Opening Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the SA-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission, Harare, Republic of Zimbabwe
Your Excellency, President Emmerson Mnangagwa,
Vice President Chiwenga
Vice President Mohadi
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, High Commissioners,
Senior officials from our respective governments;
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to you, Mr President, for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation in your beautiful country.
I am very pleased to visit Zimbabwe once again, for this important meeting of the Third Session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission.
I am encouraged that we are both committed to adhering to the BNC Agreement signed in April 2015, which stipulates that the two countries should meet annually.
Although our BNC is only just over three years old, our relations date several decades.
We fought side-by-side against colonialism, apartheid and white minority role.
We will remain eternally grateful for the support that Zimbabwe gave to our struggle at a great cost to its own security and development.
Through steadfast servicing of this BNC, our two countries will be able to consolidate the bilateral cooperation existing between our countries and to explore other areas of cooperation.
Since the inaugural session of the BNC, there have been increased interactions between our respective government departments.
I am confident that the report that will be presented to us shortly will be reflective of the positive outcomes emanating from those engagements.
Today, we reiterate South Africa’s commitment to work with Zimbabwe in addressing the socio-economic challenges experienced by our two countries.
We commend your new administration for all your efforts through your Programme of Action to take Zimbabwe out of its current difficulties and make it a viable partner for South Africa, the region and other development partners.
In support of your commendable efforts, in February of this year at the World Economic Forum, South Africa made a call to the international community to assist Zimbabwe and lift sanctions.
We are pleased that the European Union heeded the call, and in February 2019 decided to lift sanctions on the current members of your administration.
This is the first of many steps needed to support Zimbabwe’s recovery.
As South Africa we are also emerging from a difficult period not only of poor economic performance but also of diminishing public trust in state institutions and low investor confidence.
We have been forthright in acknowledging the effects of decline of governance, corruption and what we describe as ‘state capture’ on our economy, our institutions and our people.
We have also recognised that we will not be able to meaningfully address the triple challenges that our country and people face, of unemployment, poverty and inequality without increased investment in critical areas of our economy.
We have welcomed interactions we have had with the private sector representing both local and international businesses on a number of issues that are of concern to them and some matters of concern to us.
It is for this reason that we have prioritised the restoration of a policy and regulatory environment that is stable, consistent, predicable and conducive to attracting investment in South Africa.
We have taken decisive steps to ensure policy certainty in areas that had been a hinderance to investment. Amongst these was the move to speed up the finalisation of the our transformative Mining Charter which deals with the regulatory architecture of our mining industry and number of other regulatory frameworks.
We have further recognised the challenges raised with us by investors, including among other things, our visa regime, administered prices for ports, rail and electricity, the cost to communicate as well as infrastructure bottlenecks.
We have also embarked on an ambitious investment drive, with a target of $100 billion of new investment in our economy over 5 years.
To this end, I have appointed four investment envoys tasked with traversing the length and breadth of our country and indeed the world to mobilise investment to South Africa.
As a result of these efforts, South Africa is firmly on a path of growth and renewal.
As we work to correct the mistakes and missteps of the past decade, we are focused on lifting economic growth and creating jobs.
South Africa stands ready to render support to Zimbabwe within our means in your quest for economic renewal.
It is our wish that, using the BNC mechanism, we should at our level strive to provide the strategic impetus to drive the bilateral relations to a significantly higher level.
It is also our wish that we should work together to explore a variety of issues to further deepen our cooperation. This includes deepening the social ties between the peoples of our two countries, and the region, through greater people-to-people cooperation.
Our two countries already work together in many critical areas, such as economic cooperation and infrastructure development, energy production, mining, defence, health, transport, migration issues, and information and communication technology.
To date, we have signed 45 agreements that are being implemented by our departments.
I am informed that we also have other agreements and memoranda of understanding that are being finalised.
It is our wish that the agreements and MoUs signed should not merely be ceremonial.
Our officials should ensure that they are successfully implemented to improve the economies of our two countries.
I am encouraged by the participation of South African business in various sectors of the Zimbabwean economy, such as in engineering, construction, banking, retail, hospitality, mining exploration and services, among others.
There are undoubtedly good prospects for both of our countries, but there is a need to ensure ease of doing business and elimination of trade barriers.
This should include the urgent conclusion of all outstanding work on the Beit Bridge One Stop Border Post for facilitation of free movement of persons, goods and services.
We need to continue to deepen existing people-to-people linkages, especially through tourism, sports and culture.
In the spirit of good neighbourliness, co-existence should be encouraged and facilitated through existing legal and procedural requirements.
Our two countries should continue to be united in pursuit of a peaceful, politically stable and prosperous Africa.
Our interactions should extend beyond bilateral cooperation to regional, continental and international issues of mutual interest.
Thus, the strong support of our two countries to the current Chair of SADC, Namibia, as well as to the Chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, Zambia, is indispensable.
In August this year, Zimbabwe will be assuming the position of the Chair of the Organ on Politics Defence and Security Cooperation. We are confident of Zimbabwe’s ability to execute this responsibility with distinction to champion the interests of our region and its people.
During this time, elections will be held in Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.
We are assured that the region will be in good hands under your capable leadership.
South Africa will be holding elections on 8 May 2019.
Malawi will also hold elections in May 2019.
This will therefore be an important year for SADC as we continue to deepen democracy and good governance.
Our two countries and all other member states should continue to work together to ensure a successful SADC Summit in August 2019, as well as to ensure that economic, social and other regional issues are addressed.
Another important event in our region will be the SADC Solidarity Conference with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which will be held in South Africa on 25 March 2019.
Preparations are underway for this event and I am looking forward to hosting you in South Africa.
We join in continuing to work towards the ‘Africa we want’.
Like you, we want inclusive sustainable development that incorporates the participation of women and youth in a peaceful and stable environment.
In this regard, economic growth of our continent is vital.
Economic projections indicate that the African continent will attain GDP growth of 4% in 2019 and 4.1% in 2020.
Furthermore, the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area will stimulate intra-Africa trade and investment.
This development will present more opportunities for both our countries to address our common socio-economic challenges.
To benefit from the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area, we need to focus our efforts on industrialisation, infrastructure development and the diversification of our economies.
We must deliberate too in our efforts to ensure that the benefits of the Continental Free Trade Agreement accrue to the women and youth of our countries, our region and the continent.
Allow me once again to thank Zimbabwe for its support for South Africa’s election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2019 - 2020.
As we begin our tenure on the Security Council, we reiterate our commitment to the African Agenda, a strong multilateral system and to the reform of the United Nations.
In conclusion, I am certain that our engagements today will strengthen bilateral economic cooperation, and will support our joint efforts to promote regional integration, continental development and intra-Africa trade.
Your Excellency, thank you for inviting us.
I look forward to the report of the Commission and to constructive bilateral talks.
I thank you.