Zim, SA to launch BNC Struc­ture to her­ald new chap­ter in their bi­lat­eral re­la­tions

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

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

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