Nduduzo Tshuma and Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, arrived in Victoria Falls yesterday ahead of the official opening today of the Third Session of the Zimbabwe/Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC).
The two leaders will also oversee the signing of several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) covering various sectors as Harare and Gaborone seek to deepen relations.
Zimbabwe and Botswana have so far signed 20 MoUs as part of 43 to cover co-operation in various sectors of the economy.
First to arrive at the Victoria Falls International Airport was President Mnangagwa who was welcomed by Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Richard Moyo, city mayor Councillor Somveli Dlamini, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Frederick Shava, other Cabinet ministers, senior Government officials and service chiefs.
Minutes later President Masisi touched down and was welcomed by President Mnangagwa before the two Heads of State were treated to scintillating traditional dance by a local ensemble.
The two leaders briefly interacted with an ecstatic and cheering crowd of the ruling Zanu-PF supporters who had gathered at the Airport to welcome them. From the airport, the two Heads of State were whisked to Elephant Hills Hotel, the venue of this morning’s ceremony.
Earlier in the day, co-chairs Minister Shava, and his Botswana counterpart Lemogang Kwape, who is Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, presided over the ministerial meeting attended by 20 ministers from both countries to receive reports from the technical committees that started deliberations on Monday.
Both ministers expressed satisfaction at the progress made and called for urgency in implementation of finalised agreements.
Minister Shava said both countries want to bolster bilateral co-operation and realisation of the people’s aspirations through diligent implementation of concluded agreements and MoUs.
“I wish to note with satisfaction that bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana are on a remarkable upward trajectory guided by the vision of our two leaders of achieving inclusive economic growth that will uplift the lives of our people,” he said.
“I have been advised that our senior officials have exerted themselves fully to ensure that our meeting is productive, fruitful and successful, and for that, I wish to sincerely commend them for a job well done.
Your efforts were not in vain and I have every reason to encourage you to continue working hard so that decisions and commitments made at this session of our Bi-National Commission translate into concrete and tangible deliverables that benefit our two countries and peoples,” said Minister Shava.
He said the two countries were bound together by geography, history, culture and aspirations.
“Ours is a strategic relationship, which is anchored in the people of our two countries.
We have exchanged visits at the highest levels of our Governments in our efforts to nurture and strengthen our bilateral relations.
“One of the yardsticks for measuring progress in the work of the BNC is the signing of agreements and MoUs and I have been briefed that some are ready for signing tomorrow in the presence of our principals.
“Though the signing is commendable, it is not an end in itself.
The real benefits of these legal instruments derive from their diligent implementation,” said the minister.
“Our meeting today lays a firm foundation for the meeting of our two principals tomorrow, the apex of the BNC.
We, therefore, look forward to receiving a good report that proposes decisions that are sustainable, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely that we will present to our principals.”
Already, the two countries have signed agreements for cooperation in health matters in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, which exposed weaknesses in the health systems thereby making health demands urgent.
Minister Shava said there was need to develop local pharmaceutical industries and strengthen the health sector.
He called for redoubling efforts on economic co-operation by concluding negotiations on the enabling legal instruments that can be important pillar in bilateral relations.
Minister Shava also called for urgent implementation of instruments like the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA); Cooperative Development and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development; and the MoU on Economic, Trade and Investment Promotion, among others, which have potential to improve economic and trade relations between our two countries.
The two countries are working on upgrading the Plumtree-Ramokgwebana Border into a One Stop Border Post to facilitate trade through reduced transit time for freight and passengers and transport costs.
He said President Mnangagwa was grateful to Botswana and Zambia for the invitation to be part of the Kazungula Bridge Project.
Minister Shava, however, bemoaned effects of illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by America and Britain and paid tribute to Botswana and other regional neighbours for the unwavering and principled position taken on calling for the removal of the illegal sanctions, a regional decision that led to declaration of 25 October as Sadc Anti-Sanctions Day.
He said bilateral relations will not be complete without cooperation in the defence and security sectors, where both countries continue to jointly cooperate to stem cross-border crimes and other areas of mutual interest.
He welcomed efforts by both countries in wildlife management and anti-poaching initiatives as evidenced by the commissioning of a US$2,3 million elephant aerial survey by the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area.
Minister Kwape said the success registered at the meeting is a true reflection of the mutual relationship between the two countries but reiterated the need to speedily implement the signed agreements.
He said deliberations had been made on a broad number of issues aimed at consolidating strategic partnerships and with potential to transform bilateral relationship.
“As we meet today to evaluate progress various areas of the economic cooperation, we have made significant progress in enhancing our co-operation but a lot still needs to be done to improve the livelihoods of our people especially as we still have a number of pending agreements and MoUs which the potential to broaden our co-operation,” he said.
“As we have found each other in many areas and expect signing of bilaterals by our two leaders, I hope that we double our efforts with a view to speedily finalise implementation.
“I am encouraged by our consistent effort to involve the private sector in our annual BNC meetings and one of the challenges is livestock rustling, which remains a problem at our borders robbing many farmers of their livestock.
There is need to address this problem.
“I wish to take this opportunity to reaffirm Botswana’s commitment to stand in solidarity with Zimbabwe in addressing development challenges including the removal of sanctions,” he said.
Article Source: The Chronicle