What you need to know: Zuma meets Mugabe

2016-11-02 22:00
President Jacob Zuma. (File, City Press)

President Jacob Zuma. (File, City Press)

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Harare - If things are getting hot back home, what do you do? Leave the country on "urgent business", if your name is Robert Mugabe.

OK, so Jacob Zuma delayed his departure for Harare in the wake of #StateCapture.

But even though Thursday's talks were pre-planned, they must be something of a welcome break for Zuma.

What is the purpose of this trip?

Zuma is to attend the inaugural session of the Bi-National Commission in Harare, according to Zimbabwe's official Chronicle. Several ministers went ahead of him (Rob Davies was on ZBC's evening news bulletin). Zuma and Mugabe will "monitor progress on the implementation of agreed projects."

What projects?

The SA presidency says Zimbabwe and South Africa have 38 memoranda of understanding in trade, agriculture, immigration, defence etc. Outstanding agreements must now be "sealed and implemented", according to Zimbabwe's ministry of foreign affairs. Quite how attractive Zimbabwe's nose-diving economy will appear for South African trade is a big question. (The IMF said on Wednesday that Zimbabwe had since September undone much of the progress registered under a staff-monitored programme). That doesn't stop the Mugabe government hoping.

How's the trip being viewed in Zimbabwe?

Look, ordinary Zimbabweans are preoccupied with other stuff at the moment (like: has the anti-corruption commission really got hold of Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo? And when do the bond notes drop?). Hopes of a real bailout from South Africa went down the drain years ago. But any talk of "strengthening relations" will be music to the ears of Mugabe & Co, facing challenges to its own hold on power in the shape of #ThisFlag, #Tajamuka and other movements.

Zuma has "talked tough" to Mugabe in the past. Could he do it again this week?

Zimbabweans (some of them anyway) cling onto the hope that South Africa might be so worried by the prospect of ANOTHER wave of economic refugees that Zuma will tell Mugabe that really, 'enough is enough'. True, Zuma angered Mugabe in the run-up to the 2013 elections with insistence on electoral reforms. That led Mugabe critics to place more hope in him than they had in ex-president Thabo Mbeki. But will Zuma, embattled as he is, slip Mugabe a warning against heavy-handed police tactics? Or will Mugabe give Zuma "a few tips" on how to hang on to power, as Zimbabwe journalist @kholwaninyathi tweeted?
Your call.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  jacob zuma  |  zimbabwe  |  sa  |  southern africa

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