Financial assistance takes centre stage as Cyril Ramaphosa flies into Harare
Lindiwe Sisulu says any help to Zimbabwe will have to be approved by SA's full cabinet
Harare — Zimbabwe’s minister of foreign affairs & international trade, Sibusiso Moyo, on Monday pleaded with SA to assist his country’s struggling economy.
It was not clear what support SA would offer to Zimbabwe but chances of a bailout from SA appeared slim after international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu said any major decisions to support Harare would need approval from SA’s full cabinet.
In 2018 Zimbabwe requested a loan of R1.2bn from SA which was turned down. Zimbabwe is having to depend on its neighbours for loans as the sanctions imposed on the country by the Western countries continue to bite.
Moyo and Sisulu on Monday addressed the ministerial session of the SA-Zimbabwe binational commission in Harare. President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected in Harare on Monday night for a state banquet held in his honour ahead of the main summit on Tuesday.
The Zimbabwean government has requested financial support from SA as it does not qualify for credit from international financial institutions because of its debt.
In his remarks at the opening of the ministerial session of the commission, Moyo begged for assistance from SA, saying Pretoria stood to benefit by supporting Harare.
“Our partnership should bear in mind that a prosperous Zimbabwe makes for a prosperous SA and vice versa. A stronger Zimbabwe is one that is capacitated to effectively partner SA in shouldering the burden of leading the Southern African Development Community region towards prosperity,” said Moyo.
“It is for this reason that the sister republic of SA should find it in its interest to create an environment and conditions that stimulate a quick turnaround of Zimbabwe’s economy,” he added.
He said a stronger Zimbabwe offered a bigger market for SA’s manufactured products.
SA exports to Zimbabwe in 2018 amounted to R30.8bn while Zimbabwe exports to South Africa stood at R3.6bn . More than a million Zimbabweans are believed to be working and living in SA as their home country’s economy continues to falter.
A week ago the premier of Gauteng, David Makhura, complained of the burden Zimbabweans are placing on the province’s health system, suggesting the SA government might have to ask its Zimbabwean counterparts to pay for the treatment of its citizens in the province.
In her remarks, Sisulu made no mention of any financial support to Zimbabwe but said major decisions that are made at the commission would need to be approved by SA’s cabinet.
“We have decided therefore that we will seek, with your permission, an adjustment in the way that we hold our binational commission to ensure that the officials come some time ahead of the meeting and that they report back to us and we put the matter before cabinet so that when we come here we speak on behalf of the entirety of the South African government.
“Having met with my counterpart ministers, yesterday we went to bed at 1.30am. My counterparts were not very happy with me but we wanted to make sure that this binational commission we hold today does bring about necessary change.”
Some of the matters under deliberation at the meeting included the expansion of the Beitbridge border post into a “One Stop Border Post” to minimise delays and facilitate easy passage for travellers.
Zimbabwe also wants an SA-based consortium led by Transnet to support the revival of its railway entity, the National Railways of Zimbabwe.
They also discussed the Mozambique-Zimbabwe-SA regional power project.
On Tuesday, the two countries are expected to sign various agreements to broaden areas of co-operation.
At the last commission held in Pretoria in 2017, the two countries signed five agreements for cross-border trading co-operation, energy, environment, information communication technologies and sports and recreation.