The Herald Harare Tendai Mugabe
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The inaugural session of the Bi-National Commission between Zimbabwe and South Africa to be jointly chaired by President Mugabe and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, starts in Harare today with a meeting of senior officials focusing on a plethora of bilateral issues.These include trade, investment, energy, tourism, water and health. Head of Zimbabwe’s senior officials’ delegation, who is also Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, will host a reception for his South African guests after the meeting this evening.

According to a provisional programme from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday there would be a ministerial session that would be followed by the official opening of the BNC on Thurs- day. Minister Mumbengegwi (Zimbabwe) and South Africa International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane are expected to sign agreed minutes of the meeting, agreements and Memorandum of Understanding after which a joint communiqué would be issued.

A Press conference is scheduled thereafter followed by a luncheon hosted by President Mugabe. President Zuma is leading a delegation of eight Cabinet ministers. The BNC is a successor to the Joint Commission for Cooperation signed between the two countries on March 2, 1995.

It seeks to promote cooperation in the various sectors of Government and to facilitate contact between the public and private sectors of the two countries. In a statement last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “It is also expected that a number of agreements will be signed at the conclusion of the meeting. On October 21, 2016 the Political and Diplomacy Committee of the Zimbabwe- South Africa Bi-National Commission met in Harare.

“The committee emphasised the importance of political and diplomatic consultations as a forum to enhance bilateral cooperation and an effective mechanism to track progress on the implementation of decisions taken at the BNC and other consultations.”

During President Mugabe’s visit to South Africa last year, the key agreement signed was on the establishment of the BNC, to which Ministers Mumbengegwi and Nkoana-Mashabane signed off.

The two ministers also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on diplomatic consultations; while Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and then South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene signed the agreement on Mutual Assistance Between Customs Administrations.

The agreement on Cooperation on Water Resources Management and establishment and functioning of the Joint Water Pact were signed by the then Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and his South African counterpart.

Industry and Trade Minister Mike Bimha and South Africa’s Rob Davies signed an MoU on Economic and Trade Cooperation. Presidents Mugabe and Zuma both hailed the agreements, MoUs and talks as notable milestones in the development of the two countries’ relations, expressing their desire to see these reflected in greater regional and continental integration for the betterment of citizens’ lives.

President Mugabe said there was a lot the two countries could learn from each other. South Africa is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner in Africa.

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