By Taka Shambare
Victoria Falls (New Ziana) – Zimbabwe –Botswana relations are at their all-time best, and both countries should take advantage of this golden patch to reap mutually beneficial rewards, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Friday.
He was speaking at the end of the 3rd Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission where the neighbours signed five new Memoranda of Understanding, signaling the further strengthening of the bilateral ties.
According to the joint communiqué, the MoUs included cooperation in the field of tourism, Child Protection, Zimbabwe-Botswana Water Cooperation, agriculture development and food security, Youth Development.
In his closing remarks, President Mnangagwa described as strategic, the current Zimbabwe-Botswana relations.
He said the signing of the five MoUs reflected both countries’ desire to secure new areas of cooperation.
“Let me assure you that except for the early part of our independence did we enjoy this excellent type of relations. There was some friction over some periods,” he said. ‘
“The present fraternal relations and culture of cooperation that keeps growing from strength to strength between our two countries must see the full implementation of these agreements. Coupled with hard honest work and a result oriented culture, let us strive to do much more for the benefit of the two countries, while at the same time uplifting more of our citizens into prosperity and an improved quality of life. In areas where progress has been slow, it is important that we introspect in order to establish factors that are impeding our progress and proffer implementable solutions. On our part, Zimbabwe stands ready to play its part towards the overwhelming success of this strategic cooperation between Zimbabwe and Botswana.”
Relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana sunk to an all-time low under the First Republic, when then Botswana President Ian Khama openly sided with the opposition MDC in a sustained bid to oust the ruling Zanu PF party.
President Masisi alluded to the shift in Zimbabwe-Botswana relations in his speech during a welcome banquet on Thursday.
He said Botswana had redefined its relationship with Zimbabwe when his administration assumed office, in recognition of the Second Republic’s economic turnaround efforts, among other notable achievements.
“Upon assumption of office and preceding our general election, we in the new leadership gravitated our political party first, the BDP, along a new course and direction which is reflected in the way we relate with Zimbabwe different from the way we used to. Did you know that was not an accident, it was out of deliberate, logically thought through a determined change of course of action,” he said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, President Masisi said the five additional instruments signed on Friday would further broaden areas of cooperation.
“This fundamentally brought the total number of Agreements and MoUs, which have been signed between the two countries to 25. This is a clear demonstration of the fast-growing bilateral relations between our two countries,” he said.
“While all instruments are developed to expedite implementation of collaborative programmes, I wish to particularly highlight the importance of the instrument on Child Protection, as a vehicle for the protection and caring for our children, in conformity with international statutes, based on their vulnerability.
Concerted cooperation on Water on the other hand, will facilitate the requisite collaboration in the protection, conservation and management of shared waters. This takes into account challenges of climate change and the semi-arid geographical make-up of our countries, which compounds the already scarce resources.”
Masisi added; “I am highly satisfied with the level of commitment we have made on a number of outstanding issues during this Session. In particular, the inclusion of the issue of livestock rustling across our common borders in the agenda of the BNC, will indeed ensure that the matter receives due attention from both our countries.
“In this regard, it is pleasing that we have agreed to establish a specific joint framework for cooperation between Botswana and Zimbabwe to facilitate and harmonise our efforts in the fight against livestock rustling. In addition, we have agreed to establish a Joint Committee, comprising all Government Agencies of the two countries that are represented at the affected areas. The Committee will coordinate our efforts to address issues of livestock rustling and other cross-border crimes.”
Realising that the problem of livestock rustling was not limited to Botswana and Zimbabwe, President Masisi said the BNC had agreed to initiate a process towards the development of a regional instrument on combating livestock rustling.
“We believe this will assist in fostering regional cooperation in the efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate livestock rustling and related cross-border criminal activities in our countries, especially through enhanced regional joint operations, capacity building, and exchange of information on livestock rustling activities in the region,” he said.
President Masisi invited President Mnangagwa to the next BNC in Botswana, in June 2023.