President in historic State visit to S. Africa after 21 years.

From Mabasa Sasa in TSHWANE, South Africa
PRESIDENT Mugabe arrived here yesterday afternoon for a historic State visit during which he will hold key trade and economic talks with his South African counterpart President Jacob Zuma.

His last State visit to South Africa was in August 1994 during the presidency of anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela. It was the first such visit by an African head of State and Government since Madiba’s inauguration on May 10 that year.

The President and his high-powered delegation of six Cabinet ministers was met at Waterkloof Air Base by Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Mr Isaac Moyo, South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Telecommunications and Postal Services minister Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele, and South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela.
President Mugabe and the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe are welcomed at Waterkloof Airbase in Tshwane by (from left) South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Telecommunications and Postal Services minister Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele, and South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela. The President and his delegation are in South Africa for a historic State visit, the first such in 21 years. — (Picture by Presidential photographer Joseph Nyadzayo)
The Sadc and AU Chairman is accompanied by the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa, and Small, Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni, and several senior Government officials.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha were already here laying the groundwork for the expected signing of the Bi-National Commission Agreement between Zimbabwe and South Africa.In his capacity as Sadc and African Union Chair, President Mugabe will also discuss regional and continental development and security matters with President Zuma.

In 2014, South Africa’s exports to Zimbabwe topped R24,8 billion while Zimbabwe shipped goods worth R2 billion in the opposite direction.

South Africa’s department of international relations said, prior to the talks, that: “The objective of the visit is to consult on issues of mutual interest‚ paying particular focus on bilateral and economic cooperation‚ including regional and continental matters. The visit will further strengthen the historical‚ cultural and fraternal bonds that exist between South Africa and Zimbabwe.”

The department said the Bi-National Commission Agreement’s “objective is to elevate the bilateral relations between the two countries”.

President Mugabe was in South Africa earlier this year in his capacity as Sadc Chair when the bloc was seized with resolving the constitutional crisis in Lesotho which ended with the holding of elections in February.

His visit comes on the backdrop of other pressing issues besides trade and economic matters.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has torched a storm by calling for South Africa to deport foreigners, which likely means Africans working in that country of whom Zimbabweans constitute a sizeable number.

Historically, Zimbabweans – as well Mozambicans, Zambians and Malawians – have flocked to South Africa’s mines in search of work. The number of Zimbabweans in South Africa spiked at the turn of the millennium as Western sanctions took a toll on the local economy as part of a broad and intensive push to effect illegal regime change in Harare.

The numbers of Africans working in South Africa has become a sore issue, with the 2008 xenophobic attacks in particular raising tensions as 68 foreigners were massacred.

Just last week, 250 foreigners – mostly from the DRC – fled their homes and businesses in Isipingo, Durban, after being viciously attacked by locals.

Violence has rocked Soweto and spread to KwaZulu-Natal, claiming at least three lives.

And three weeks ago, a Zimbabwean woman wrongly accused of killing a boy was lynched by a mob in a shanty township near South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.

Those attacks, South African media reports indicate, were sparked by King Zwelithini’s recent comments, for which he has refused to apologise.

However, President Jacob Zuma has assured foreigners that they were protected at law, even as his own son supported King Zwelithini and spoke of the need to close borders to foreigners.

President Zuma’s spokesperson, Mr Mac Maharaj, told our sister paper The Chronicle that: “Our policy as the South African government is that we have a very clear and well defined liberal system that allows anyone to be in our country legally regardless of where they come from. We believe our country has an open and friendly legislative system to accommodate our neighbours including other countries in Africa and beyond.

“Inasmuch as we have our own socio-economic problems just like any other country, we firmly believe that we need to deal with them rather than entirely blaming it on foreigners. We have one of the most liberal systems in the world.”

South Africa’s home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba has also apologised for the attacks, as has MP and Inkatha Freedom Party leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Another pressing and related bilateral issue is that of the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) to regularise the stay of Zimbabweans who have been illegally living in South Africa .

The ZSP is the successor to the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project of 2009.

The first plant was to create a record of Zimbabweans illegally living in South Africa so as to then provide an amnesty for them.

Some ZSP applicants are yet to get a response from South Africa’s home affairs department despite submitting to the process last year. Permits were supposed to be issued within eight weeks of submitting paperwork.

As at March 13, 2015 South African authorities had received 208 967 online applications. Of these, the home affairs department said it had by the end of last month adjudicated 83 009 applications, amid indications that the process should be complete by August.

The permits are valid to December 31, 2017.

Requirements for the new permits include a valid Zimbabwean passport, proof of employment/ business registration, or proof of registration at a learning institution among others.

The ZSP is not an application for asylum.

The President was seen off at Harare International Airport by Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangwagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko; Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and service chiefs.

VP Mnangagwa is the Acting President. Herald

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