South Africa’s diplomats didn’t get much of a weekend. After a rushed three day state visit to Burundi, where Jacob Zuma went on a lovely drive with their president and promised to donate some footballs, it was back to Pretoria on Saturday where international relations and co-operation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane met her Tanzanian counterpart, Bernard Membe. No footballs for Tanzania, but we’re not reading too much into that. By SIMON ALLISON.
Jacob Zuma was only ever going to enjoy his trip to Burundi, where he enjoys an enviable reputation as peacemaker, and he came back in a good mood. “The Freedom Charter proclaims that there shall be peace and friendship!” was the excited opening to his presidential letter describing the trip, which he hailed as a feel-good visit to the country in which he played such a pivotal role, his mediation bringing an end to the vicious civil war there.
In between signing cooperation deals on education, sports, trade and industry, and defence, Zuma had time to really take the pulse of the country: “President Nkurunziza took us on a scenic drive around Bujumbura. We saw new residential settlements. We saw tarring of roads, construction of hotels and other developments. The mood is certainly one of development and progress.” To enhance that progress and development, he pledged to donate 3,000 footballs to the country’s youth.
But Zuma also had a sharp rebuke for South Africa’s business community, observing that they were a lot less interested in accompanying him to Burundi than to China or the UK. He’s got a point: like it or not, South Africa’s future is in Africa, and there are plenty of opportunities in countries like Burundi.
Fresh off the plane from Burundi, international relations and co-operation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane headed straight into a meeting with Tanzanian Foreign Minister, Bernard Membe in Pretoria. The two signed a memorandum of understanding on agriculture, pledging to exchange experts and conduct joint agricultural research. Most likely, the deal will pave the way for South African farming companies to expand into Tanzania, providing that country with the expertise it needs to develop its farmland, and South Africa with a healthy slice of the profits.
The ministers also found time to dash the hopes of Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland of achieving international recognition, saying they still support Somalia remaining a single, unified country. DM
Photo: South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane speaks during a news conference in Mexico City March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Henry Romero.
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