The influx of illegal immigrants and the recent attacks on people from other African countries, coupled with cooperation in combating cross-border criminal activities topped the agenda, when defence and security ministers from South Africa and Zimbabwe converged for a meeting to discuss cooperation.
Seven people were killed and hundreds displaced in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last month.
South Africa and Zimbabwe meet annually under the auspices of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security (JPCDS), which was held in Vanderbijlpark.
The JPCDS usually meets to discuss matters of mutual concern with respect to security, safety and defence that affect the two countries. Wednesday’s session marked their 9th sitting.
The South African delegation was led by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, while the Zimbabwean delegation was led by Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
Senior government and military officials from departments participating in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster from both sides were also in attendance.
In her opening address, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula spoke at length to detail government’s response and intervention to the attacks.
“South Africa has reaffirmed and restated its commitment to be at the forefront of global partnerships against prejudice and suffering inflicted on humans by another.
“We condemned this wave of attacks as racist and criminal, borne of growing frustrations amongst South Africans in dealing with social issues affecting all people living in South Africa,” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said, a move that was welcomed by the Zimbabwean delegation who commended South Africa for leading in the process of peace building.
Minister Mapisa-Nqakula told SAnews after the session that they have made much progress in many issues which they have set some time frames on, in order to meet the targets.
With regards to the illegal migrants, the Minister said the issue was not unique to South Africa, making reference to the recent drowning of around 700 people when their boat capsized on their journey from Libya to Italy in a hope for a better life.
“The migration issue has become one of the critical challenges confronting the whole world,” she said, adding that it needs an integrated approach.
“Every day the world becomes smaller which allows any security threat to reach our shores quicker than ever before. This therefore enjoins us to develop strategies in a manner that will allow us to use our resources collectively to manage any such threats,” the Minister said.
She said the both governments should work together so that they can achieve more.
For his part, Minister Sekeramayi told SAnews that the session also touched on other areas of concern such as “international terrorism, drug and human trafficking, money laundering, poaching and illicit mining smuggling of tobacco, precious metals and other goods were also discussed”.
This was in addition to issues of cooperation in the defence force, police and in intelligence services.
“Our determination is to eliminate and reduce crime to the best of our ability in our countries.”
Sekeremaya also congratulated the South African government for foiling the Islamic State group’s attempted recruitment of a Cape Town girl in March.
“This highlights the need to cooperate in the fight against terrorism. We have to be extremely vigilant here in SADC to ensure that these groups who are destabilising parts of Africa and even killing university students in Kenya do not establish themselves here, hence we need to share intelligence information.”
South Africa and Zimbabwe have shared cordial relations since 1994 when bilateral ties were normalised.
This has seen the two sides signing 27 Memorandums of Understanding and Agreements – which have necessitated regular interaction between various South African Government Departments and Zimbabwean Ministries.
The JPCDS in this light is one of those interactions.
Minister Mapisa–Nqakula said the recent elevation of their relationship to a Bi-National Commission between South Africa and Zimbabwe further gives impetus for the two sides to work even harder to fulfil the responsibility of creating a safe and secure region for economic development.
“This is an important platform for us to work together in a coordinated manner to deal with very important issues that affect our security.”