From Mabasa Sasa in TSHWANE, SOUTH AFRICA
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe began a historic state visit to South Africa on Wednesday, aiming to resolve four major issues of bilateral concern that will also have wider ramifications on the Sadc region’s development, his spokesperson George Charamba said.
President Mugabe, who arrived in South Africa on Tuesday night, was welcomed at the Union Buildings in Tshwane by his host, President Jacob Zuma in what is only his second state visit to the country’s biggest trade partner.
He visited in 1994 with Nelson Mandela as President.
President Mugabe began by inspecting a guard of honour, and the two leaders then listened to their national anthems to the sound of a 21-canon salute by the South Africa National Defence Forces.
Mr Charamba, who is part of a delegation comprising eight cabinet ministers, said the talks between the two leaders were not predicated on begging for assistance as some sections of the anti-Zimbabwe media have speculated, but on mutual development.
He said the four key issues informing the discussions were the upgrading of bilateral relations beyond the traditional joint permanent commission on the basis that Zimbabwe was historically South Africa’s biggest trading partner in Africa; a just, fair and reciprocal trade relationship; establishing joint ventures in mining on the understanding that Zimbabwe’s mining sector is a strong economic proposition; and recognising the contributions Zimbabweans working in South Africa were making to that economy and ensuring that their role was appreciated.
The eight ministers, covering portfolios ranging from finance, transport, defence, home affairs through to small and medium scale enterprises, will also have their plenary as they try map a mutually beneficial way forward for the citizens of both countries.
The ministers were expected to face the media as Presidents Mugabe and Zuma started their closed door deliberations, which will also culminate in a joint lunchtime media conference.