Opening Remarks by President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the Second Session of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) between the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Zimbabwe, held in Pretoria, 3 October 2017
Your Excellency and Dear Brother, President Robert Mugabe,
Our respective Ambassadors,
Senior Government officials,
Members of the Media,
Good morning to you all!
It is with great pleasure that we welcome you, Mr President and your esteemed delegation.
We thank you for honouring our invitation to the Second Session of our valued Bi-National Commission.
We are both committed to adhere to Article 6 of the BNC Agreement which stipulates that the two countries should meet annually.
I still vividly recall the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to me and my delegation during the inaugural session of the BNC in Harare last November.
Our historical, fraternal and cultural bonds demand that we meet on regular basis to strengthen and consolidate our bilateral cooperation and partnership.
We note with satisfaction the ever-growing cooperation between our two countries as evidenced by the existing forty agreements and Memoranda of Understanding. These agreements are aimed at promoting political, economic and social cooperation.
They cover a wide range of areas including double taxation, justice, defence, transport, water, science and technology, health, migration, labour, economic and trade cooperation, and tourism, to mention but a few.
We also need to ensure the full implementation of the agreements.
We are thus happy that the Ministers and officials have developed monitoring mechanisms such as Mid Term Reviews. This will go a long way to assist in the implementation agenda.
I wish to underscore the strategic significance of a One Stop Border Post at the Beit Bridge Border.
This border post is the busiest border post on the Continent.
Much of our goods and services go through it. We cannot afford to continue to have unnecessary delays at that border.
It is therefore important and urgent that we start in earnest the process of establishing a One Stop Border Post. Our two countries took a decision to do so as far back as 2009.
In this regard, we direct the relevant ministers and officials to move with speed and report progress at the next BNC.
South Africa has just assumed the Chairship of SADC at the 37th SADC Summit and I personally look forward to working with you Mr President in championing the theme endorsed at the Summit, which is, “Partnering with the Private sector in developing industry and regional value-chains”.
Partnering with the private sector will unlock avenues that governments alone would not be able to attain.
The diversification of our economies and industrialisation will ultimately put the region on the rightful path as global economic players.
The issues of connectivity in information, technology and communications should also be addressed for the region to benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In this regard, it is worth noting that the SADC Ministers responsible for Communications and ICT met in South Africa from 5-7 September 2017, with the aim of establishing communications systems that are accessible, affordable, efficient, reliable, to ensure connectivity to the citizens of the SADC Region.
Connectivity will ensure the attainment of the goals for regional economic integration, poverty alleviation and Industrialisation.
On the 17 August 2017, I presided over the official launch of the African Regional Centre of the BRICS New Development Bank in Sandton, Johannesburg.
We envisage, through this Bank, the development of initiatives which will ultimately contribute to the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and the AU Agenda 2063.
We find ourselves in challenging times, considering the effects of the El Nino phenomenon which devastated our economies.
This phenomenon has contributed to poor harvests in the region due to lack of sufficient rains, thus negatively affecting our GDP growth which is mostly agriculturally-based. We need to put our heads together to find solutions to this challenge.
We meet in the month of October, which is the birth month of late OR Tambo.
I personally know that you had various interactions with Comrade Tambo during his life time.
Upon attainment of Zimbabwe’s independence, it was Comrade Tambo himself who personally approached you to discuss the possibility of opening the ANC Office in Harare then, Salisbury.
You were aware of the risks associated with accepting such a request, yet you concurred.
OR Tambo himself spoke proudly of you, Excellency, during the 8th Conference of Heads of State or Government of non-aligned countries, held in Harare, in September 1986, where he said:
“As Chairman, you have taken over as Chief-of-Staff of a movement that has transformed itself into a task force that will fight in both the forward and rear echelons, to complete the process of the total liberation of Africa to which the victory of the struggle in Zimbabwe made, and is making, such a historic contribution. Under your courageous, experienced and farsighted leadership we are certain to march to victory.”
The battles we face today are of a different kind. Our struggles are about the economic emancipation of our people. While this remains a challenging task, I am certain that our joint efforts will lead us there.
Once again, we welcome you, Mr President and we look forward to the deliberations.
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency