Zimbabwe, Botswana upgrade ties

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo

ZIMBABWE and Botswana have upgraded their relations from a Joint Commission to Bi-National Commission in a move that will see the presidents of both nations meeting annually to digest important socio-political and economic matters.

President Mnangagwa and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi witnessed the signing of the Bi-National Commission by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo and Botswana’s International Affairs and Cooperation Minister, Dr Unity Dow, on Saturday on the sidelines of the just-ended 38th sadc summit held in Windoek, Namibia.

Also present were Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha and Sport, Youth, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe, among other senior Government officials that were in Windoek for the summit.

Speaking soon after the signing ceremony, Dr Dow described the occasion as momentous.

“This is a momentous occasion,” he said. “It is the genesis of meetings of His Excellencies. It makes sense to escalate our relations to the level of Bi-National Commission. It means the commission would be chaired by the Excellencies and will lead to annual meetings. For us it is very important. We are raising relations to that level and the chairs are the Presidents.

Speaking at the same event, Dr Moyo said the signing of the Bi-National Commission was testimony of upgrading cooperation and ensures Zimbabwe and Botswana had a symbiotic relationship in dealing with economic affairs.

Dr Moyo later explained the significance of the signing of the Bi-National Commission in an interview at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on President Mnangagwa’s return from Windoek on Saturday.

“During the last Joint Permanent Commission held in Botswana it was agreed that our relations must be taken to another level and indeed that is exactly what has happened,” he said. “Today (Saturday) we signed in the presence of the two Heads of State the Bi-National Commission which basically symbolises the upstaging of our economic, security and other relations with Botswana to a different level.

“Why? It is critical now as we move forward not only on Botswana, but as a region, it is high time that we should be looking from a regional perspective in the marketing of tourism.

“Let a tourist come through Windhoek to Cape Town to Victoria Falls and somewhere to Tanzania so that he can spend his money without having any impediments like issues to do with visas and other issues. Secondly, between ourselves and Botswana, we have got bilateral national interests which cross trans-boundaries and which must be tackled from a joint perspective.

“An example is, we want to build a railway line from Botswana through Zimbabwe and then to Mozambique, so that we develop a new port north of Beira. That is already something under serious consideration and the three countries have both agreed to do that.”

Minister Moyo said there were various other projects Zimbabwe could embark on like construction of water bodies and exporting water to Botswana and South Africa.

Besides Botswana, Zimbabwe has a Bi-National Commission agreement with South Africa signed in 2016.

President Mnangagwa’s Government is prioritising engagement and re-engagement with the international community.

The country had been in isolation for over two decades, a situation which was not beneficial both economically and politically.