Botswana President Masisi heads for Zimbabwe

Mokgweetsi Masisi
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Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi will be in Harare this week for the inaugural Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC), as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration ratchets up diplomatic re-engagement efforts designed to unlock mutually beneficial relations.

Eight agreements covering political, diplomatic and economic sectors are expected to be signed.

Harare and Gaborone upgraded their relations from a Joint Commission to Bi-National Commission in August last year, paving the way for annual meetings between the two Heads of State.

Official meetings under the historic BNC begin today.

The engagements will culminate in the meeting between President Mnangagwa and his counterpart on Thursday.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade described the BNC as “the highest bilateral framework of cooperation between Zimbabwe and Botswana”.

“The Inaugural Session of the Zimbabwe and Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC) will be held on 28 February 2019 at Meikles Hotel in Harare and will be headed by the two countries’ Heads of State and Government, His Excellency, President E D Mnangagwa, and his Botswana counterpart, H.E. President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi,” read the statement.

It added: “The BNC replaced the Joint Permanent Commission on Co-operation between the two countries, which last sat as the 12thSession in Gaborone, Botswana, from 8 to 11 February 2018.

“The BNC is the highest bilateral framework of co-operation between Zimbabwe and Botswana. It will be preceded by a Ministerial Meeting on 27 February 2019, and a Senior Officials meeting on 25 and 26 February 2019.

“Eight Memoranda of Understanding and Agreements covering political and diplomatic, economic, social, and defence and security sectors will be signed during this Session.”

Relations between Zimbabwe and its neighbour were frosty under the old administration, but they are beginning to thaw under the President Mnangagwa-led administration.

Since taken over as the second Executive President of Zimbabwe in November 2017, President Mnangagwa actively sought to restore relations with Gaborone as he made Botswana the destination for his first official State visit as Head of State.

Zimbabwe and Botswana agreed to upgrade their relations from a Joint Commission to Bi-National Commission soon after President Mnangagwa came into office.

This culminated in the signing of the BNC agreement by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo and Botswana’s International Affairs and Cooperation Minister Dr Unity Dow on the sidelines of the 38th Sadc summit held in Windhoek, Namibia, last year.

President Mnangagwa and Botswana President Masisi witnessed the signing of the agreement.

The elevated diplomatic relations between the two countries are expected to open new frontiers for political and economic cooperation.

Most instructively, Botswana has been fighting in Zimbabwe’s corner and recently called for the unconditional lifting of sanctions against Harare.

Besides Botswana, Zimbabwe signed a BNC with South Africa in 2016.

Expectedly, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will be visiting the country next month as Sadc leaders continue to throw their weight behind President Mnangagwa, who is expected to take over as the next chair of regional body’s Troika on Politics, Defence and Security.

President Mnangagwa’s Government is untiringly working on breaking Zimbabwe’s two-decade-old isolation through engaging and re-engaging with regional and international countries and institutions. –