You are still in one piece, Comrade President…


The Presidency in South Africa said President Zuma and President Mugabe would use the opportunity to deepen bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries.


News24 and Eyewitness News

Harare – President Robert Mugabe has told President Jacob Zuma: “We are happy you are still in one piece in spite of what the papers are writing every day.”
Speaking at the opening of a Bi-National Commission in Harare on Thursday, the 92-year old leader told his South African counterpart: “Comrade president, we need each other even more now than before.”
Both leaders are facing growing calls for them to step down, Mugabe from #ThisFlag protesters and Zuma in the wake of the #StateCaptureReport.
Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, said Zimbabwe and South Africa “face renewed assaults on our independence and sovereignty”.
The Zimbabwe president spoke in a much weaker voice than normal and hesitated at times during his speech. There have been concerns over his health for a long time.
Following a couple of embarrassing stumbles in public in recent months, cameras from the state broadcaster resolutely refuse to focus on the nonagenarian as he walks to a podium to give a speech. Thursday was no different, with the cameras fixed on the seated audience.
President Zuma spent the day in Harare to co-chair the inaugural session of the South Africa Zimbabwe bi-national commission.
The Presidency in South Africa said Zuma and President Mugabe would use the opportunity to deepen bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries, and to further strengthen and develop the potential that exists for closer ties in the fields of trade, investment, mining, water and energy among others.
Zimbabwe is hoping its economically powerful neighbour will implement economic and trade deals despite its worsening crisis.
The bi-national commission, is an annual meeting to strengthen economic and political relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Several South African Cabinet ministers were with President Zuma for the trip.
Zimbabwe is really hoping some positive investment and trade could come out of this.
Foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi says relations between the two countries is vibrant and evolving, although he said there will be bumps and humps along the way.
Analysts said President Zuma’s speech, for a man who is facing mounting pressure from the opposition in SA to quit, was fairly lacklustre speech:

Here are the highlights of Zuma’s speech
Drought has hit southern Africa hard
“Our region has been hard-hit by El Nino,” Zuma said. He said the drought had “eroded decades of hard-won developmental gains, putting great strain on the fiscus of most governments.” No word on how corruption might have also imposed a strain.
We’re pleased about the appointment of a new UN secretary general
And the fact that the new BRICS development bank is establishing its Africa regional centre in Johannesburg.

Mugabe’s time as chair of the AU in 2015 was very positive
Said Zuma: “Your contribution as chair of the post… has put the region and the continent on a different platform of economic and political stability.” Excuse me?
Zuma went even further, saying Zimbabwe had been “instrumental towards realising the dream of a prosperous African continent.”

We need to focus on economic co-operation
If so, why didn’t a business forum bringing together representatives from Zimbabwe and South Africa manage to make it today? Zuma did not mention this but Mugabe was clearly disappointed.
Business communities “stand ready to play their part” in deepening co-operation between South Africa and Zimbabwe
This is where the speech gets interesting.
Zuma said the business communities would play their part if the governments “create conducive environments for ease of doing business”.
OK, so he didn’t mention bond notes, the SI 64 of 2016 ban on many SA imports and indigenisation. In fact Zuma went straight on to point to the need for a one-stop border post at Beitbridge, a recurring topic in these talks.
But he said the need for conducive environments was “not limited” to that. He also made a fleeting reference to “policy certainty”.


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