Prosper Ndlovu Senior Reporter
RAMPANT poaching and threats to political stability posed by the rebel Afonso Dhlakama-led Renamo in Mozambique are serious regional issues, which should be dealt with urgently, officials said yesterday.
Heads of delegates attending the ongoing 8th Session of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security in Bulawayo called for a lasting solution to the Mozambican issue and a quick end to poaching activities.
Dhlakama is hiding in the bush and has recently been engaged in sporadic attacks with the Mozambican military with some casualties reported.
“We commit ourselves to regional peace and stability but we remain concerned with developments in Mozambique and eastern DRC among others,” Defence Secretary Mr Martin Rushwaya said in his address.
He added: “It is our sincere hope that lasting solutions be found to bring the much needed stability to pave way for regional development and prosperity.”
South African Director-General and Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Makhulu Gulube said the recent election of Zimbabwe into the Sadc Troika was critical towards addressing emerging security challenges in the region.
He said: “There is no doubt in our minds that your leadership in the Troika will steer our organisation to overcome many of the emerging and evolving security challenges our region faces. In particular, the prevailing threat to security and stability posed by Renamo in our neighbouring country, Mozambique, is a regional concern.”
Dr Gulube said the region should consider setting up a standby army to respond to immediate crises and called for ways of exploring matters related to inter-operability of military and security equipment.
The delegates said protection of wildlife species was at the heart of developing a vibrant tourism industry, a key sector in African economic development and poverty eradication.
They implored the joint commission to address the poaching problem promptly and guard against any foreseeable sub-regional threats to peace and security that include the rise in terrorism and extremism in some parts of Africa.
Recently Zimbabwe lost more than 110 elephants through cyanide poisoning at the Hwange National Park.
The killing of rhinos and other rare species has also become a scourge with fears that this might result in the extinction of such protected species.
Said Dr Gulube: “It is even more disturbing that our people are being used by foreign nationals to destroy our environment. We need to intensify joint efforts to educate our people and encourage them to jealously guard this precious God-given environment.”
The conference would tackle issues to do with military cooperation and training exchange programmes, human trafficking, illegal cross-border activities coordinated by international criminal syndicates, smuggling of goods and illicit drugs, influx of refugees from outside the sub-region and illegal migration.
Defence Minister Cde Sydney Sekeramayi, Home Affairs Minister Cde Kembo Mohadi and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs’ Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa and their South African counterparts are expected to join the conference tomorrow.
The Director of Policy, Public Relations and International Affairs in the Ministry of Defence, Mr Patrick Machaya, said the conference would review progress on last year’s resolutions and consolidate what has been achieved.
He said three working committees have been set up and would make presentations on public security, defence and state security before ministers tomorrow.
Mr Machaya said at the end of tomorrow’s meeting the delegates would issue a joint communiqué on the resolutions arrived at.
The delegates comprise heads of different security departments in Zimbabwe and South Africa among them senior officials from the Zimbabwe National Army, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Immigration and the Central Intelligence Organisation.
Besides geographical proximity, Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common and long history of regional political, military and cultural ties dating back to the pre-colonial era.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner, with trade between the two countries running to billions of rand each year.
The two countries have also signed a memorandum of understanding on migration to abolish visa requirements to ease the movement of people in both countries.