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South Africa and Botswana establish Bi-National Commission
South Africa and Botswana establish Bi-National Commission

Botswana and South Africa agreed to substantially upgrade the institutional basis of their bilateral relationship through the establishment of a Bi-National Commission to replace their current joint cooperation commissions.

The Bi-National Commission, unlike existing arrangements will be co chaired by the Heads of State of the two countries and meet at least annually, alternating its venue between the two countries.

The formation of the Bi-National Commission was announced at a joint press conference held by Presidents Khama and Zuma following nearly four hours of intensive talks between the two leaders and their delegations which in each case consisted of Ministers responsible for such portfolio responsibilities as Presidential Affairs, 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 around the table was reflective of the many and varied bilateral issues discussed between the two Heads of State and their delegations.

Today's talks were a follow up to bilateral discussions that have been taking place between the two countries, including sectoral talks between Minister and Officials on Monday, as well as meetings of the joint commissions on Cooperation and Defence and security.

In addition to bilateral issues, the two leaders discussed regional and international issues including political developments in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the SADC region and the status of SACU/SADC trade negotiations with the European Union. In each case both sides were in broad agreement on the way forward.

Contrary to some press reports South African President Jacob Zuma expressed his appreciation of Botswana's leading role in the EU trade talks.

While noting that this was his first state visit to South Africa, President Khama noted that since assuming office in April 2008 he had come to South Africa on a number of official and working visits, adding that he thus looked upon South Africa as a second home.

President Khama added that Botswana would not let anything hurt its economic and political relations with South Africa.

For his part South African President Jacob Zuma said South Africans would never forget the solidarity and support shown by Botswana during the liberation struggle adding that South Africa's friendship and kinship with its neighbour goes beyond normal diplomatic relations.

Zuma further noted that both countries had worked hard to deal with various challenges of economic growth and development.

"We have normalised diplomatic relations after 1994," he said, naming amongst other achievements the establishment of a joint permanent commission for co-operation in 1993 and the signing of 19 bilateral agreements.

Other achievements registered were in the field of good governance, food security, water, education and health, he said.

"We are pleased with the growth and friendship, solidarity with neighbour leaders and mutually beneficial co-operation between our two countries."

Zuma said this had established a firm base. Special emphasis should be placed in enhancing trade and assisting each other in expanding business opportunities. This would lead to tourism and investment promotion.

Botswana was one of the homes for many freedom fighters who fled the brutality of the apartheid regime, Zuma recalled.

This afternoon both leaders visited South Africa's Freedom Park where President Khama laid a wreath to those who had struggled for the regions liberation.