THE visit by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for the third Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) is timely, given the enormous boost this could have on the economy.
The key question though is: Will the BNC become a functional body where ministers work with their counterparts on projects implemented through the various committees without the high profile politicians’ involvement? A more fundamental question, however, is whether the first and second such meetings have been a worthwhile engagement of resources and political capital for the parties involved. That is, should it be continued at all?
We believe that Ramaphosa’s visit this week will come as a confidence booster only if it strikes the right chord, given Zimbabwe is in economic distress. In practice, the BNC provides an opportunity for regular contact – and sometimes important diplomatic breakthroughs between the two nations as well as for progress on various projects and expanded business ties.
It is a fact that corporates need financial support to do business within the region. No one doubts that Zimbabwe has great potential for multiplier effect if its economy is re-ignited. Of course, the BNC provides a win-win situation and certainly what is required is to provide an even platform for businesses in South Africa to trade with Zimbabwean firms.
Zimbabwe must commit to rule of law and needs to implement economic, political and media reforms, among others, to get the Western sanctions imposed on the nation off our back.
Suffice to say, when President Emmerson Mnangagwa swept into power on the back of a military coup in November 2017, he promised to fulfil the demands of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), which forms the basis of the United States imposed sanctions on the country.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube is on record saying that the ZIDERA demands were what any country should do for its own good. So, we should not wait to be told to do certain things for our people.
Yet, the government has shown reluctance to implement some of the demands. It is hoped that Ramaphosa will convince his counterpart to implement the reforms and not waste precious resources funding a doomed public relations campaign in the US or begging for assistance.
As pointed out by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo that a stronger Zimbabwe was good for South Africa, and surely, this goodness should be seen in Harare’s willingness to implement key political and economic reforms, including entrenching democratic practices.
We have no doubt that the government knows what it should do to have the sanctions that have been an albatross around its neck removed so it could become a competitive player on the global economic stage.
No amount of white-washing through expensive public relations campaigns will help its cause, but simply implementing the necessary reforms, and, of course, rallying the nation together for the common good.
The hard truth is that as long as economic sanctions from whatever quarter are still in place, there won’t be any major economic development to talk about.
It is time government stops hiding behind a finger. It is up to Zimbabwe to determine for how long the sanctions will remain in place or be removed.