UPDATED: Zim/Bots sign seven bilateral agreements President Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi make a toast at a cocktail in Botswana. — Picture by Presidential Photographer Joseph Nyadzayo

Prosper Ndlovu in Maun, Botswana

ZIMBABWE and Botswana yesterday signed seven bilateral instruments at the close of the 2nd Botswana-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission (BNC) here, reaffirming their commitment to scale up bilateral cooperation for mutual benefit and steering regional integration.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, presided over the closing session yesterday, after four days of intense engagements.

Relevant Cabinet ministers from the two countries signed the seven bilateral instruments, which cover a range of socio-economic development issues, on behalf of their governments. 

These include; the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Memorandum of Understanding on health matters, sport development, cooperation in the field of media information and publicity, provision of sustainable, affordable and functional low-cost housing, cooperation in technical, vocational education and training as well as employment and labour. 

The 2nd BNC Session agreements add to the six bilateral instruments that were signed in the inaugural indaba, that was held in Harare last year.

In his remarks President Mnangagwa said the high-level bilateral platform has helped the two countries to identify common challenges and new opportunities that would need to be addressed between now and the 3rd Session of the BNC next year.

“I am pleased to note that this session has witnessed the signing of MoUs and agreements, which set the foundation for our broader cooperation in the identified areas. We must apply greater determination towards the full implementation of these agreements for the benefit of our two countries and peoples,” said President Mnangagwa.

“There is no doubt that in working together and consistently, we can achieve much more. Let us introspect and ask ourselves whether we have exerted enough energy and shown adequate commitment to realise progress in our cooperation.

“It is unquestionable that at the head of state level and between our two people, we are clear as to where we should take our cooperation. Officials at the technical level in our respective governments must equally demonstrate zeal, focus and sense of urgency through speedy implementation of agreed positions.”

Dr Masisi reiterated his country’s support for Zimbabwe including the call for the lifting of sanctions imposed on the country. He concurred with President Mnangagwa on the need to ensure swift implementation of agreements and decisions throughout the year as opposed to waking up a few weeks before the convening of the next BNC.

This year’s BNC saw the two leaders exchange views on a wide range of regional, continental and international issues of mutual interest and concern. In a joint communiqué issued at the end of the BNC, leaders from the two countries reaffirmed the significance of the BNC as a bilateral instrument to give strategic direction to the growing relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana, in order to improve the well-being of citizens.

President Mnangagwa and Dr Masisi also renewed their commitment towards the speedy conclusion of joint regional projects such as the Points Techobanine Heavy Haul Railway Line, which is a vital trade corridor envisaged to contribute towards greater regional integration. 

They stressed the need to expedite implementation of the agreements to ensure tangible benefits to citizens from both states. They also emphasised the need to speed up completion of joint infrastructure projects, increased synergies on clean energy generation, environmental cooperation and unlocking earnings from the rich wildlife resource among others. 

Botswana and Zimbabwe have already set aside substantial portions of their countries for wildlife conservation and have coordinated joint programmes such as the convening of the Elephant Summit in Kasane last year in May, as well as the Africa Wildlife Economy Summit in Victoria Falls in June.

“This collaboration is expected to facilitate the contribution of the wildlife estate towards sustainable economic and ecological benefits for the local communities, and Africa as a whole,” reads the communique. 

The BNC also underscored the need for increased private sector collaboration as a key stakeholder in implementation of economic decisions. In his regard a Business Forum was held on the sidelines on Wednesday and it focused on sectors such as manufacturing, textiles, clothing and services such as finance and insurance. 

Botswana and Zimbabwe also committed to working closely in their efforts towards attainment of the regional integration agenda, in particular the Sadc industrialisation agenda. The two Heads of State expressed concern over the outbreak of the Coronavirus and the serious health risks it poses to humanity. They expressed solidarity with the government of China and commended its efforts in dealing with the pandemic. 

President Mnangagwa attended the conference with nine Cabinet ministers and senior Government officials who arrived earlier for preliminary talks. Zimbabwe will host the 3rd BNC in 2021 at a date to be agreed through diplomatic channels.

Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa returned home yesterday.

He was seen off at Maun International Airport by Dr Masisi and Zimbabwean Ambassador to Botswana, Mr Batiraishe Henry Mukonoweshuro. 

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