From Kuda Bwititi in Gaborone
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart, Seretse Khama Ian Khama yesterday made firm commitments to enhance co-operation, make a clean break from the past and elevate their diplomatic engagements to a Bi-National Commission that will set the pedestal for stronger ties.
It had been a decade since a Zimbabwean Head of State visited Botswana on a State visit but yesterday the two Presidents made strong undertakings to restore neighbourliness during the historic two-day State visit which is also President Mnangagwa’s first since he assumed office in November last year.
To galvanise co-operation, the two countries are today set to sign landmark agreements that will propose timelines to guarantee effective implementation.
In his remarks at a luncheon hosted by President Khama in Gaborone yesterday, President Mnangagwa said the decision to upgrade engagement to a Bi-National Commission was the dawn of a new era for relations between the two countries. “We have, by agreement, elevated our principal cooperation mechanism from a Joint Permanent Commission on Co-operation to a Bi-National Commission,” he said.
“The adoption of a Bi-National Commission marks the beginning of a new economic era in the cooperation between our two Governments. It is now business unusual. I am confident that the agreements and memoranda of understanding will facilitate greater co-operation between our sister countries in the economic, political and social spheres.”
President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was committed to playing its part to strengthen relations with Botswana under a new chapter that restores friendship and cooperation.
“It is a chapter informed not only by the long history between our two countries, but one also inspired by the great prospects and possibilities in the future that lies ahead. Zimbabwe is determined to play its part to ensure that relations between our two countries reach new heights.”
President Mnangagwa said it was significant that he had made Botswana the destination for his first State visit after President Khama graced his inauguration ceremony last November.
“While it is significant that my first State Visit is to a neighbouring Sadc country, it is most appropriate that it is to a sister country such as Botswana. In the same vein, kindly permit me, Your Excellency to thank you most heartily, for attending my inauguration on 24 November 2017. Your presence was indeed humbling and a warm gesture of support from you and the Government of Botswana.”
President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from Botswana’s economic prowess particularly in the diamond sector.
“I am aware of the great strides that Botswana has made in the diamond mining sector. I am informed that Botswana has succeeded in developing a viable and sustainable diamond industry. My Government stands ready to increase co-operation with Botswana in this regard through the sharing of knowledge, new technologies and innovations as well as other aspects of global best practice.”
President Mnangagwa said the two countries shared a common history and friendship that dates back to liberation struggle when Botswana provided assistance to Zimbabwe’s fight for independence.
He paid special tribute to the founding President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama. “Zimbabwe will forever be grateful to Botswana for the role she played, together with other Frontline States in the struggle for independence and the freedom of the Southern African region as a whole.
“We salute the principled and steadfast position against colonialism and apartheid that Botswana took under the astute leadership of the late founding President Sir Seretse Khama.”
He said Zimbabwe was grateful that Botswana is home to many Zimbabweans that have crossed the border to seek greener pastures. President Mnangagwa also thanked Botswana and other Sadc countries for supporting Operation Restore Legacy.
He reiterated that Zimbabwe will hold free and fair elections around July this year.
In his remarks, President Khama said President Mnangagwa’s visit had cast new light on relations between the two countries.
“It has been over a decade since Botswana and Zimbabwe officially exchanged State visits, a situation that certainly does not augur well for the promotion and sustenance of the spirit of good neighbourliness among friendly States.
“We are therefore very delighted Mr President to have you in our midst which is the first time a President of Zimbabwe has paid a visit during my Presidency, not to mention that I too have never been invited to a State visit to Zimbabwe either. So you just came in time before I end my term of office.”
President Khama said President Mnangagwa’s visit was historic on many fronts.
“Your State visit to Botswana is therefore historic and provides fresh impetus for the revitalisation and consolidation of the time-tested relations that exists between our two countries.”
“Botswana and Zimbabwe share a special relationship, which is not only premised on a shared common border, but also on the existing strong historical, cultural and family ties. These close ties, which were forged during the liberation struggle in the Southern Africa region, have remained a solid foundation for deepening our collaboration, thus taking our relations to greater heights. As neighbouring countries whose economies remain interdependent, it is a fact of life that our prosperity as nations depends on each other’sprosperity. We therefore, draw inspiration from our common past and cultural heritage, which serve as our moral compass in defining a common destiny.”
President Mnangagwa said the Bi-National Commission was a great leap forward for relations between the two nations.
“Mr President, our decision to establish a Bi-National Commission to be convened at Heads of State and Government level, is a great step forward in terms of enhancing our bilateral cooperation, which cut across almost all sectors of development.”
As landlocked countries, it is imperative that we should deepen our strategic partnership through implementation of strategic projects.”
President Khama said sound relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana are also an important factor in regional integration.
“ . . . our friendship and cooperation is very important, not only for our two countries, but also for the region. It is in that regard that I wish to reaffirm my personal commitment and that of my Government, to the cooperation and partnership that we share.”
Earlier in the day, President Mnangagwa also addressed Botswana’s National Assembly saying Zimbabwe and Botswana have a special relationship which people from both countries should look at with optimism for the future.
President Mnangagwa and President Khama also held bilateral talks at a closed door meeting, which was attended by Cabinet Ministers from both countries.
President Mnangagwa arrived at Seretse Khama International Airport where he was welcomed by President Khama just before 10 am.
He was treated to a glamorous welcoming ceremony that included the singing of national anthems from both countries, inspection of a Presidential guard of honour, a 21 gun salute and entertainment from Batswana traditional dancers.
Cabinet Ministers Cdes Sibusiso Moyo, Patrick Chinamasa, Oppah Muchinguri, Obert Mpofu, Ziyambi Ziyambi, Amon Murwira, Joram Gumbo, Mike Bimha, Simon Khaya Moyo, Winston Chitando and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who arrived here ahead of President Mnangagwa also welcomed him at the airport. The ministers are expected to sign agreements with colleagues from Botswana today.