the measures, especially Australia sanctions to be reviewed
Matthew Neuhaus when there is movement on the
new constitution which is encouraging at the moment and we hope that the roadmap to elections is clear.That will be very helpful in the progress on reviewing the sanctions.
ND: Are you then for the removal of the sanctions?
MN: I have to take the position of my government, but I believe that it is time for movement.
ND: The Australian government is part of the Fishmongers Group, what is the feeling of the group on sanctions?
MN: I currently chair the Fishmongers. These are the major Western donors to Zimbabwe and they have real commitment to the rehabilitation of this country
and the recovery of its economy.
There have been good discussions within the group and I think there is a desire for progress. We all want to see some movement on sanctions.
ND: What is your take on the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA)?
MN: Many people criticise the GPA, but honestly I think the GPA has brought some progress to
Zimbabwe compared to what was happening before it was signed.
Things were desperate then. In-flation was out of control. People were suffering.
There was no food. Cholera was around and the GPA rescued Zimbabwe from becoming a failed state. What we see now is that shops are full of food, there is economic activity, political stability and a good economic growth in the last three years.
There is a stable currency. There has been progress on print media, but I would like to see more opening of the media space, especially in the electronic media. We see progress on this new constitution and now a census.
The GPA has helped Zimbabwe to come to a better place. What we want to see now is people understanding one another more and working more together irrespective of political differences.
ND: Do you think Zimbabwe is now ready for elections?
MN: I think Zimbabwe will be ready for elections when it has gone through all the processes it needs to. The good thing at the moment is that it is going through
all those processes. Obviously the new constitution is very important. Census is important for the sake of correct data.
I think there will be some agreement on the constitution by August and later in the year there should be a referendum. The referendum would be a good thing if all parties are together on the need of a new constitution because there won’t be divisions you normally see during elections.
I think by next year when the constituencies would have been delimited, the necessary legislations in place, the country would be very ready for elections. Elections tomorrow, no.
The country would be ready when all processes have been completed. I look forward to elections next year.
ND: If President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF win free and fair elections, will Australia recognise his government or do you want regime change?
MN: We will recognise that outcome. What we want to see is a free and fair election, without any violence. The will of the people should be expressed, respected and accepted. Remember we were here in 1980, at Independence.
We were involved in the negotiations that culminated in the Independence of Zimbabwe through Prime Minister Fraser.
We welcomed it when President Mugabe won the first election and we opened a High Commission here and offered development assistance here.
What we want to see is the respect of the will of the people. We were concerned with what happened in 2002 and 2008. We don’t want a repeat of that. We will work with whatever government that will emerge from free and fair elections. We are not choosing sides.
On this matter of regime change, quite frankly, it’s a good thing to have change. That is what politics is all about. In Australia we have had so many changes.
In South Africa, there have been many changes starting with President Nelson Mandela and now President Jacob Zuma. It’s the people who decide who they want to be their president and ruling party, and change should be accepted as normal.