Conrad Mwanawashe Business Reporter
SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma is expected to visit Zimbabwe this year in fulfilment of conditions of the Bi-National Commission established between the two countries during President Mugabe’s State visit to the neighbouring country last year.
The Bi-National Commission is co-chaired by the two Heads of State and Government and elevates the two countries’ political and economic relations to presidential level from the ministerial rank where they reposed for years.
The Bi-National Commission requires that the presidents meet annually cementing political and economic relations.
Prior to President Mugabe’s visit to South Africa political and economic highest bilateral engagements were only done at ministerial level.
During his visit President Zuma is expected to join his counterpart President Mugabe to assess progress made under political and economic agreements signed last year.
Addressing the sixth edition of the Investment and Trade Initiative in Harare yesterday, outgoing South Africa Ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela said the Bi-National Commission significantly takes the two countries’ relations to a higher level and will be an annual engagement at the level of Heads of State.
“So last year during His Excellency’s visit to South Africa a number of agreements were signed one of which was the Bi-National Commission. What that Bi-National Commission means in practice is that as His Excellency President Mugabe went to South Africa last year President Zuma would be coming to Zimbabwe very soon,” said Ambassador Mavimbela.
“What is good about this is that when that agreement was signed in front of the Heads of State it means that it was endorsed by those Heads of State and the ministers and all of us have got to go and do our work.
“Now on an annual basis the ministers and all of us will have to come and sit in front of the Heads of State and say we signed this and that agreement, what has been the progress? What have we done?
“And we all know the pressure that comes with that responsibility because the ministers and everybody cannot then say we were too busy with this and that when they talk to their principals. I am happy that our relations are at that level,” said Ambassador Mavimbela.
Zimbabwe and South Africa share strategic strengths including geographic proximity, skilled and abundant resources, technological expertise, abundant natural resources among other things, which if leveraged on, could help in addressing the current poor trade balance between the two countries.
From an investment perspective, a number of South African companies continue to operate in Zimbabwe, principally in the mining, tourism, agriculture, banking and retail sectors.
Future investments estimated from South African companies operating in Zimbabwe include the $8,85 million by Tongaat Hulett in the agro-processing sector; Panasonic Business Systems have also committed towards an investment of $1,2 million in advanced manufacturing and $521 million to be invested by Nucoal in the coal, oil and gas sectors.
According to FDI Markets, between 2003 and 2015 South Africa invested R20 billion in Zimbabwe in the mining, agriculture, banking and retail sectors.
A further attestation to the economic activity between the two countries, is highlighted in the ongoing participation of South African companies in the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, where 23 exhibitors participated last year.
This year 33 South African companies representing diverse sectors including agro-processing, mining, health care, infrastructure and ICT among others, are expected to exhibit at the ZITF.
The two countries also share striking similarities in their economic blueprints, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation and South Africa’s National Development plan both of which highlight the same issues relating to food security and nutrition, social services and poverty eradication, infrastructure and utilities and value addition and beneficiation.
These issues reinforce the need for business communities from both countries to synergise efforts in dealing with challenges.
“You are coming here under that broad political and economic framework of agreements and you are actually part of the engine that must make sure that those broad agreements are concretised and have become a reality,” said Ambassador Mavimbela.
He called for urgency in the implementation of the agreements signed last year as the two leaders would require a progress report when president Zuma visits Zimbabwe.
“What is going to happen is that we are going to look back to at the past year and say what is that we achieved after those agreements were signed.
“So we need to move with much more seriousness, urgency and agility to make sure that we make good all those agreements that were signed and be able to report progress,” said Ambassador Mavimbela.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, Mr Isaac Moyo, said discussions are already underway to facilitate President Zuma’s visit.
“We have already started talking about when that could be,” said Ambassador Moyo.
This year 32 South African companies are in Zimbabwe under the Investment and Trade Initiative and will visit Gweru and Bulawayo for business linkages.