The friendliness was palpable. The smiles were plenty, and the results of the interface were there for all to see.
One could be forgiven for thinking Presidents Mugabe and Zuma were trying to outdo each other in showering praises on each other during the Bi-National Commission meeting held at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Tshwane, South Africa, last week.
On several occasions, the two Heads of State were caught up in brotherly flirtation, their dialogue punctuated by hearty laughter.
President Zuma was the first to speak, describing his Zimbabwean peer as “dear brother” while intermittently churning out his charismatic laughter.
The Sadc Chair and South African leader said: “South Africa assumed Chairmanship 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’.”
President Zuma spoke of his country’s high regard for President Mugabe, adding that one of South Africa’s liberation icons, Cde Oliver Tambo, shared the same admiration for the Zimbabwean leader.
President Mugabe did not disappoint as he combined wit and charm to deadly effect.
“It is often said that one can choose his or her friends but he or she cannot choose one’s neighbours. Let me assure you that had we had a say in the choice of a neighbour, we would have chosen you,” he said, drawing another bout of laughter from President Zuma.
On the business front, the Commission came up with a number of new recommendations for consultations focusing on four broad themes: politics and diplomacy, economic issues, social and defence and security.
The signing of agreements on ICTs, cross-border activities, energy, sport and recreation, and environment and conservation was also a major highlight.
The energy co-operation deal will see Zimbabwe receive additional power from South Africa, with the latter hosting the first technical implementation committee meeting in January 2018.
This agreement, reached in March 2017, has South Africa supplying 50MW (firm power) and 200MW (non-firm power) to Zimbabwe.
Further, Tshwane identified Zimbabwe as one of the potential beneficiaries of the Grand Inga Hydro-Power project between its power utility, Eskom, and the DRC.
South Africa will also share knowledge in fuel-marking.
The two countries discussed areas of bilateral trade co-operation they were unhappy with.
Zimbabwe explained that SI 64 of 2016 had been fine-tuned while other Statutory Instruments were introduced to boost Harare’s industrial capacity.
The two countries provisionally agreed to increase flight frequency between them from 85 to 100 per week.
Zimbabwe will host the next BNC meeting in 2018, but between now and then, the two countries will continue engaging.
An implementation matrix was drawn up to monitor over 40 agreements and MoUs covering tax, justice, defence, transport, water, science and technology, health, migration, labour, economic and trade co-operation and tourism, among other spheres.
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