Robert Mugabe and Jacob Zuma
The second session of Bi-National Commission (BNC) between South Africa and Zimbabwe kicked off positively on Tuesday with both countries emphasising the need to further strengthen their economic relations.
South African President Jacob Zuma hosted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his delegation in Pretoria, saying both countries were committed to adhere to Article 6 of the BNC agreement which states that both countries should meet yearly.
“Our historical fraternal and cultural bonds demand we meet on a regular basis to strengthen and consolidate our partnership. We note with satisfaction the ever growing cooperation between our countries to promote political, economic and social cooperation,“ said Zuma.
Mugabe said he was delighted to be part of the session, especially as South Africa was like his second home.
“We are one family because of our geography, of our history, of the revolutionary struggle we fought side by side and of culture, and blood, and we hope that this phenomena will continue to bind us forever. I am pleased we have chosen the path of cooperation and dialogue to secure our common future,” he said to Zuma.
Although much has been done since the inaugural session, Mugabe added that more still needed to be done to reinforce the foundations of both countries’ strategic partnership, which he believes is the instrument for achieving the transformation of the South African and Zimbabwean economies.
Both Presidents stressed the importance of meeting each year, and urged their ministers to continue to work towards the partnership throughout the year and report back at the next commission sitting.
“We need to ensure the full implementation of these agreements [from the commission]. We are happy the Ministers and officials have developed monitoring mechanisms such as mid-term reviews. It will go a long way to assist in the agenda,” said Zuma.
One Stop Border Post
Zuma recommended that the Beitbridge border post, which forms the political border between Zimbabwe and South Africa, become a “one stop border post”.
He said it was urgent that both countries fast-track the establishment of a one-stop border post, which was agreed on as far back as 2009.
Mugabe said that he had announced legislation proposals last year, to reinforce and expand economic reforms.
“These proposals will reduce delays in the registration of new businesses. Legislation should also provide the legal underpinning to the one stop shop at the border and open new investment opportunities in infrastructure, especially in our airports, roads and railway systems,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Zuma pointed out that the diversification of Zimbabwe and South Africa’s economies and industrialisation would ultimately put the region on the right path, as the global economy continued to play its own role.
Technology and Natural Disasters
Issues around information and technology, as well as communications was also a topic of discussion between both Presidents.
They emphasised that information and communications technology (ICT) issues should also be addressed for the region to benefit from the fourth industrial revolution.
Connectivity will ensure the attainment of goals around regional economic integration and poverty alleviation, said Zuma.
Mugabe revealed that both countries were set to sign agreements in energy and communication technologies.
“Together we should look at how we can stop those who want to undermine our economies through ICT technologies,” he stated.
Meanwhile, in light of rapid climate change, Zuma and Mugabe stressed the need to develop a regional approach to disaster preparedness.
Zuma pointed out that the second session of the BNC was taking place during the birth month of struggle icon Oliver Reginald Tambo.
He acknowledged Mugabe’s interactions with Tambo and commended his counterpart for agreeing to open an African National Congress (ANC) branch in Harare during apartheid.
Mugabe said he remembered Tambo as a great friend, outspoken and critical when he thought criticism was needed.
“We shall remember him as a freedom fighter, a national hero. We remember him together,” Mugabe said.
He also wished the ANC well on its upcoming national elective conference, set to take place in December.
“We wish the ANC every success at that congress so that it can continue into the future, renewed and strengthened.”