Mixed views as SA govt hosts new Zimbabwean foreign affairs

MARCH 23, 2017. Naledi Pandor poses for a portrait, in her office, at The Department of Science and Technology, in Lynwood, Pretoria. Pandor is the South African Minister of Science and Technology. She has previously served as Minister of Education (2004–2009) in the cabinets of both Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe. PHOTOGRAPH: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
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Pretoria – International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor was on Friday hosting her Zimbabwean counterpart, the neighbouring country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Dr Frederick Shava, in Cape Town.

Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation Clayson Monyela said Shava was on a working visit to South Africa.

“The visit by Minister Shava takes place against the historical and fraternal bonds between South Africa and Zimbabwe, which were cemented during the period of the struggle for liberation against colonialism and apartheid,” said Monyela.

He said the two ministers representing Pretoria and Harare were expected to discuss a wide range of bilateral, continental and international issues of mutual concern.

“South Africa and Zimbabwe consolidate their strategic relations through a Bi-National Commission (BNC), which is a structured bilateral mechanism, to co-ordinate and forge bilateral co-operation and partnership between the two countries,” said Monyela.

Members of the media had been invited for the opening remarks and a photo opportunity at a Cape Town hotel.

Millions of Zimbabweans are believed to be resident in South Africa, with the majority of them shuttling between the two countries doing informal trade and businesses.

Zanu PF’s spokesperson in South Africa, Kennedy Mandaza, told African News Agency (ANA) that Shava’s tour of South Africa was significant, as it affirmed Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s drive to re-engage the international community.

“We believe that this meeting, if it is going to address issues that are critical to our constituency here in South Africa, it should look at addressing the policies that have to do with trade and investment so that we can strengthen the relations that already exist. We should look at policies that seek to create an investment environment that is conducive, friendly and is of mutual benefit to both countries,” said Mandaza.

“Another issue of interest that the ministers can address is about immigration, particularly as it pertains to border issues – how best can we ensure that we have a one-stop border post and to lessen the travelling time of the people.”

He said the political leaders should consider how to expedite the movement of freight trucks at “the gateway to Africa” – the Beitbridge border post.

“The leaders should also look at how our people based here in South Africa are going to get the vaccination against Covid-19. There are still grey areas on whether Zimbabwean people here are going to be vaccinated and when will this be done. The issue of Covid-19 should also be looked at,” said Mandaza.

However, Shelton Chiyangwa, South Africa chairperson of Zimbabwe’s opposition, the MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora, said the diplomatic meeting was a waste of time and resources.

“We finds these continued bilateral talks as a continued waste of resources if they don’t address real issues affecting our people. Zimbabwe is seriously under siege and South Africa continues to show a blind eye to the crisis. We call upon Minister Pandor to address on human rights violations in the country,” Chiyangwa told ANA.

“Political players in the opposition remain persecuted and incarcerated. We challenge Dr Shava to ensure the talks bring a positive outcome that will ensure the guaranteed security and better livelihood for our people. Dwelling on the history and the past is really not in the interest of our people.”

He said the Zimbabwean envoy should start enquiring about Pretoria’s decision on the special dispensation permits, the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) given to more than 180,000 Zimbabwean nationals working and doing business across South Africa.

“Lastly but not least, we urge Dr Shava to also take this opportunity to engage with the home affairs minister and the South African government regarding the ZEP permits that will be expiring in December 2021,” said Chiyangwa.

“We pray and hope that they will also open the same opportunity to new applicants of the same, as many Zimbabweans did not benefit from this since 2010 and they remain undocumented in the Republic of SA.”

The four-year ZEPs were issued effectively from January 1, 2018, and are set to expire on December 31, 2021. Part of the ZEP conditions are that they are not renewable and do not entitle holders to apply for permanent residence, irrespective of the period of stay in South Africa.

On the other hand, Trust Ndlovu, chairperson of the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance, said there was nothing to write home about regarding South Africa and Harare engagements.

“Regarding this bilateral engagement, there is very little we can read from their engagement, given their historical background. There has not been much they have done to improve the political, economic and the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Possibly, they should discuss issues regarding the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits problem. Right now there are thousands and thousands of Zimbabweans stranded in South Africa without knowing what will happen to them regarding the extension of those permits,” said Ndlovu.

He said the situation at Beitbridge should also be discussed, where “South Africa has opened its borders while Zimbabwe has not opened while Zimbabwean people are dependent on buying and trading with South Africa”.

African News Agency (ANA)