The Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe is in South Africa on a state visit that is expected to last a number of days, the South African foreign affairs department reported. This is Mr Mugabe’s first official visit in twenty years.
According to the foreign affairs ministry, the visit by the leader of their northern neighbour is meant to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries. The statement released by the ministry revealed that several deals between a number of ministries will be signed during the visit. The statement further stated that some of the agreements that will be signed will be between the South African International Relations minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who is her Zimbabwean counterpart. Patrick Chinamasa, who holds the finance portfolio in Zimbabwe, will sign an agreement on Customs administration with Nhlanhla Nene, who holds a similar position in South Africa. The statement further stated that an agreement on water management and the establishment of a joint water management commission was also in the offing.
During the official state visit that was held in Pretoria at the Union Buildings, the two presidents were seen together during an official procession in which a brass band played the national anthems of both countries, after which the two presidents held a tete-a-tete meeting.
Despite the official word about the visit, speculation is rife within the media and diplomatic circles as to the real purpose of President Mugabe’s first official visit to his Southern neighbour in more than two decades. The common denominator is that the nonagenarian leader is extending a begging bowl which is meant to help his country offset its budget deficit, which is said to be running in the regions of R30billion. On the other hand, analysts insist that President Mugabe wants to convince Jacob Zuma to help finance a meeting of an upcoming SADC Summit which will be hosted by Zimbabwe in the near future. However, independent analyst David Monyae does not think that is the reason for Mugabe’s visit. He argues, on the contrary that, “It signals the start of the stabilization of Zimbabwean politics on one hand and slow coming out of the economic crisis as Zimbabwe engages with the international community. President Robert Mugabe is currently the chair of SADC as well as the chair of the African Union. So he holds two critical positions in the African continent. That’s his leverage on quite a number of issues.”