SA and Zim meeting falls apart

Frank Maponya

Frank Maponya

A planned business forum and signing ceremony of a bilateral investments treaty between the governments of South Africa and Zimbabwe failed to materialise yesterday.

Zimbabwe withdrew at the last minute.

The event was scheduled to take place at the Meropa Casino in Polokwane, Limpopo.

More than 50 top businesspeople in the province converged on the venue, only to be informed that the cross-border event had been postponed "until further notice".

The event was meant to deal with health concerns and to agree to a memorandum of understanding on immigration issues.

What infuriated the businesspeople was that they had left other important business matters to attend the business meeting.

Due to attend were South Africa's Minister of Trade and Industry Mandisi Mpahlwa, the ministers of health and home affairs and their Zimbabwean counterparts.

The event was to be officially opened by Limpopo's new premier, Cassel Mathale.

Trade and Investment Limpopo was represented by Manabile Shogole, head of international relations, while the provincial department of economic development, environment and tourism was represented by Lilly Maja, the department's acting general manager for sector development.

Saying the event had been organised by the national Department of Trade and Industry, they took the opportunity to brief the business community on forthcoming trade missions of the Limpopo government.

Businesspeople had been looking forward to doing business with their Zimbabwean counterparts, their closest international neighbour.

A source told Sowetan yesterday that the Zimbabweans' reason for a no-show was that they "did not agree" with some of the terms of reference in the memorandum of agreement that was to have been signed at the meeting.

"Efforts by a business delegation, Business Unity South Africa, led by mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, to meet Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe last week were in vain as a result of this sudden postponement," said the source, who did not wish to be identified.

He said South African businesses wanted to invest in Zimbabwe "but they cannot go there blindly" without anything agreed upon.