Pretoria – Newly-appointed Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday told journalists in Pretoria that the main focus of his administration is to revive the ailing economy, and to heighten cooperation with other countries.
“My administration will focus on economics, and trade cooperation. South Africa is the biggest trading partner of Zimbabwe … there may be challenges but as brothers and sisters, I came to assure [South African] President [Jacob] Zuma that we should feel open to discuss any challenges in order to grow our respective economies as well as to grow our cooperation,” Mnangagwa addressed journalists as he emerged from the meeting with Zuma at the Mahlamba Ndlopfu official residence in Pretoria.
Mnangagwa said South Africa, apart from being the biggest trading partner of Zimbabwe, is the closest neighbour of his nation.
“We have come to South Africa on a courtesy visit to His Excellency President Zuma for two major reasons. The first is that South Africa is the closest neighbour to Zimbabwe in terms of terms of tradition and history. Secondly, he is the current chairman of SADC. Perhaps thirdly, I spent my 16 days of exile here,” said Mnangagwa to laughter.
“I regard President Zuma as my elder brother. During the armed struggle, we had the same positions. He was in security in uMkhonto we Sizwe [the armed wing of the African National Congress] and I was head of both military and civil intelligence in our Zanla [the Zimbabwe African Nationalist Liberation Army] in Mozambique. We worked together during that time. With that background, I felt that on my 26th day in office I must come to my brother and receive guidance. He is a very experienced president. I felt that [with] the challenges I face, the first port of call was to go to my colleague, and say I have taken the leadership of Zimbabwe and I seek your guidance.”
Mnangagwa added that he was also in South Africa to congratulate Zuma on the peaceful 54th national elective conference of South Africa.
“Of course there are other heart to heart issues we discussed, which are presidential,” said Mnangagwa.
Earlier on Thursday, Zuma warmly received Mnangagwa, who was on his first working visit out of Zimbabwe since he took office last month. Mnangagwa was accompanied by several Zimbabwean senior officials including Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Ambassador Isaac Moyo, who was recently appointed director-general of Zimbabwean intelligence services by Mnangagwa.
The presidents held closed door discussions, accompanied by their delegations.
Mnangagwa temporarily fled to South Africa early last month after he was fired as deputy president by former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. The move proved to be the downfall of the 93-year-old who had been at the helm for 37 years.
Last month Mugabe resigned under pressure from his Zanu-PF party, the army and the public, leading to the return of Mnangagwa, who has since been sworn in as president.
Ahead of Mnangagwa’s visit, the Presidency in South Africa said the neighbouring countries “enjoy cordial bilateral relations underpinned by strong historical and political bonds that date back to the era of the liberation struggle”.
Trade between Harare and Pretoria has seen exponential growth over the years with Zimbabwe being one of South Africa’s top five trading partners in the region and the African continent.
South African exports to Zimbabwe in 2016 were worth R29. 3 billion.
African News Agency/ANA