Thursday, 21 April 2022

Pretoria: The Republics of South Africa and Botswana are currently engaged in talks aimed at strengthening and deepening the existing historical and bilateral relations between them.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr. Naledi Pandor and her Botswana counterpart, Minister Lemogang Kwape, were on Thursday co-chairing the Ministerial Session of the 5th session of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) between the two nations.

Since the establishment of the BNC, the two countries have strengthened their bilateral cooperation in various sectoral areas, resulting in the signing of 38 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding.

The Ministers will take stock of these with a view to consolidate the work done thus far and resolve challenges that may have hampered the effective implementation of some commitments, if any.

Delivering her opening remarks earlier on Thursday, Pandor said South Africa has a solid and dependable cooperative partner in Botswana.

The Minister said in addition to the shared history and geographic proximity, the two countries share the same aspirations for growing their economies to create employment and eradicate poverty and inequality.

“Through our bilateral cooperation, we are well placed to rebuild our national economies and contribute to the economic recovery of our region and the continent. South Africa is therefore more determined to continue to expand efforts towards ensuring socio-economic development, joint prosperity and the mutual benefit of our people.”

Pandor said the two countries also share similar views on the security and economic development of the region and the continent.

“In the same vein, we aspire for a just and secure world. Our contribution to regional, continental and international organisations reflect these imperative.”

The Minister has emphasised that mutually beneficial economic ties and investment flows must grow between the two countries, as these are the foundations for regional integration. She said that their interactions and consultations within the framework of the BNC must enhance accountability in the implementation of the countries bilateral agreements.

Kwape said it was pleasing to note that despite the many daunting challenges, the two countries continue to enjoy excellent bilateral relations, predicated on a firm historical background, common culture and close family ties.

“Our strong relations have not only stood the test of time, but also the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as our commitment to our friendship and bilateral cooperation, remains steadfast. Our meeting here today is indeed testament to our friendship and solid commitment to work closely together in our efforts to further advance and broaden our bilateral cooperation agenda,” he said.

In addition, Botswana has been deeply touched by the recent deadly floods that hit KwaZulu-Natal.

“On behalf of the government and the people of Botswana we share the loss and the pain at the untold damage to infrastructure and property incurred by the people of KZN. We also equally send our condolences and sympathy to the families of those who perished. We are, however, confident that as before, the resilient people of this province will rise, reconstruct their lives and rebuild their economy,” Kwape said.

Both Ministers commended the work of the senior officials over the past two days as they continue to tackle the issues defining the countries’ bilateral cooperation.

The outcome of the ministerial meeting will be presented to Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi.

Bi-National Commission

President Ramaphosa is due to host his Botswana counterpart, President Masisi, for the 5th Session of the BNC on Friday.

Prior to the establishment of the BNC in 2010, structured bilateral cooperation between South Africa and Botswana was conducted within the frameworks of the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security, which was signed on 30 June 2000, and the Joint Permanent Commission for Cooperation (JPCC), which was signed on 12 March 2003.

The BNC Agreement has since transformed the JPCC into a fully-fledged BNC, resulting in Botswana becoming one of the few countries with which South Africa has a structured framework of bilateral cooperation at Head of State and/or Government level.

The BNC comprises a Political and Diplomatic Committee; Defence and Security Committee; Economic Committee and Social Committee, which promote cooperation in these areas.

The 5th Session of the BNC will evaluate progress on all outstanding projects and the implementation of commitments of the fourth BNC. It will further reaffirm the bilateral relations and enhance cooperation within the framework of the BNC.

The BNC also provides a platform to exchange views on international issues of mutual interest.