South Africa, Zimbabwe strengthen relations

9 April 2015

South Africa and Zimbabwe have elevated bilateral relations with the signing on Wednesday of five agreements set to benefit both countries when South African President Jacob Zuma met with his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe, on Wednesday at the Union Buildings.

Mugabe is on his first state visit to South Africa since 1994.

The agreements signed were:

  • a binational commission agreement to be led by the two heads of state;
  • a memorandum of understanding on diplomatic consultations, which will ensure regular diplomatic talks on issues such as strengthening bilateral relations, security and co-operation in Africa, and other issues of mutual interest;
  • a memorandum of understanding on trade co-operation;
  • an agreement on mutual assistance between customs administrations, which will see the establishment of a one-stop border post – viewed as a crucial milestone;
  • an agreement on co-operation on water resources management, establishing a joint water commission to enhance co-operation in water resources planning, development and management.

Addressing a large media contingent after their meeting, Zuma said that the economies of the two countries were historically and inextricably linked.

Although Zimbabwe has always been among South Africa’s top three trading partners on the continent and South Africa is one of the top investors in the Zimbabwean economy, implementation of past agreements has been slow, he said.

But there was a new commitment to ensuring relations benefitted both sides equally, Zuma said. This was demonstrated by the fact that they had elevated relations to the level of a Binational Commission.

“Our desire is to have the economy, as well as trade, favouring both countries . that is what we are working towards,” Zuma said. Opportunities existed in mining, transport, infrastructure and information communications and technology.

Bolstering socioeconomic ties

Mugabe said the state visit was a chance to improve socioeconomic relations between the two counties. That 10 ministers were part of the delegation to South Africa showed commitment to working together, he said.

At the media briefing, Mugabe said the two countries should combine efforts to look at how the two countries could 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.”

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 whom are not documented. A process has been undertaken by Home Affairs to legalise the stay of Zimbabweans who are in the country illegally.

Mutual concern

As Mugabe is the chair of the African Union and SADC, Zuma said South Africa had used the opportunity to discuss “regional and international issues of mutual concern”. These included the establishment of an environment of peace and stability to achieve regional integration, industrialisation and economic development.

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

International relations

The presidents both expressed condemnation of the terrorist attacks at Garissa College University in Kenya, which left 148 students dead. “This enjoins Africa to unite more than ever to protect the citizens of our beloved continent from the evils of terrorism,” said 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.

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

The South Africa-Zimbabwe Business Forum, which will see business leaders from both countries meet on Thursday morning, is also expected to take economic relations forward.