AS ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe landed in Pretoria on his first state visit to SA since 1994, activists and Zimbabwean exiles called for a focus on the issues facing the country and its citizens living in SA.

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NOT WELCOME: Activists want focus on exiles during visit. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his entourage arrive at the Waterkloof Air Force Base on Tuesday on his first state visit to SA since 1994. There has been speculation that Mr Mugabe is seeking a financial bail-out. Picture: SIZWE NDINGANE

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Mr Mugabe, along with his wife, Grace, landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base on Tuesday evening, amid speculation that Mr Mugabe had come to seek a financial bailout for his country, which is in the throes of an economic crisis worsened by a debilitating drought.

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Mr Mugabe, who turned 91 in February, is chairman of both the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

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“It is very sad that a current head of Sadc and the AU has to come to another country with a begging bowl when Zimbabwe is endowed with so many resources, human and mineral,” said the chairman of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, Gabriel Shumba.

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“Leadership comes with responsibility. This is a time for self-introspection, devoid of arrogance and egos,” he said.

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“We hope the president of SA will confront president Mugabe about what needs to be done to stabilise both the economy and the politics of the land. What’s needed is transparency, accountability and tolerance of diversity.”

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Director of People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) Braam Hanekom said he was hoping the discussions would focus on assisting the large Zimbabwean immigrant community in SA, as well as those in Zimbabwe.

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“The visit is very important, there is no doubt. There will be some that want to resist it, but … it is extremely important for SA and Zimbabwe to work together,” he said.

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Political analyst and human rights activist Elinor Sisulu said the disappearance of Itai Dzamara should be raised, and that both presidents needed to look into the rights of citizens within the AU.

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Mr Dzamara, a journalist and human rights activist, disappeared early last month.

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The purpose of Mr Mugabe’s visit remains unclear‚ with the Department of International Relations and Co-operation saying only that it was for the signing of a memorandum of understanding. A statement from the department said “the objective is to consult on issues of mutual interest‚ paying particular focus to bilateral and economic co-operation‚ including regional and continental matters”.

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On Wednesday, Mr Mugabe and his entourage are due to meet President Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings to sign the memorandum of understanding. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will then pay Mr Mugabe a courtesy call at the Sheraton hotel in Arcadia.

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Thursday, the day on which the Zimbabwe delegation is expected to conclude its visit‚ the SA-Zimbabwe Business Forum meeting will be held at the Sheraton hotel.

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“Zimbabwe is one of the key trading partners of SA in the Southern Africa Development Community region,” said a statement from the Department of Trade and Industry. “It is also an important investment destination for SA with its vast opportunities in different sectors.”

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The department’s spokesman Sidwell Medupe said on Tuesday protocol dictated that the host country fund such a forum. – Bdlive