PRETORIA, October 3 – A large media contingent, of local and international journalists, was on Tuesday at the Sefako M. Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse, in Pretoria, as President Jacob Zuma hosts Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe arrived in Pretoria last on an official visit, but without his wife Grace, who is at the centre of a legal storm over an alleged assault of a 20-year-old South African.
Sources in Pretoria told African News Agency (ANA) that Mugabe and his delegation were welcomed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base on Monday evening, but Zimbabwe’s First Lady was not part of the entourage.
Grace Mugabe was granted immunity from prosecution by the South African government for allegedly whipping Gabriella Engels with an electric cable in a Johannesburg hotel room last month. She denies the allegations. Instead, Grace, 52, says an “intoxicated and unhinged” Engels attacked her with a knife.
Mugabe and his delegation are attending the second session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission (BNC) taking place in Pretoria.
The agreement establishing the BNC was signed in April 2015 and inaugurated in October 2016 in Harare, Zimbabwe, and it stipulates that the BNC should meet on an annual and rotational basis.
The current BNC session, which will be co-chaired by Zuma and Mugabe, will afford the African leaders an opportunity to review the state of the bilateral relationship between the two neighbouring countries.
“It will further provide a platform to strengthen and deepen the warm and cordial bilateral relations between the two countries as well as to review and determine the actual progress made on bilateral undertakings and commitments made during the inauguration Session of the BNC last year,” the Presidency said last week.
Zuma and Mugabe are also expected to deliberate and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual concern, particularly peace, security, stability and development in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and some parts of the continent.
South Africa and Zimbabwe have good bilateral political, economic and social relations underpinned by strong historical ties dating back many years. The two countries do not only share strong historical relations but also economic cooperation.
Zimbabwe is one of South Africa’s top five trading partners on the continent, with trade statistics showing annual growth. In 2016, South Africa’s exports to Zimbabwe amounted to approximately R29.3 billion.
There are over 120 South African companies doing business in Zimbabwe in various sectors including mining, aviation, tourism, banking sector, the property sector, the retail sector, construction sector, and the fast food sector and many more.
To date, the two countries have signed more than 40 Memoranda of Understanding and Agreements, which cover a broad range of areas including trade and investment, immigration, defence, transport, agriculture, environment, energy, health, labour, water management, taxation, as well as arts and culture.
Zuma will be supported by several ministers including International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nkqakula, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, Home Affairs Minister Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize and Transport Minister Joseph Maswanganyi.
An advance team of high-level Zimbabwe’s ministers including Defence Ministers Sydney Sekeramayi, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Health and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo and the country’s Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira were already in Pretoria ahead of Mugabe’s arrival.