Harare – Zimbabwe and Namibia on Wednesday said they will not tire in their quest to see Morocco, which was recently re-admitted into the African Union (AU), give up its continued occupation of the Western Sahara.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara and has been resisting efforts by the region to gain its .
The United Nations is also seized with the matter but the recent re-admission of Morocco into the AU might bolster its continued stranglehold over the country, also known as the Saharawi Republic.
Speaking at the two countries Joint Permanent Commission of Co-operation, where they committed to continue backing each other on various regional and international matters, Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, said they would continue to use all means possible to push for the independence of Western Sahara.
“Our two countries, born out of the struggle for independence from the subjugation of colonialism, racism and apartheid, deeply value this unalienable right to be enjoyed by the people of Western Sahara,” he said.
“We must continue together with others, within and beyond our continent to cooperate in efforts to dislodge the last vestige of colonialism of the African continent.”
Namibian Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said decolonisation of the African continent would remain incomplete as long as “Western Sahara remains oppressed”.
“The people of Western Sahara deserve to be given an opportunity to determine their own destiny and that is why Namibia will continue to call on the United Nations to ensure the implementation of the relevant UN resolution on Western Sahara,” said Ndaitwah, who is also Namibian International Relations Minister.
“Namibia and Zimbabwe have been very constant and will continue to be constant in supporting the cause of the people of Western Sahara.”
She said Morocco, following its re-admission into the African Union after over three decades, should be a “good family member” and respect its principles on issues concerning self-determination. “It does not matter who colonises you,” she said. “Being a brother or not, colonialism is colonialism.”
Observers feel the AU sold out when it allowed Morocco to re-join the organisation without fulfilling the pre-condition made earlier that it would only be re-admitted after it recognised the independence of Western Sahara.
Meanwhile, on the occasion to mark her country’s 24th independence two years ago, Namibian top diplomat in Harare Balbina Daes Pienaar succinctly explained the crux of her country’s relations with Zimbabwe.
In a no-holds barred speech delivered to a mix of African, Asian, Caribbean and European diplomats, ambassador Pienaar said Zimbabwe and Namibia were bound by solid historical ties that go beyond mere diplomatic etiquette.
“The people of Zimbabwe were among those who stood firm with us during our struggle against colonial regime. This is a country and people who have continued to support us during the transition to nationhood and the reconstruction of our country into a formidable state.
“It is this bond that continues to sustain and fuel our excellent relations over the years. We thank you Zimbabwe for continuing to carry the torch of honor steadfastly,” said ambassador Pienaar.
The tail-end of her speech was greeted by an uproarious applause from African and Caribbean diplomats with noticeable audible grunts from some European ambassadors whose countries have had a long standing feud with Zimbabwe.
Ambassador Pienaar could not have said it any better. Zimbabwe and Namibia are more than just friendly nations. They are more like Siamese-twins whose historical trajectory is cross-linked with a shared struggle against colonial oppression.
In the aftermaths of Zimbabwe and Nambia’s liberation struggles, the strong bond between the two countries was further enhanced by the personal friendship of its two founding leaders President Mugabe and former President Sam Nujoma.
The bosom friendship between the two leaders coupled with their pan-African ideological thinking naturally led them to be on the same side of regional and continental discourses.
It was the culmination of that shared understanding that saw the two countries being part of a regional army contingent sent to assist the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo in repelling rebels believed to have been aided by Uganda and Rwanda.
Many will remember how President Nujoma directly chastised then British Prime Minister Tony Blair for mobilising Europe to impose sanctions on a sovereign nation with the vain hope of effecting a regime change in Zimbabwe.
Waving a finger directly to Blair who sat stone faced with his delegation, President Nujoma said: “Here in southern Africa we have one problem and it was created by the British. Tony Blair is here and they created the situation in Zimbabwe.”
Nujoma’s open confrontation with Blair signified true brotherhood and that as a freedom fighter he will always be on the side of the weak and downtrodden.
Very few African leaders in modern age are prepared to confront the so called “empire” in the manner in which Nujoma and Mugabe have done.
It is within the context of the strong historical bonds between the two nations that last week’s first State visit by President Hage Geingob must be viewed and understood as the epitome of brotherly love now pragmatically moving from mere rhetoric to concrete bilateral cooperation for the mutual benefit of Zimbabwe and Namibia.
While President’s Geingob’s main itinerary included the tour of the Kariba Hydro Water Project, in which his government is a guarantor, and the official opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo, his visit was preceded by a team of officials who met their Zimbabwean counterparts under the auspices of the 8th Session of the Joint Permanent Commission on Cooperation.
It is during the session of the commission that concrete bilateral engagements were thrashed out including reviewing the non-implementation of a number of agreements.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Joey Bimha, who was the co-chairperson of the commission commended efforts made in implementing some of the agreements reached at the last session but also lamented the delay in coming to reality of some of the deals.
Bimha cited the Memorandum of Understandng (MOU) on Geology, Mining and Metallurgy as one outstanding from the previous session. He said given the abundance of mineral resources of the two countries, there was need to expedite the implementation of the MOU to facilitate the formation of joint ventures between mining entities in activities that add value.
Another agreement that Bimha said needed to be implemented with speed is that of Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprise Development which he said was critical given the sector’s contribution to trade and economic development.
“We urge the concerned colleagues to finalise negotiations and conclude the MOU before the next session of the Joint Commission,” said Bimha.
The unique aspect of the 8th Session of the Joint Commission was that it also afforded the two countries an opportunity to define the political path needed to take in order to enhance the strategic relationship.
As a clear proof that officials of the two countries are keen on translating the bosom political relations into concrete economic ties, the 8th Session of the Joint Commission was divided into committees that focused on specific interest areas.
There was the economic cluster, social-cultural cluster then the diplomatic consultations. The third and final day of the session was characterised by Informal Joint Consultations between the two Ministerial delegations accompanied by their technical experts.
The Joint Permanent Commission is facilitates bilateral cooperation. It supports the cooperation between the chambers of commerce and industry of Namibia and Zimbabwe and information exchange between government and non-governmental institutions. It also advances partnerships and joint ventures between the two countries.
Existing joint ventures in Zimbabwe with Namibian companies are in mining, hotels, travel agencies, warehousing and media. The current balance of trade favours Zimbabwe where the private sector is more aggressive in exploring opportunities created by the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) signed by the two countries in 1991.
Namibia’s main exports to Zimbabwe are fish and fish products. The country exports more than 20 categories of fish products to Zimbabwe. Other products exported to Zimbabwe include metal fabrics, mineral water, milk products and meat.
Zimbabwe’s exports to Namibia include sugar, confectionery products, wood and wooden products, meat products, woven and metal fabrics, vegetables, and wheat and electric articles.
One of the main thrusts of the PTA is to facilitate the holding of trade fairs and exhibitions in either of the two countries as well as the transit through the territories of Namibia and Zimbabwe. This means that Namibian exports of goods destined for third countries can be moved through each other country without hurdles. – New Ziana/The Southern Times Writer.