ZIMBABWE and South Africa committed themselves to accelerate the implementation of several agreements .covering a wide array of bilateral issues affecting the two countries during this week’s bi-national commission (BNC) meeting in Harare.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
According to official documents, the two countries resolved to strengthen relations in the next six months covering areas such as the economy, political interaction, social cooperation, tourism, conservation, transport, heath and security.
This would culminate in a comprehensive memorandum of understanding (MoU) to be signed at a reverse BNC meeting in Pretoria on October 31 this year.
Minutes of the third session of this week’s BNC indicate that the two countries set themselves strict deadlines for the completion of specific tasks ahead of the Pretoria meeting. Under the agreement, senior government technocrats from the two countries were tasked with coming up with agreeable areas of cooperation by the end of this month, which will then lead to the development of the MoU for cooperation and a draft implementation plan which will be annexed to the MoU by April 30 2019.
This would then trigger internal processes in terms of ratification of the MoU, according to the two countries’ respective legal requirements. It also means the MoU would have to be ratified by both Zimbabwean and South African parliaments in line with international law.
The commission also resolved that the two neighbouring countries should take advantage of key international financial institution meetings to solicit funding for several projects to be undertaken under the MoU.
“The commission agreed to formalise relations through a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding that Zimbabwe will initiate and cover broad areas of co-operation and finalise the said MoU within the given timelines. The relevant ministries agreed to consider options for expanding the standing facility arrangement between the respective central banks. Other financing options beyond this are also being explored,” minutes of the meeting read.
The two countries also agreed to engage over Zimbabwe’s application for a special dispensation derogation under the Sadc protocol in which it was seeking an arrangement whereby its citizens could be allowed to work in other Sadc countries without being subjected to rigorous vetting processes. Should an agreement be reached, South Africa will help lobby the Sadc bloc to accept Zimbabwe’s application at the Sadc summit for heads of state in September this year.
The application was initially made in 2017, but was not followed through after Sadc member states requested to consult Zimbabwe bilaterally. Zimbabwe also wants derogation on trade in an unspecified number of products.
The Sadc member states had also raised concerns over the duration of the special dispensation on derogation as well as the number of product lines to be considered for derogation as well as the impact of new trade restrictions. So far, no engagements have commenced.
South Africa requested an update on whether Zimbabwe had reviewed the application in line with the concerns raised by the Sadc council of ministers of trade to the number of tariff lines in the application as well as the number of years applicable.
South Africa also sought to understand whether further import restrictions would be implemented should the application be positively considered, the minutes further show.
In response, the Zimbabwean delegation to the BNC advised that the import control measures introduced under the controversial Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 were tied to the transitional phase aimed at enabling the revival of its economy.
With respect to the number of years in the application as well as number of tariff lines, Zimbabwe said relief would be sought after eight years. The South African delegation then said it would need to consult the South African Customs Union for a way forward.
“South Africa and Zimbabwe decided to continue to engage ahead of the Sadc summit with a view to find a consensus,” the minutes further read.