Zim, SA to launch BNC Structure to herald new chapter in their bilateral relations
ZIMBABWE and South Africa today launch the Bi-National Commission, a strategic structure which heralds a new chapter in the bilateral relations of the two countries.
President Mugabe and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma will co-chair the official opening of the inaugural session of the BNC in Harare.
The BNC is a new mechanism through which Zimbabwe and South Africa elevated their political and economic relations to presidential level.
All along the relations reposed in ministers and were coordinated through the Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC).
The BNC requires that the Heads of State meet annually to monitor progress on the implementation of agreed projects.
President Zuma, who was expected yesterday, will now arrive this morning.
Preliminary meetings ahead of the launch began on Monday with senior officials meeting followed by ministers yesterday.
Opening the ministers meeting, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said relations had gone a “notch higher” and the respective governments had to “walk the talk” when it came to implementing agreed projects.
“A good and appropriate place to start is to ensure the full implementation of all the agreements that we have signed,” he said.
“We can no longer be content with the state of affairs where, in many cases, we did not walk the talk. The decision to establish the BNC, which came after President Mugabe’s visit to South Africa last year, demands and expects much from us to ensure that reality on the ground corresponds to our aspirations and expectations. Delivering concrete results for the benefit of our people and countries from this relationship is the major responsibility thrust upon us by our leaders and by history.”
New agreements, cutting across various economic sectors, are expected to be sealed today.
Minister Mumbengegwi said the relationship between the two countries was “multifaceted, vibrant and evolving.”
“This does not mean we will not experience some bumps and humps along the way much as we may strenuously try to avoid or minimise them,” he said.
“Nevertheless, with goodwill and determination, I have no doubt that at the end we will find common ground based on our mutual interests. We have a number of agreements and Memoranda of Understanding which are still being negotiated and nearing completion. It is our hope that this session of the BNC will set the time frames for the completion and operationalisation before the next session in 2017.”
Minister Mumbengegwi said entrepreneurs and investors should exploit opportunities available for joint ventures.
He said there was a need to expend energy and resources on areas where there were mutual interests.
“Our two countries have identified and are engaged in many areas of cooperation,” Minister Mumbengegwi said.
“This is to be expected given the very wide range of issues that commonly affect us as neighbours. Clearly, we must strengthen our political ties and pursue balanced and mutually beneficial economic relations between us. Let us agree on the best ingredients to achieving these objectives.”
Zimbabwe and South Africa have 38 bilateral agreements and Memoranda of Understanding covering areas such as trade and investment, immigration and consular matters, defence, agriculture, energy, health and taxation environment among others.
Some of these agreements are pending at varying stages of readiness.
South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said relations between the two countries were “a special kind” as they were forged during difficult times of colonialism and apartheid.
“As we launch our BNC, it will be essential to identify the key areas of our cooperation,” she said.
“Key among those should be the promotion of a mutually beneficial economic cooperation not only for our respective countries but also for regional integration.
“Infrastructure development to facilitate ease movement of goods and services cannot be overstated. In this regard, we need to pay particular focus on the One Stop Border Post at Beitbridge.”
Ms Nkoana-Mashabane added: “As we meet, we are also mindful of the current regional, continental and global challenges. Our economies are currently under pressure due to global commodity prices, fluctuating currencies, shrinking Gross Domestic Product growth, including natural disasters such as the El Nino drought phenomenon. We therefore need to work together to alleviate the negative impact of these challenges.”
Dr Nhlanhla Mgodla