Bi-National Commission: South Africa reiterates support for new Zimbabwe
President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated South Africa’s commitment to work with Zimbabwe in addressing the socio-economic challenges experienced by the two neighbouring countries.
President Ramaphosa made the commitment in his opening remarks to the third session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Tuesday.
The President was in the country for the third session of the SA-Zimbabwe BNC with his counterpart, President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The visit is part of efforts to strengthen mutual cooperation and deepen the implementation of 45 bilateral agreements.
The BNC was preceded by a ministerial session, which was held on Monday, to consider and adopt the draft agreed minutes and joint communique negotiated by senior officials on 7 and 8 March 2019.
During his address, President Ramaphosa said he is encouraged that the two countries are both committed to adhering to the BNC agreement signed in April 2015, which stipulates that the two countries should meet annually.
“Although our BNC is only just over three years old, our relations date several decades. Through steadfast servicing of this BNC, our two countries will be able to consolidate the bilateral cooperation existing between our countries and to explore other areas of cooperation,” the President said.
He saluted the new administration for its efforts through the Programme of Action to take Zimbabwe out of its current difficulties and make it a viable partner for South Africa, the region and other development partners.
“In support of your commendable efforts, in February of this year at the World Economic Forum, South Africa made a call to the international community to assist Zimbabwe and lift sanctions. We are pleased that the European Union heeded the call and in February 2019 decided to lift sanctions on the current members of your administration,” he said.
President Ramaphosa said this is the first of many steps needed to support Zimbabwe’s recovery.
“South Africa stands ready to render support to Zimbabwe within our means in your quest for economic renewal. It is our wish that, using the BNC mechanism, we should at our level strive to provide the strategic impetus to drive the bilateral relations to a significantly higher level.”
The President said South Africa and Zimbabwe should work together to explore a variety of issues to further deepen cooperation. This includes deepening the social ties between the two countries and the region through greater people-to-people cooperation.
The two countries already work together in many critical areas, such as economic cooperation and infrastructure development, energy production, mining, defence, health, transport, migration issues, and information and communication technology. This is through the signed 45 agreements that are being implemented by State departments.
“I am encouraged by the participation of South African business in various sectors of the Zimbabwean economy such as engineering, construction, banking, retail, hospitality, mining exploration and services, among others. There are undoubtedly good prospects for both of our countries, but there is a need to ensure ease of doing business and elimination of trade barriers,” President Ramaphosa said.
This should include, he added, the urgent conclusion of all outstanding work on the Beit Bridge One Stop Border Post for facilitation of free movement of persons, goods and services.
“We have further recognised the challenges raised with us by investors, including among other things, our visa regime, administered prices for ports, rail and electricity, the cost to communicate as well as infrastructure bottlenecks,” the President noted.
“We will not be able to meaningfully address the triple challenges that our country and people face, of unemployment, poverty and inequality without increased investment in critical areas of our economy. It is for this reason that we have prioritised the restoration of a policy and regulatory environment that is stable, consistent, predicable and conducive to attracting investment in South Africa.”
President Ramaphosa argued that economic growth across the continent is vital for sustainable development.
“Economic projections indicate that the African continent will attain GDP growth of 4% in 2019 and 4.1% in 2020. Furthermore, the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area will stimulate intra-Africa trade and investment. This development will present more opportunities for both our countries to address our common socio-economic challenges,” he stated.
“To benefit from the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area, we need to focus our efforts on industrialisation, infrastructure development and the diversification of our economies. We must deliberate too in our efforts to ensure that the benefits of the Continental Free Trade Agreement accrue to the women and youth of our countries, our region and the continent.”
Third Session of the Bi-National Commission between Zimbabwe and South Africa
At the invitation of His Excellency, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo MNANGAGWA, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Excellency, Cde Matamela Cyril RAMAPHOSA, President of the Republic of South Africa, paid an Official Visit to Zimbabwe from 11-12 March 2019, for the Third Session of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) between the two countries. President Ramaphosa was accompanied by five (5) Cabinet Ministers.
The Third Session was preceded by the meetings of the Ministers on 11 March 2019 and Senior Officials from 7-8 March 2019.
During the meeting, the two Heads of State held discussions with a view to further strengthening and deepening bonds of friendship and cooperation between Zimbabwe and South Africa. They also exchanged views on regional, continental and international issues of mutual interest.
The two Presidents underlined the close and friendly bilateral ties deeply rooted in shared history, sustained and nourished through growing economic partnership, multifaceted cooperation as well as vibrant people-to-people contacts.
The discussions were held in a cordial atmosphere.
The two Heads of State welcomed the positive outcomes of the Third BNC held in Harare in 2019. They directed the Ministers and Officials to implement the decisions taken by the Heads of State to further cement the strategic bilateral partnership.
The two sides emphasized the importance of expanding trade and investment to drive the strategic engagement forward. In this regard, the Heads of State directed their Finance and Trade Ministers to work together to achieve these goals.
Zimbabwe highlighted the key initiatives taken by Government to improve the ease of doing business in the country and further informed on the country’s efforts to simplify and rationalize investment rules with the view to attract foreign direct investment.
The relevant Ministries agreed to consider options for expanding the standing Facility arrangement between the respective Central Banks. Other Financing Options beyond this are also being explored (for example a facility from South African private banks to the Zimbabwe private sector and guaranteed by the South African Government, with an appropriate counter-guarantee from the Zimbabwe Government).
They also agreed to work together on re-engagement with the International Co-operating Partners in support of Zimbabwe’s economic reform and Debt Arrears Clearance Agenda.
Zimbabwe expressed appreciation for the unwavering commitment of the Government and people of South Africa in calling for the removal of illegal and unwarranted sanctions which are stifling the country’s economic recovery programme.
The two Leaders unequivocally called for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe whose adverse effects have been far-reaching across the political and socio-economic spectrums.
The two Presidents emphasized the importance of enhancing strategic bilateral engagement, particularly in defence and security cooperation, to accomplish the common interests of the two countries and their peoples.
At the multilateral level, the Commission welcomed the convergence of views on regional, continental and international issues and agreed to further harmonize their positions especially in view of South Africa’s non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council and its upcoming assumption of the Chair of the African Union in 2020.
Zimbabwe expressed goodwill and confidence in the successful holding of elections in South Africa which will take place on 8 May 2019.
The two leaders expressed their deepest condolences to the Government and the people of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and all other nations on the sad loss of lives in the recent air disaster involving flight ET103.
At the conclusion of the BNC, His Excellency, Cde Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa expressed gratitude to His Excellency, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe for the warm welcome and hospitality accorded to him and his delegation.
His Excellency, President Ramaphosa extended an invitation to his counterpart, His Excellency, President Mnangagwa, to attend the Fourth Session of the BNC, to be hosted by South Africa in 2020, on a date to be agreed and communicated through diplomatic channels.
Harare, 12 March 2019