Felex Share Senior Reporter—
President Mugabe and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma yesterday launched the Bi-National Commission, a high-level forum of co-operation, which the two leaders say will foster economic development and uplift the livelihoods of people in their respective countries.
Among the immediate key targets of the Commission is the establishment of a one-stop border post at Beitbridge-Musina.
The development is expected to promote trade through efficient clearance procedures. The two countries also agreed to constitute a Joint Investment Trade and Investment Committee by the first quarter of next year to steer the “growing” economic co-operation between the two nations.
The BNC is an instrument through which political and economic relations will be monitored at Presidential level. Previously bilateral agreements were supervised by ministers and coordinated through the Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC).
The Heads of State and Government will meet annually to monitor progress on the implementation of agreed projects. In his remarks, President Mugabe said there was need to implement outstanding agreements out of the 38 signed since 1995.
“I would like the BNC, as the successor to the Joint Commission, to attend to these items of unfinished business as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“A major priority among these is to ensure the optimal operation of the Beitbridge border through the establishment of a one-stop border post at this key bilateral and regional transit point. While in 2009 we agreed to establish a one-stop border post at Beitbridge, to date this important agreement is still gathering dust on the shelves. This session must agree on a roadmap for the implementation of that decision.”
The two countries later agreed to finalise the modalities for its establishment by the time of the next BNC next year. During the launch, the two countries sealed a Bilateral Air Services Agreement meant to open the air space and increase flight frequency.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo represented Zimbabwe while South Africa was represented by its Transport Minister Ms Dipuo Peters. President Mugabe said business investments by South Africans were safe in Zimbabwe.
“Our thrust towards industrialisation through value addition and beneficiation of available resources offers vast opportunities for joint ventures and investment partnerships,” he said.
“We wish to see more South African investment here as much as we wish to also see more Zimbabwean investment in South Africa. Let us work together to improve the flow of investments in both directions, in a manner that reinforces the strategic partnerships between us.”
Following the establishment of the Bi-National Agreement (BNC) in South Africa on April 8 last year, local companies such as Doves Funeral Assurance were prompted to capitalise and implement synergies on the basis of the boosted bilateral relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Last month, the company entered into a service delivery agreement with Doves South Africa in a development that would go a long way in catering for Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora as this is expected to ease the burden of repatriation costs for citizens who die outside the country.
Doves South Africa has 161 branches across the country. President Mugabe said the BNC was ideal for the two countries which were facing renewed assaults on their independence and sovereignty. “This new highest level forum of regular engagements between us, reflects the dynamic and logical evolution of our already comprehensive bilateral cooperation,” he said.
“We have agreed and look forward to working closely together as strategic partners in defending our sovereignty, in fostering economic development, in maintaining promoting and maintaining peace and security in our countries and in the region.”
President Mugabe thanked South Africa for its support in the importation of grain to counter the effects of drought in Zimbabwe. “The frequency, severity and impact of the recurrent droughts on our countries and in our region demand that we coordinate our response to climate change,” he said.
“Such coordinated efforts should not just be responsive but must be anticipatory and mitigatory.” President Zuma said the BNC would see the two leaders having a “hands-on approach” on monitoring agreed projects.
“Our colleagues should know that we have taken a serious decision in this direction that we are going to be hands on, we are not going to be arms-length on the issues because we want to see changes happen,” he said.
On the one stop border post, President Zuma said: “Our business communities stand ready to play their part if, as Governments, we create conducive environments for ease of doing business including but not limiting to the establishment of a One-Stop-Border-Post for facilitation of free movement of people goods and services among others. After all, that is directly keeping in line with the aspirations of the African continent that we should ease the borders to allow the economy to flourish in the continent.”
He said Zimbabwe had been instrumental in pushing strategies that would make Africa self-sufficient. “This was evidenced during his Excellency, the President’s chair of the African Union. Your contribution as chair of both Sadc as well as of African Union has put the region and continent on a different platform of political and economic stability.”
President Zuma said concerted efforts were needed to bring tangible benefits to the people. “There is a need for concerted effort and collaboration towards a collective vision of fighting the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment, and inequality in our respective countries,” he said. President Zuma immediately left for South Africa after a luncheon hosted in his honour by President Mugabe.