Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
Zimbabwe and Botswana are set to boost their ties in various economic and political fields when the country hosts the inaugural Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission that kicks off with preparatory meetings today.
Various Memoranda of Understanding in the areas of diplomacy, mining and geology, health, agriculture and science and technology are expected to be signed during the Bi-National Commission (BNC).
Preparatory meetings for the BNC will be held from today until tomorrow to set the agenda and prepare documents for the ministerial meeting to be held on Wednesday ahead of the BNC that would be held on Thursday.
President Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart President Mokgweetsi Masisi will head Thursday’s meeting.
The engagement — coming just ahead of another BNC between Zimbabwe and South Africa — throws significant weight to President Mnangagwa’s diplomatic efforts in the Second Republic with improved relations with the western neighbour holding even greater symbolism.
Zimbabwe and Botswana endured under-warm relations in the past two decades but President Mnangagwa initiated a process of thawing the antipathy, with his participation in the re-opening of the tri-nation Kazungula bridge last March being a huge step.
President Masisi and his predecessor Seretse Ian Khama warmed up to President Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts, with the current leader going further to pronounce his country’s stance against sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West.
It is a huge geopolitical statement.
And the BNC presents beautiful prospects.
Speaking in an interview yesterday Foreign Affairs and International Trade permanent secretary Ambassador James Manzou said the country was excited to host the inaugural meeting.
“We are very pleased to be hosting the inaugural session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission on the February 28,” he said.
“The two Heads of State decided to elevate the relationship between Zimbabwe and Botswana to a bi-national one because of the strategic interests between the two countries.
“Being a BNC, the agenda will be very broad and diverse and covers issues of politics, social and economic cooperation between the two countries.”
Ambassador Manzou said several agreements would be signed.
“It is our expectation that a number of agreements will be signed with some already ready for signatures while others will be negotiated to conclusion during the preparatory meetings.
“The MoUs that are set to be signed are on diplomatic consultation, rules of procedure (for the BNC) geology and mining, health, agriculture and science and technology,” he said.
Ties between Zimbabwe and Botswana have improved since the advent of the new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa resulting in the elevation of relations to a BNC.
The inaugural Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission comes ahead of another scheduled visit by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa in just over two weeks time for the Third Session of the two countries’ Bi-National Commission.
Ambassador Manzou said the two meetings were of great significance to the country’s efforts to better relations across the globe.
“This is important for the President’s engagement and re-engagement process,” Ambassador Manzou said.
“The engagements we are having with the two countries are meant to raise our cooperation to a new level with these countries that have supported us through thick and thin.
“We want to raise our cooperation with countries like that particularly in the region. President Mnangagwa has spoken on the need to ride on the good political relations we have and promote economic diplomacy so we are focusing on that for the mutual benefit of our people.”