Energy Needs Likely To Dominate SA-Zim Talks

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is to host his South African counterpart, President Jacob Zuma, at the inaugural Bi-National Commission later this week.

Thursday’s meeting is preceded by a series of consultative meetings at senior and ministerial level that kicked off in Harare on Monday.

The commission will see the two countries sign a number of bilateral agreements.  

The two presidents will be reviewing the decisions taken during President Mugabe’s first state visit to South Africa last April, in more than 20 years.

Discussions over both countries’ energy needs are likely to dominate the discussion. 

Power-starved Zimbabwe is looking to import more electricity from South Africa to meet its domestic requirements.

“We are almost of certainty that in the area of energy an agreement will be discussed. There is a specific project Eskom and our Minister of Energy are proposing, which is about laying a power grid which will move on up to the DRC,” says  South Africa Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mpakama Mbete.

The presidents’ meeting follows the signing of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission Agreement in April 2015.

The agreement elevated relations from the joint commission chaired at ministerial level to the bi-national one chaired at heads of state level.

The agreement aims to increase co-operation in trade, politics, social and security matters. 

Zimbabwe wants to balance trade deficit which is heavily skewed in favour of South Africa.

“South Africa will not benefit from a weak Zimbabwe economically,” says Permanent Secretary Foreign Affairs Joey Bimha.

As Zimbabwe struggles to compete with Africa’s second largest economy, it also wants to negotiate better visa conditions for students and even for some the millions of undocumented migrants living in South Africa.

“There are efforts to try and see how even visas can be given to unskilled labourers that are needed in the South African economy. All these are being discussed. Some agreements have been made; other things are still under discussion and we will have reached those discussions during the bi-national commission,” says Bimha.

President Zuma is expected in Zimbabwe on Wednesday where President Mugabe will host a state dinner in his honour.