President Jacob Zuma says the Bi-National Commission (BNC) between South Africa and Botswana is imperative, as it will help broaden and streamline cooperation between the two countries.
President Zuma hosted his Botswana counterpart President Ian Khama for the inaugural session of the BNC in Pretoria on 21 November 2013.
Zuma was upbeat about relations between the two countries, describing the overall tone of discussions as positive.
“It has been a very important development because our relations with Botswana are historical and for us to take them forward is very important. We have taken our level of cooperation higher than normal. We were able to get a clear report from the ministers of what we need to do going forward,” Zuma told media after the talks.
During their discussions, the two Presidents underscored the excellent relations that exist between their counties, which they said were founded on deep historical, cultural, linguistic and family ties, as well as shared values of mutual respect, commitment to democracy, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
With regards to bilateral trade relations, President Zuma said discussions were underway to look at how resources can be streamlined to boost trade between the two countries for the benefit of the people.
“It is a question of how we streamline trade. In this regard, we have taken a decision that our ministers will meet twice a year to evaluate how far the agreements we have signed have been implemented.”
Since the establishment of their bilateral relations nearly 20 years ago, a total of 34 agreements have been signed between the two countries.
These agreements cover various areas such as immigration, defence and security, energy, trade, transport and environmental affairs, among some. Zuma said it was important that the two countries complement each other.
In a joint communique issued after the BNC, Zuma and Khama highlighted the importance of expediting essential infrastructure projects, such as the building of roads and bridges, which will help facilitate trade and movement of people and goods between the two countries.
Strong economic ties already exist between the two countries, and South Africa remains Botswana’s major trading partner.
South African companies have a huge presence in Botswana and are involved in various sectors, including mining, housing, food and beverages, construction, retail, hotels and leisure, banking and medical services.
Zuma, who held a one-on-one meeting with Khama before the start of the BNC, said the meeting not only focused on the mutual needs and priorities of both countries, but also brought into sharp focus the importance of regional integration.
He said they discussed a lot of issues concerning developments in the region and continent, including the situation in Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.
According to the communique issued after the talks, the two leaders commended Madagascar for holding peaceful and credible presidential elections last month and further urged the people of Madagascar to maintain the same spirit and commitment to democratic processes in the second round of Presidential elections scheduled for 20 December.
Madagascar is set to hold a second round of presidential elections after no candidate won over 50 percent in last month’s first round vote.
Candidate Jean Louis Robinson took the lead with 21.1 percent in the first round, followed by Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who garnered 15.9%, according to the Independent National Election Commission (CENIT).
Regarding the situation in the eastern part of the DRC, Zuma and Khama hoped that the parties involved in the Kampala Talks will soon finalise the agreed outcome of their negotiations.
Khama and Zuma expressed concern over the unfolding security situation in Mozambique and hoped that the situation would soon be resolved.
In recent weeks, there have been sporadic clashes between former rebel movement Renamo and the Frelimo government, with the former accusing the latter of not honouring the Rome peace agreement they signed in 1992.