Johannesburg - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace begin a two-day state visit to South Africa on Wednesday, the first since 1994, to help efforts to industrialise his country's ailing economy.
He is expected to meet President Jacob Zuma for talks and the signing of a memorandum of understanding, followed by a courtesy visit to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. On Thursday, business delegations from both countries would meet for talks.
International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite-Nkoana Mashabane told reporters that South Africa and Zimbabwe already had strong bilateral ties and that the meeting was intended to "co-ordinate economic development-related projects". South Africa is Zimbabwe's biggest trading partner.
"We are entering the consolidation phase of our relations," she said as the engines of the Air Zimbabwe jet, from which the Mugabes had disembarked at Air Force Base Waterkloof on Tuesday afternoon, still whined behind her.
As 91-year-old Mugabe was currently chairperson both of the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, South Africa would use the opportunity to discuss peace and stability on the African continent, she said.
"The focus is largely on the consolidation of our bilateral ties, political and economic," Nkoana-Mashabane said.
The two business delegations would discuss "issues of industrialisation".
"Business people are engaged to remove all blockages from trade and economic relations," she said.