The latest South Africa-Zimbabwe Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security has expressed satisfaction with and agreed to improve co-operation between the two countries, with particular emphasis on civil security.
The fifth session was held from 30 November to 4 December 2010 in Durban. The South African side of the delegation was led by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu and her deputy Thaban Makwetta. The Zimbabwean delegation was led by Minister of State for National Security Sidney Skeramayi and Minister of Defence Kembo Mohadi.
The commission discussed a wide range of issues related to defence, public and state security, and assessed the progress since the last meeting in Zimbabwe on 9 November last year.
The issue of a porous border was high on the agenda as there is much traffic between the two countries. In fact, the commission suggested two new border posts be created at Mapungubwe and Chikwarakwara. Recommendations will be submitted by the end of March 2011. At the moment there are four companies of South African soldiers deployed along sections of the borders with Zimbabwe and Mozambique as part of Operation Corona.
A matter of concern was the smuggling of minerals (mostly from illegal mining), drugs, vehicles and other goods across the border. Of particular concern was the illegal movement of people, especially those from the Great Lakes Region and Horn of Africa. Zimbabwe applauded South Africa’s Zimbabwe Documentation Project to document all illegal Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa. Additional teams from Zimbabwe may be deployed to South Africa.
Another issue affecting the border related to the Great Limpopo Trans-Frontier Park. As it stands, rhino poaching is a big problem in the area and the commission recommended that the three countries (South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe) involved in running the park co-operate in terms of cross-border law enforcement, fire management, research and game capture.
Regarding Zimbabwe, the commission noted that considerable progress had been made in efforts to improve that country’s economy. Goods shortages have all but disappeared, for instance, but the economy remains shaky, Voice of America (VOA) news recently reported. Part of the problem is that the political situation and continued sanctions make foreign investment and financial assistance by institutions like the International Monetary Fund all but impossible, the VOA news report said. As a result, the commission called on the European Union to unconditionally lift the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, which the commission said were illegal.
The commission congratulated President Jacob Zuma on his appointment as vice chairman for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation and applauded South Africa’s election to the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the next two years. South Africa has refused to discuss Zimbabwe at UN Security Council meetings.
The South African delegation congratulated Zimbabwe on its appointments to the African Union Peace and Security Council and SADC Tourism Board.
Some of the big challenges to the region were identified as terrorism, subversive activities undertaken by non-state actors, organised crime and illicit information trading.
A sixth session of the commission will be held in Harare next year.