ERA of dialogue dawns

President Jacob Zuma' s first State visit in Angola. President Jacob Zuma  shake hands with the President of the Repubilck of Angola Jose Edwardo Dosantos after the press conferece.  PIC: SIMPHIWE NKWALI. 20/08/2009. © SUNDAY TIMES
President Jacob Zuma' s first State visit in Angola. President Jacob Zuma shake hands with the President of the Repubilck of Angola Jose Edwardo Dosantos after the press conferece. PIC: SIMPHIWE NKWALI. 20/08/2009. © SUNDAY TIMES

ANGOLA'S president hailed a visit by President Jacob Zuma yesterday as the start of a new era to improve the once strained relationship between SA and the continent's biggest oil producer.

ANGOLA'S president hailed a visit by President Jacob Zuma yesterday as the start of a new era to improve the once strained relationship between SA and the continent's biggest oil producer.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos said Angola needed more qualified labour from South Africa to help rebuild infrastructure destroyed by Angola's 27-year civil war that ended in 2002 and to tap into its oil and mining industry.

"We want to create a strategic partnership between our two countries," dos Santos said to his government and 11 South African ministers as he sat next to Zuma.

Zuma arrived in Angola for his two-day trip late on Wednesday with a delegation of more than 150 South African businessmen. Pretoria billed the trip the biggest business delegation to take part in a state visit abroad since the end of apartheid in 1994.

"We believe we have not yet tapped into the real potential of bilateral relations between the two countries in all spheres - economic, social and political," Zuma said.

Six accords ranging from trade to aviation were signed.

In the 1980s, Angola supported the ANC in its fight against apartheid, but relations worsened after Mbeki became president in 1999. South Africa supported rebels from the main opposition Unita party during part of its civil war against the Angolan government.

For decades, South Africa has been sidelined with lucrative Angolan offshore oil contracts awarded to US and European oil companies, while Chinese, Brazilian and Portuguese firms have rebuilt roads, bridges and dams destroyed by the war.

South Africa has little oil and relies on coal for most of its energy needs.

The leaders met privately after their speeches.

"We are ready to create a renewed dynamic . to allow the SADC to become an engine of development for our sub-region and Africa," said dos Santos.

Zuma said Angola and South Africa, which have two of the biggest military forces in Africa, would discuss peacekeeping efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and assess progress in the Zimbabwean unity government. - Reuters

X