The Zimbabwean | Friday, 17 April 2009
Zim balks from treaty with SA
JOHANNESBURG - A bilateral investment treaty between Zimbabwe and South Africa could not be signed last week after Harare requested more details on the accord before it could commit itself, Industry Minister Welshman Ncube said.
Ncube, who expressed hope the long waited treaty could be signed possibly before a new government takes over in South Africa which goes to the polls this month, said his ministry wanted clarification on a “certain clause” in the treaty before it could be signed.
He refused to disclose the details pertaining to the clause that caused cancellation of the singing ceremony at the last minute.
“The signing ceremony could not go ahead because there is a clause in the agreement that we want to be addressed first before we can commit ourselves to signing,” said Ncube.
“We are still working on a swift program because we would like to have the treaty signed before South Africa ’s elections, which might bring in changes to that country’s leadership, with new ministers coming in,” he said.
A spokesman for South Africa’s Department of Industry Bongani Lukhele said: “I can confirm that there was indeed such a postponement, but I can neither confirm nor deny that it was because of the Zimbabweans.”
But South African business leaders castigated Zimbabwe authorities for what they said was a “lack of seriousness” for their abrupt turn on the treaty whose singing had been scheduled to take place in the city of Polokwane last Tuesday.
“More than 60 (South African) businesspersons traveled to the venue, only to be told that the meeting had been postponed until further notice because the Zimbabwean contingent had cancelled at the last minute,” said a South African businessman, in a telephone interview with The Zimbabwean on Sunday.
“They showed a lack of seriousness on this whole thing and did not even have the courtesy to call us in time so that we re-schedule the meeting,” he added.
In addition to reviewing issues related to trade the Polokwane meeting would also have discussed issues border security, irregular movement of people across the South Africa/Zimbabwe frontier and disease control.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner with trade between the two countries set to receive major boost after Pretoria announced it was considering extending credit lines to its northern neighbour to help rebuild its crumbling economy.
But the two countries that are also strong political allies do no have formal bilateral trade and investment protection treaty.
BY MXOLISI NCUBE