By Matabeleland North Correspondent
VICTORIA FALLS: The third session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC) opened in Victoria Falls Monday with the two nations seeking to ratify bilateral agreements that will promote cooperation.
Zimbabwe and Botswana have 43 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) that they want to sign and 23 of them are not yet complete.
The meeting started Monday and will run until Friday when presidents of the two countries, Mnangagwa and Mokgweetsi Masisi will officiate.
It is a platform for the two countries to speed up the process towards finalization of the agreements.
James Manzou, who is Zimbabwe’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade officiated at the opening ceremony alongside his Botswana counterpart Gladys Mokhawa, Secretary for International Affairs and Cooperation.
Fighting cross border crime such as stocktheft, border jumping and illegal hunting are some of the top priority agenda items whose agreements need urgent signing.
There is rampant poaching in the Hwange National Park and Chobe National Park, with the illegal hunters patrolling across the border especially in Kazungula and Pandamatenga areas.
There are also numerous cases of theft of livestock especially cattle and donkeys on either side of the border in Plumtree and Mphoengs.
Manzou said there is a need for strong security laws by the two countries.
“Our meeting today will give us an opportunity to reflect on and assess progress in the implementation of agreed decisions of the Second Session of the BNC, through constructive and open deliberations. My appeal to you colleagues is for us to pull together at this meeting and beyond to complete the work we started and deliver tangible results that impact the lives and livelihoods of our peoples,” said Manzou.
He said establishment of a one-stop border post in Plumtree is key to fighting cross border crime and enhancing free movement of goods and services.
Manzou said there are continuous efforts to enhance bilateral cooperation and collaboration through regional organisations, notably Sadc.
However, he said, the smooth flow of people, goods and services would remain hamstrung without the establishment of the One Stop Border Post at Plumtree as agreed to in previous sessions.
“This One Stop Border Post will address the bottlenecks to the smooth movement of people, goods and services that our people have been complaining about. I therefore, urge the Ministries charged with this important responsibility to redouble their efforts in implementing this decision,” he said.
Manzou expressed on the prevalence of cross border crime, adding that Zimbabwe has to learn from Botswana President Masisi who set up a commission of Inquiry into livestock theft.
“It is through the tireless and valiant efforts of colleagues in the Defence and Security Sector that our mutual security is guaranteed. I understand that we continue to have joint awareness campaigns and border patrols, intelligence sharing, and collaboration on cross-border crime. I will, however, remind our colleagues to expedite the various outstanding agreements that will enhance our cooperation,” Manzou said.
He said these include cooperation in Immigration, the Extradition Treaty and the Agreement on Inter-State Transfer of Prisoners.
“We are also concerned about ongoing cross-border crimes, especially in livestock theft. It goes without saying that livestock is a vital economic and social-cultural commodity for rural communities and it is important that we do more to safeguard this essential mainstay. Our security services, are called upon to redouble their efforts to ensure that those involved in the theft of livestock are brought to justice and made accountable,” he said.
Mokhawa, who is leading the Botswana delegation, said the agreements will go a long way in enhancing cooperation and improving livelihoods so as to help both countries recover economies following effects of Covid-19
“While some progress was noted in the implementation of already signed agreements, it is evident that a lot still needs to be done across all sectors of our operation. This 3rd session is symbolic of commitment and determination by our nations to strengthen the already existing bilateral relations and which enjoy strong bilateral relations espoused by rich historical background, common culture and familial ties. The convening of this meeting is symbolic of our commitment and determination to strengthen the already existing bilateral relations between our countries and we have to intensify our efforts not only to implement the decisions of our principals, but to deliver to the very public that we serve,” she said.
Mokhawa said there is need to develop innovative and tactical approaches to overcome the challenges.