A team of senior Government officials from South Africa is expected in Harare this week to knuckle down to business ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa visit to Harare next week for the third session of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC).
The high-level talks come hot on the heels of last week’s successful bilateral engagements with Botswana.
President Mnangagwa has been on a regional, continental and international charm offensive meant to attract foreign direct investment and boost trade.
In a statement released to The Sunday Mail, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said preparatory meetings for the BNC begin on Thursday.
“The Third Session of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) will be held on 12 March 2019 at Meikles Hotel in Harare. The meeting will be headed by the two countries’ Heads of State and Government, His Excellency, President E.D. Mnangagwa, and his South African counterpart, President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa.
“The BNC is the highest bilateral framework of cooperation between Zimbabwe and South Africa. It will be preceded by a Ministerial Meeting on 11 March 2019, and a Senior Officials meeting on 7 and 8 March 2019,” read the statement.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has heightened diplomatic bilateral and multilateral engagements that are designed to integrate Zimbabwe – which has been isolated for the past two decades – into the global family of nations and unlock the country’s economic growth potential.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner.
The forthcoming BNC is expected to further strengthen political, economic, social and cultural relations between the neighbouring countries.
The meetings will review progress from the last BNC held in South Africa in 2017.
“The main task before this third session of the Zimbabwe-South Africa BNC is to review progress in the implementation of previously agreed projects under the various Memorandum of Understanding already in operation. These cover the political, economic, social and technical sectors of the two countries.”
During the last BNC held in Johannesburg, Zimbabwe and South Africa agreed to operationalise the Beitbridge One-Stop Border Post.
The two countries agreed that the border had become the busiest port of entry on the continent and as such, there was need to facilitate the smooth flow of business for the benefit of both countries.
Zimbabwe and South Africa also signed five agreements for cross-border trading cooperation, energy, environment, information communication technologies (ICT) and sports and recreation.
Diplomatic sources said last week the engagements might also centre on sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and possible credit lines from Pretoria.
President Ramaphosa has on several occasions called for the unconditional lifting of the sanctions on Zimbabwe, which have had a deleterious impact on the region.
In a statement a fortnight ago, South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said one of the main issues on the agenda for this year’s BNC would be sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West.
“We are preparing for a bi-national meeting with Zimbabwe on March 12 2019. Our President (Ramaphosa) will lead the delegation to Harare. I thought by now sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe Government and its people would be lifted to enable the country to start afresh after all the challenges they have gone through,” she said in a statement posted on the ministry’s official twitter account.
“We call on EU and particularly the United Kingdom (UK) to give the Government and the people of Zimbabwe a chance to change their situation by urgently lifting the sanctions. Without lifting the sanctions, the Government of Zimbabwe will never be able to address its economic challenges, and this is compromising the political gains achieved since the coming in of the new President,” she said.
In January, President Ramaphosa took the campaign against illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he said Harare needs support from the international community to overcome its economic challenges.
Last year, President Ramaphosa also called on the European Union to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Upon assuming duties as the second Executive President of Zimbabwe in November 2017, President Mnangagwa’s first foreign visit was to South Africa.
He met President Ramaphosa and former President Jacob Zuma as part of moves to deepen economic ties between Harare and Pretoria.
President Mnangagwa and President Ramaphosa also share a lot in common as they contemporaneously held the same positions as Vice Presidents of their respective countries and political parties – Zanu-PF and the ANC, respectively.
The two Presidents are also considered to be pro-business.