ENERGY TO DOMINATE TALKS BETWEEN ZIMBABWEAN, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENTS

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will host his South African counterpart, President Jacob Zuma, at the inaugural meeting of the countries' Bi-National Commission here this week.

Thursday's meeting is being preceded by a series of consultative meetings at senior and ministerial levels which kicked off in Harare on Monday.

During the meeting of the bi-national commission, the two countries are expected to sign a number of bilateral agreements. The two presidents will be reviewing the decisions taken during President Mugabe's first State visit to South Africa in more than 20 years in April this year.

Discussions over both countries' energy needs are likely to dominate the discussions. Power-starved Zimbabwe is looking to import more electricity from South Africa to meet its domestic requirements.

"We are almost certain that in the area of energy, an agreement will be discussed. There is a specific project which (South African power utility) Eskom and our Minister of Energy are proposing, which is about laying a power grid which will move on up to the (Democratic Republic of Congo) DRC," said South Africa Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mpakama Mbete Monday.

The presidents' meeting follows the signing of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission Agreement in April 2015. The agreement elevated relations from the joint commission chaired at ministerial level to the bi-national commission chaired at heads of state level.

The agreement aims to increase co-operation in trade, politics, social and security matters.

Zimbabwe wants to balance trade deficit which is heavily skewed in favour of South Africa.

"South Africa will not benefit from a weak Zimbabwe economically," said the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Joey Bimha.

Zimbabwe also wants to negotiate better visa conditions for students and even for some the millions of Zimbabweans living in South Africa as undocumented migrants.

"There are efforts to try and see how even visas can be given to unskilled labourers that are needed in the South African economy. All these are being discussed. Some agreements have been made; other things are still under discussion and we will have reached those discussions during the bi-national commission," said Bimha.

President Zuma is expected in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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