Zim­babwe, SA Bi-Na­tional Com­mis­sion kicks off

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Felex Share Harare Bureau

THE in­au­gu­ral ses­sion of the Bi-Na­tional Com­mis­sion be­tween Zim­babwe and South Africa started in Harare yes­ter­day amid calls for of­fi­cials to en­sure all out­stand­ing agree­ments are fi­nalised and im­ple­mented.

The BNC kicked off with a meet­ing of se­nior of­fi­cials, which will be fol­lowed by a min­is­te­rial ses­sion to­mor­row ahead of of­fi­cial open­ing on Thurs­day.

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe and his South African coun­ter­part Mr Jacob Zuma, will open the com­mis­sion.

Pres­i­dent Zuma is bring­ing with him a del­e­ga­tion of eight Cabi­net min­is­ters.

The BNC, agreed dur­ing Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe’s visit to South Africa last year — el­e­vates the two coun­tries’ po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­la­tions to pres­i­den­tial level from the min­is­te­rial rank where they re­posed for years.

Open­ing the meet­ing of se­nior of­fi­cials, For­eign Af­fairs sec­re­tary Am­bas­sador Joey Bimha, said the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the agreed deals would strengthen the ex­ist­ing re­la­tions.

“Some plans and agree­ments have not pro­gressed be­yond the signed doc­u­ments,” he said.

“That must change in the new dis­pen­sa­tion of the BNC. BNC is no more than a mech­a­nism, it is an in­stru­ment which on its own can­not de­liver on our co­op­er­a­tion. We have agree­ments that are still un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion, we have signed agree­ments that await im­ple­men­ta­tion. It is us who have to use it to achieve the plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion of our pro­grammes of co­op­er­a­tion.”

BNC re­quires that the Pres­i­dents meet an­nu­ally to mon­i­tor progress of the agree­ments meant to ce­ment re­la­tions.

Am­bas­sador Bimha said the com­mis­sion, which has four clus­ters namely diplo­matic, eco­nomic, so­cial and se­cu­rity — was a suc­ces­sor to the Joint Permanent Com­mis­sion of Co­op­er­a­tion that has been in ex­is­tence since 1995.

“This state of af­fairs fur­ther serves to con­firm that the es­tab­lish­ment of the BNC has not ter­mi­nated the work of the Joint Com­mis­sion,” he said.

“We must con­tinue to im­ple­ment that which we had started or were al­ready un­der­tak­ing un­der the Joint Com­mis­sion.”

Over the years, Zim­babwe and South Africa have signed 38 bi­lat­eral agree­ments and mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing cov­er­ing a broad range of ar­eas such as trade and in­vest­ment, im­mi­gra­tion and con­sular mat­ters, de­fence, agri­cul­ture, en­ergy, health and tax­a­tion among oth­ers.

While some agree­ments have been im­ple­mented, oth­ers are pend­ing at vary­ing stages of readi­ness.

A num­ber of agree­ments are ex­pected to be signed at the end of the meet­ings be­ing held.

Said Am­bas­sador Bimha: “The es­tab­lish­ment of the BNC rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant qual­i­ta­tive up­grad­ing of our two coun­tries’ al­ready solid re­la­tions. Zim­babwe does not have this type of fo­rum of co­op­er­a­tion with any other coun­try. The BNC with South Africa is a first and speaks vol­umes about the na­ture and char­ac­ter of the close and cor­dial re­la­tions we have and we are com­mit­ted to strengthen to greater heights.”

Head of se­nior of­fi­cials from South Africa Mr Xolisa Makaya said the es­tab­lish­ment of the BNC came af­ter the re­al­i­sa­tion that re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries could no longer be man­aged at a level be­low that of Heads of State.

“Our de­lib­er­a­tions over the two days should af­ford us the op­por­tu­nity to con­clude our ne­go­ti­a­tions so that these agree­ments can be signed in the not so dis­tant fu­ture,” he said.

“Un­due de­lays will work against our his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural ties. The BNC cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for both sides to ex­am­ine the scope of our re­la­tions over a wide range of is­sues. The four clus­ters will al­low us the plat­form to de­lib­er­ate on sec­tor spe­cific mat­ters to high­light and un­der­score our suc­cesses while on the other hand, in­ter­ro­gate what­ever im­ped­i­ments that work against our de­sired out­comes.”

Mr Makaya added: “We should iden­tify the key sec­tors and the scope of our sec­toral co­op­er­a­tion in order to deepen and strengthen our re­la­tions for the mu­tual ben­e­fit of both coun­tries. Our de­lib­er­a­tions need to be out­comes based, mea­sur­able and achiev­able given that BNC is con­vened on an an­nual ba­sis. We should be able to mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate progress.”

Apart from pro­mot­ing co­op­er­a­tion in the var­i­ous sec­tors of Gov­ern­ment, the BNC also seeks to fa­cil­i­tate con­tact be­tween the public and pri­vate sec­tors of the two coun­tries.

Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe’s visit last year, mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing were signed on diplo­matic con­sul­ta­tions; cus­toms ad­min­is­tra­tions, wa­ter re­sources man­age­ment and trade co­op­er­a­tion.

For­eign Af­fairs Permanent Sec­re­tary Am­bas­sador Joey Bimha (left) shares a lighter mo­ment with South African head of del­e­ga­tion to the Zim­babwe-South Africa Bi-Na­tional Com­mis­sion Mr Xolisa Makaya in Harare yes­ter­day

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