South Africa and Zimbabwe Sign Five Bilateral Agreements

Pretoria - South Africa and Zimbabwe have elevated bilateral relations with the signing of five agreements set to benefit both countries.

The agreements were signed on Wednesday during President Robert Mugabe’s state visit to South Africa at the invitation of President Jacob Zuma.

President Zuma rolled out the red carpet to welcome President Mugabe at the Union Buildings for his first state visit since 1994.

The two countries signed a Bi-National Commission (BNC) Agreement to be led by the two Heads of State, President Zuma and President Mugabe.

The two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Diplomatic Consultations, which will establish a mechanism for regular diplomatic talks on issues such as strengthening bilateral relations, security and cooperation in Africa and other issues of mutual interest.

An Agreement on Cooperation on Water Resources Management was also signed and a Joint Water Commission was established to enhance cooperation in water resources planning, development and management in the spirit of mutual understanding and benefit.

An agreement was also signed regarding mutual assistance between customs administrations between the two countries, which will further cooperation towards the establishment of a one-stop border post. This is viewed as a crucial milestone.

In addition, South Africa and Zimbabwe on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Trade Cooperation.

Addressing a large contingent of local and international media following official talks between the two Presidents held behind closed doors, President Zuma said Ministers from South Africa and Zimbabwe will work together to ensure the implementation of the agreements and others that have been signed over the years.

He said South Africa and Zimbabwe not only share strong historical relations, but also strong economic cooperation to the extent that the economies of the two countries are historically and inextricably linked.

Zimbabwe is always among South Africa’s top three trading partners on the continent, while South Africa is one of the top investors in the Zimbabwean economy.

However, there has been slow implementation of agreements in the past to balance trade between the two southern African countries. 

President Zuma said the fact that they discussed the trade balance and elevated relations to the level of a Bi-National Commission shows there is commitment to making sure relations benefit the two sides equally.

“Our desire is to have the economy, as well as trade, that favours both countries … that is what we are working towards,” said President Zuma.

The South Africa-Zimbabwe Business Forum, which will meet on Thursday morning, is also expected to take economic relations forward.

The forum, which will be attended by business leaders from both countries, will look at untapped opportunities for deeper economic cooperation in the fields of mining, water, energy, infrastructure development, transport and information communication technologies, among others.

Bolstering socio-economic ties

President Mugabe said the state visit was a chance to improve socio-economic relations between the two counties.

He said the fact that there were 10 Ministers that were part of the delegation to South Africa showed commitment to working together.

During the press briefing, President Mugabe said the two countries must combine efforts and look at how the two countries can produce better value-added products.

“We are producing resources at primary level but also need to beneficiate them in an integrated manner that yields greater benefit.”

President Mugabe thanked South Africa for tolerance where people have "jumped the border" and bypassed the system. South Africa is home to thousands of Zimbabwean economic migrants, some of which are not documented. A process has been undertaken by Home Affairs to legalise the stay of Zimbabweans who are in the country illegally.

As President Mugabe is the chairperson of the African Union and SADC, President Zuma said South Africa had used the opportunity to discuss regional and international issues of mutual concern.

These include the establishment of an environment of peace and stability in order to achieve regional integration, industrialisation and economic development and the wellbeing of the region and the continent.

“We are united in our determination to work for peace and stability in every corner of the continent,” said President Zuma, adding that they were also united in the quest for sustainable development in the continent, as expressed in the vision document, Agenda 2063.

During their discussions, the Presidents expressed their condemnation of the attacks at a university in Kenya, which claimed the lives of more than 140 students.

“This enjoins Africa to unite more than ever to protect the citizens of our beloved continent from the evils of terrorism,” said President Zuma.

The two leaders also deliberated on global and multilateral matters of interest and concern, especially the need for the reform of the United Nations Security Council ahead of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations this year.

President Mugabe said: “We want a United Nations in which there is participation by everybody and recognition of everybody as an equal member.”

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will this afternoon pay a courtesy call to President Mugabe, and he will then attend a state banquet. -