Address by President Nelson Mandela at a breakfast meeting with business and media, Harare - Zimbabwe

21 May 1997

Honourable Ministers;
High Commissioner Mamabolo;
Members of the diplomatic corps;
Distinguished guest from the business community and the media.

Our visit has given us the opportunity to thank the people of Zimbabwe for their role in South Africa's liberation struggle. Peace in South Africa is a Southern African success story, a victory for the continent. South Africa's founding democratic elections in 1994 were the culmination of efforts of South Africans and their friends in Zimbabwe and further afield.

The struggle for liberation and democracy, however, was not an end in itself. Rather it was the starting point for rebuilding our societies and improving the quality of life of our peoples. The very achievement of political goals brings issues of the economy to the fore.

Likewise, the coming of regional peace and stability puts at the top of our joint agenda the question of how to turn political advances into sustainable regional economic revival.

Global trends enhance the urgency of economic matters. The success of nations today depends upon economic performance in highly competitive world markets. In an era of regional economic groupings, the countries of Southern Africa cannot allow themselves be left behind in the bidding for international investment and a share of markets.

The interdependence of our economies compels each Southern African country to consider its own trade and development needs within the context of the needs of the region as a whole. That is the objective reality that leads South Africa to join forces with her neighbours within SADC.

Economically stable and growing markets on our borders are essential for the achievement of our own domestic priorities. And other countries in the region are similarly affected by success or failure of South Africa's plans for development.

SADC provides a framework for integrated and balanced development throughout the region. It thereby strengthens the efforts of each of us to create a climate for sustained growth and development.

Realising our growth potential, however, cannot be left to governments alone. Governments - in their individual countries and jointly as SADC - are creating an environment for the flourishing of enterprise.

Whether it is through the Trade Protocol which has opened the way to a free trade area in a combined market of 130 million people or in other measures to promote economic integration, the opportunities are growing. The scope for private sector participation in infrastructural development has been dramatically enlarged.

Business must rise to this challenge. Business must become an integral part of our region's development. In the same measure, development must become and an integral part of business activities in the region.

Zimbabwe's role in the achievement of our region's objectives is a critical one, both by virtue of its geographical location and its political influence. Harare is a fitting venue for the World Economic Forum's Southern Africa Economic Summit.

The Summit's discussions on regional integration, trade, infrastructural development projects, and measures to improve the region's competitiveness will touch on issues of crucial importance to our future.

The huge external interest in the Summit is proof that the international business community is aware of the opportunities. For us in the region, it is a chance to demonstrate to the world that Southern Africa is more than ready to do business with the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is the regional context for bilateral economic relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe. We are proud that Zimbabwe is presently South Africa's number one trading partner in Africa and number eight in the world. During the first eleven months of 1996, bilateral trade amounted to R6.1 billion.

Relations at a government-to-government level in the sphere of trade are very positive. However, this is not to say that there have been no differences. That is to be expected in a relationship between close family members. The challenge is to resolve such difference in a mutually beneficial manner, through discussion and negotiations.

Our two countries have inherited trade relations that are heavily in South Africa's favour, and this must be addressed.

For us it means opening our markets more rapidly to our SADC partners. It means encouraging cross border investment that helps generate a net flow of capital into our neighbours' economies. In this regard, there are a number of high level governmental initiatives aimed at increasing investment into Zimbabwe. They include the Cross Border Investment Initiative launched in Harare at the end of last year. Already some 20 projects have been identified for joint ventures including the Beira Iron Project.

The removal of internal barriers to regional trade has to take place in a manner that reflects the socio-economic realities of the present. South Africa and Zimbabwe have approached this by way of negotiations within the framework of the three working groups established last year, and we believe that we are making substantial progress.

The reinstatement of the preferences in Textiles and Clothing from Zimbabwe is contained in a breakthrough Memorandum of Understanding that took effect in March this year. Following a meeting between Ministers Erwin and Shamuyarira last month, the outstanding issues concerning Agricultural Other Products and close to conclusion.

Such are the steps which the South African and Zimbabwean governments are taking to resolve the trade imbalances. But ultimately it will be business that makes the difference between success and failure in this matter.

South African companies are increasingly active in the manufacturing, mining and retail sectors in Zimbabwe and South Africa was the biggest exhibitor at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in 1996 and 1997.

We urge you to reciprocate. We appeal to Zimbabwean companies to take on the challenge of improving their position in the South African market. Comparative advantages and competitive products need to be identified; hard-selling must be done in South Africa itself.

The opportunities are there. Events like SAITEX and other trade shows provide Zimbabwean companies with an opening to test their products on the South African market.

South Africa has a large business delegation at the Summit, presenting an ideal opportunity for Zimbabwean business to network with your South African counterparts.

Sooner rather than later, we are confident that our economic relations will prove to be as cordial, cooperative and mutually beneficial as our relations in all other spheres.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Later today I will be returning to South Africa, taking with me warm memories of my encounters with the people of Zimbabwe. It has been an inspiring and invigorating experience. I will be able to tell my people that Zimbabweans - in government, in business and in every walk of life - are eager to work with us in the reconstruction of our countries and regional development, as we worked together for freedom in our region.

Indeed Zimbabwe is, and will always remain, a special partner.

I thank you

Issued by: Office of The President

Source: South African Government Information Website