South African President Jacob Zuma will sign bilateral deals and inspect oil projects in Equatorial Guinea during a visit yesterday, the central African nation said in a statement.
Zuma’s visit coincided with Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s release of four South African mercenaries jailed for a foiled 2004 coup led by former British special forces officer Simon Mann, who was also pardoned.
Zuma was due to visit the island capital Malabo to “inspect the energy project, hold face-to-face meetings with the government and sign bilateral agreements between the two countries”, Equatorial-Guinea said in a government statement.
No details were given on the deals Zuma was due to sign with Equatorial Guinea, nor what project was going to be visited.
Zuma’s office said the trip was aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries. Zuma’s ministers for energy, state security and international relations were to accompany him.
“South Africa is keen to promote economic relations in the areas of agriculture, mining, energy, tourism and infrastructure development,” the South African presidency said, adding that talks would also take place over strengthening democracy.
Pretoria has denied intervening in the release of the South African nationals.
Obiang seized power in a 1979 coup, overthrowing post-independence leader President Francisco Macias Nguema, whose rule led to widespread abuses, killings and ostracism of the former Spanish colony.
Under the last decade of Obiang’s rule, the tiny nation has become sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil producer. Initial investors from the United States have been followed by European firms.
Flush with petro-dollars, the government in Malabo has brought in thousands of Chinese, Egyptian and Moroccan workers to revamp the nation’s infrastructure and prepare the country to host forthcoming African summits and football tournaments.
But the country’s rights record is still widely criticised and opposition politicians complain that they have not been given enough time to prepare for a November 29 election at which Obiang is expected to seek and win a new term in office.
Obiang won a 2002 poll with 97.1 % of the vote after rivals pulled out complaining of a crackdown on opposition.
Pic: President Jacob Zuma of SA