The Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission is set to meet in Harare this week with South African President expected in Harare later next week. This comes hot on the heels of the inaugural Bi-National Commission with Botswana which met late in February.
The Commission was set up in 2015 during the tenure of former President Robert Mugabe and Jacob Zuma to find areas of cooperation to ensue socio-economic development. It is quite a huge step towards the SADC vision of “a common future within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice and peace and security for the people of Southern Africa.” The commissions are in line with the SADC Regional Integration framework for greater cooperation between member states.
Zimbabwe’s isolation from the international community has meant it has to rely more on its regional partners for economic support and aid. Soon after his elevation to the high office, Emmerson Mnangagwa went on a regional charm offensive around SADC to cement his relationship with other regional leaders. On the one hand, South Africa and the SADC secretariat have also rallied behind the call for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe, with President Cyril Ramaphosa making the call at the World Economic Forum in January.
The two countries share a strong relationship both in history and current terms, with South Africa being Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner. South African exports to Zimbabwe reach at least US$ 2 billion every year. Zimbabwe also remains critical for South African goods that make their way into in-land Africa. South African power utility company, Eskom, being central in alleviating the power crisis in Zimbabwe by providing a line of credit at a time the country was going through its own crisis.
The Chronicle Zimbabwe quoted some officials who have stated that top of the agenda is a US$400 million deal for the National Railways of Zimbabwe. The deal is meant to pave way for the recapitalisation of the national rail service and has been led by the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG), a consortium of Zimbabwean investors based in South Africa. and South Africa’s Transnet.
Zimbabwe has seen increased support from its southern neighbour with South Africa being home to more than a million Zimbabwean migrants. The Home Affairs Department in South Africa also issues a special permit to Zimbabwean immigrants who made the trek down south during Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown more than a decade ago.
In its inaugural Binational Commission with Botswana, the second of its kind after South Africa, it managed to cement economic relations with its partner. The Botswana government has established a guarantee for Botswana business that will invest in Zimbabwe.
In February, the United States renewed its sanctions against Zimbabwe and has dashed the hopes of local business, as well as US-based investors who will find impediments if they wish to invest in Zimbabwe. It’s a tough blow to a dispensation which is trying hard to revive an ailing economy suffering from decades of mismanagement and setbacks. Will closer regional hopes be the answer to Zimbabwe’s economy?