Opening Remarks by President Zuma, during the Inaugural Session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-national Commission, Harare, Zimbabwe

Your Excellency and Comrade, President Robert Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe;

Honourable Ministers;

Your Excellencies, Ambassador of Zimbabwe to South Africa and Ambassador of South Africa to Zimbabwe;

Senior Government Officials from both Zimbabwe and South Africa;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

Members of the Media

Good Morning to you all!

Allow me to begin by conveying to you, Mr President, my personal appreciation and delight for inviting us to this beautiful country, the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Let me also extend our profound gratitude to the people of Zimbabwe for their warm and colourful welcome extended to us on our arrival.

I equally wish to convey to you, Mr President and to the people of Zimbabwe the warmest greetings of the Government and People of the Republic of South Africa.

Your Excellency,

As you welcomed us, you correctly touched on the historical and fraternal bonds between our two countries.

Indeed these bonds were cemented during the difficult time of our liberation struggles, when we fought in the same trenches till you got your independence.

Soon after your independence, you gave shelter, education and unrelenting support to our sons and daughters.

The role played by individual nations, including your own, Mr President, in our struggle is already part of the tapestry boldly woven to display the special linkages between our countries.

Every time we meet, we need to remember this rich history in case we forget where we come from and who we are.

This history defines us and it is a history that needs to be told and retold.

Your Excellency, Mr President,

We meet here today at a time the world is facing many challenges. Our own countries have not escaped these challenges.

The global economic environment has been unforgiving and highly fluid due to declining commodity prices and volatile currency fluctuations, stifling GDP growth.

Our deliberations will be incomplete if we do not take a moment to also reflect on the global operational space we find ourselves in and its impact on our economies.

While still on the topic of external factors beyond our control, affecting our economies, it will be an omission if I do not mention that our region has been hard hit by the devastating El Nino induced drought, which has impacted negatively on livelihoods and quality of life.

An estimated forty million people are affected, of whom twenty three million require immediate emergency assistance.

Many sectors have been affected, including food security, agriculture, livestock, livelihoods, nutrition, health and water, sanitation and hygiene.

The drought has also in some cases seriously eroded decades of hard-worn developmental gains, putting great strain on the fiscus of most governments.

Most recently, South Africa has experienced her first rains, but this in no way means the end of our woes and the economic crisis we find ourselves in.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Not all is gloom and doom, on a positive note in the multilateral arena we just returned from the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, where we welcomed the appointment of a new UN Secretary General, Portugal's former Prime Minister, Mr Antonio Guterres.

He will assume his duties in January 2017, taking over from Mr Ban Ki-Moon, who served in the position for over a decade.

Also of importance was the implementation of the new UN Development Agenda 2030 adopted by the United Nations and its synergies with the African Union Agenda 2063.

The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a clear demonstration of the commitment of the international community to achieve a better world.

Also worth mentioning is the TICAD Summit that was held in Kenya in August 2016 where 30 billion US Dollars were pledged towards Africa's development.

Also of note is the 8th BRICS Summit held in Goa, India, in October, 2016. The BRICS leaders reaffirmed their support for Africa's implementation of its various programmes in pursuit of its continental agenda for peace and socio economic development.

In this regard, I am pleased to announce that the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) is establishing its Africa Regional Centre in Johannesburg.

The NDB will begin operations with $50-billion, which will expand to the full $100-billion in the next five to 10 years.

This will go a long way towards continental development.

Your Excellency,

Closer to home, in August 2016, we completed a successful 36th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Mbabane, Swaziland under the theme "Resource Mobilisation for investment in sustainable Energy infrastructure for inclusive SADC industrialisation for Prosperity".

The Summit more importantly called for the implementation of the 2015 Harare decision on industrialisation and creation of vibrant economies to create jobs and fight the scourge of poverty in the region.

We need all resource mobilisation towards ensuring the sustainable development of our economies.

High on that list being Industrialisation, Infrastructure development and investing in diversification of our economies, also recouping our national development plans towards tangible benefits for our people who are looking up to us, with genuine expectations for sustainable solutions and better livelihood.

This, we will not achieve working independently and in isolation, there is therefore a need for concerted efforts, collaboration and synergies towards a collective vision of fighting the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality in our respective countries.

Jointly we need to pursue the creation of a stable, peaceful and prosperous region, our continent Africa and a better World.

In this respect, Zimbabwe has been instrumental towards realising the dream of a prosperous African continent that is self-sufficient and able to assume its rightful place in the global arena.

This was evidenced during His Excellency's Chair of the AU. Your contribution as Chair of both the SADC as well as of the AU has put the region and the continent on a different platform of economic and political stability.

Your Excellency,

At a bilateral level, I am encouraged that our two countries already have growing and very warm relations now managed under the Bi-National Commission which is being duly inaugurated.

It is my wish Mr President that utilising the BNC mechanism, we should at our level strive to provide the strategic impetus to drive this bilateral relationship to significantly higher level.

It is also our fervent wish that we should work together to explore a variety of issues to further deepen our cooperation driven by our historical ties.

As we do that Mr President, we need to pay a particular focus on economic cooperation.

Our business communities stand ready to play their part, if as Governments, we create a conducive environment for ease of doing business, including but not limited to, the establishment of a one stop border post for facilitation of free movement of people, goods and services, policy certainty, among others.

Also important is the need to continue to promote the already existing people to people linkages, especially through tourism, sports and culture.

Our two countries should continue to strive to become leading examples on the continent, in pursuit of a peaceful, politically stable and prosperous Africa.

We need to redouble our efforts to assist sister countries facing conflicts and security challenges.

In conclusion,

Our engagements must help to deepen bilateral political, economic and social cooperation between our respective countries, and contribute towards regional integration.

Your Excellency, thank you once more and we look forward to the report of the Ministers.

I thank you.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa.

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