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H.E. the President's State Visit to South Africa - Wrap-up

H.E. the President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama returned from his State Visit to the Republic of South Africa, where he held substantive discussions with his South African counterpart, H.E. President Jacob Zuma.

During their talks, which included both one on one exchanges between the two Heads of State and Official Talks also involving Ministers accompanied by senior officials, it was agreed to substantially upgrade the institutional basis of the Botswana-South African bilateral relationship through the establishment of a Bi-National Commission.

Unlike the two current Joint Cooperation Commissions in which Ministers meet to discuss sector specific issues, the Bi-National Commission will be co-chaired by the Heads of State and meet at least annually to discuss any outstanding matters. The venue for the Commission’s meetings will alternate between the two countries. 

The establishment of the new body is a reflection of the importance that both Governments attach to nurturing the special relationship that exists between them arising from economic interdependence as well as shared experience.

The formation of the Bi-National Commission was announced at a joint press conference held by the two Presidents following nearly four hours of intensive talks between themselves and their delegations on Tuesday morning.

At the table sitting beside the two Presidents during the Official Talks were the Ministers responsible for portfolio responsibilities of Foreign Affairs, Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Transport and Communications, Labour and Home Affairs, Defence, Justice and Security, Trade and Industry, Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.

The long list of Ministerial responsibilities represented at the table was reflective of the many and varied bilateral issues which were raised during the talks, which were a follow up to additional bilateral discussions that have been taking place. The ground was thus well prepared for the two Governments to reach greater mutual understanding and consensus on outstanding issues.

Underlying much of the dialogues was an appreciation on both sides of the table on the need for the two countries to work harder at achieving win-win scenarios through shared efforts to promote more balanced as well as increased trade and investment, through further cooperation in such areas as transport, tourism, energy and water, and border controls, as well as advancing issues of equity in development through regional frameworks.

While (in contrast to what has been reported by some sections of the media) bilateral issues dominated the talks the two leaders also touched upon regional and international issues. Both re-affirmed their common commitment to the goals and aspirations of the SACU and SADC in bringing about development, enhanced trade and improved infrastructure in Southern Africa.

South Africa further expressed its appreciation of the role played by Botswana in leading the SADC negotiation group on the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, and pledged its own support in enhancing further discussions and negotiations. In this respect, President Zuma subsequently paid personal tribute to the efforts of Botswana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, the Hon. Dorcus Makgatu-Malesu for her role in the process.  

At the Press Conference the leaders specifically confirmed that energy and water needs of South Africa and Botswana were discussed, as well as issues of trade and development. Special mention was also made of the excellent co-operation in the establishment of Trans-frontier Parks.

While the situation in Zimbabwe was not, in contrast to speculation by some sections in the media, at the forefront of the bilateral discussions, in response to reporters’ questions both leaders reaffirmed their continued support for reconciliation through the Global Peace Agreement. 

Following the Press Conference, President Khama attended a State Banquet hosted by President Zuma in his honour, during which the latter emphasized that South Africans would never forget the solidarity and support shown by Batswana during the liberation struggle adding that South Africa’s friendship and kinship with Botswana goes beyond normal diplomatic relations.

For his part President Khama noted that while this was his first State Visit to South Africa, since assuming office he had come to South Africa on a number of official and working visits, reflecting the importance of the two countries inter-relationship. He added that he thus considered South Africa to be a second home.

On Tuesday afternoon the leaders and their delegations visited South Africa's Freedom Park where President Khama laid a wreath in honour of those who had struggled for the region’s liberation.

On Wednesday morning President Khama joined South African Minister of Trade and Industry Dr. Rob Davis in calling for win-win approaches to regional integration and development in the SACU and wider Southern Africa region at the opening of a two day Botswana-South Africa Business Forum.

Thereafter, the President paid a courtesy call on former South African President Nelson Mandela. Before returning to Botswana on Wednesday afternoon.


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