Innocent Ruwende and Zvamaida Murwira
Three South African ministers arrived in the country last night for the third session of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission, with president Cyril Ramaphosa expected to jet in today. The three are Lindiwe Sisulu (International Relations and Cooperation), Siyabonga Cwele (Home Affairs) and Blade Nzimande (Transport).
Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu arrived earlier during the day.
The South African ministers were received by Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo, Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathema and SA Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mphakama Mbete.
The BNC is expected to deepen bilateral relations and broaden mutually beneficial areas of cooperation in several sectors, making a busy couple of days for the high-level engagement between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The weekly Cabinet meeting, usually held on Tuesday, will this week take place on Thursday due to commitments by the President and Cabinet regarding the BNC.
This was confirmed by the Office of the President and Cabinet last night.
President Ramaphosa will take part in the BNC Heads of State Summit which he will attend together with his counterpart, President Mnangagwa, tomorrow.
Speaking at the Robert Mugabe International Airport, were the ministers from the two countries had as brief meeting, Minister Moyo said: “This is the third Bi-National Commission between South Africa and Zimbabwe and therefore we have been meeting our colleagues here and I have met my colleague Minister Sisulu. We are expecting to discuss issue of bilateral mutual concern between the two nations’ primarily economic issues and these are the matters of the heart which particularly affect the two nations. It is what we agree that is important, not signing MOUs. You may not sign an MOU but you make serious progress.”
In an ealier interview, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Mr Gideon Gapare had said preparations for the high level meeting were at an advanced stage.
“The ministers from South Africa are coming today, this evening. Other officials from South Africa arrived last week while others landed here in the afternoon. All is now set for the BNC with President Ramaphosa set to come tomorrow (today),” said Mr Gapare.
More South African ministers are expected to arrive in Harare with President Ramaphosa.
Zimbabwe is South Africa’s biggest trading partner.
President Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Ms Khusela Diko, told The Sunday Mail that the relations between the two countries were gaining ground.
“Trade cooperation between the two countries is at a high level to the extent that South African exports to Zimbabwe in 2018 amounted to approximately R30,8 billion (about US$2,1 billion), while imports from Zimbabwe amounted to approximately R3,6 billion (US$250 million), thus placing Zimbabwe among South Africa’s top trading partners on the continent.
“South Africa and Zimbabwe have good bilateral political, economic and social relations underpinned by strong historical ties dating back from the years of the liberation struggle,” she said.
Several agreements covering political, economic, social and cultural relations will be signed this week.
There are expectations the upgrade of Beitbridge Border Post and the revival of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) will get fresh impetus through bilateral engagements between the two sister republics.
Senior officials from the two countries concluded their two-day marathon discussions on Friday, paving the way for the ministerial session.
During a meeting of senior officials from the two countries on Thursday, Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ambassador James Manzou said the BNC would commit the two countries to urgently implement the 45 agreements that have been signed in the previous bilateral engagements.
“The success of our cooperation will not be measured by the number of agreements we sign or the number of decisions that we take. It will be measured by the action we take and the concrete results that can be attributed to it. This means implementation of those agreements and decisions,” he said.
In addition to signing agreements on arts, culture and heritage, women empowerment and youth affairs, the two countries will also zero in on establishing a database for Zimbabwean teachers based in South Africa, compensation of Wenela (Witwatersrand Native Labour Association) claimants as well as cooperation in education, media and information communication technology (ICT).