Bilateral relations between the people of Zimbabwe and Namibia that date back to the liberation struggles of both countries, are excellent.
Both have a history of courageously fighting against colonial domination. Zimbabwe fought against British occupation during the First Chimurenga/Umvukela 1896-1897. The resistance was mercilessly crushed, the locals’ spears, bows and arrows and cave hideouts proving no match to the invaders’ guns, bombs and dynamite. They rose again in 1966 in the Second Chimurenga/Umvukela. Better equipped and more organised, the people of Zimbabwe won and Independence came in 1980.
Similarly, the Namibian people rose against German settlers during the Nama-Herero Uprisings from 1904 to 1907. The Germans committed what is now widely regarded as an act of genocide when they massacred up to 140 000 Nama and Herero fighters. In 1915 apartheid South Africa took over the running of Namibia. Namibians mobilised themselves for another armed struggle beginning in 1966. They attained their independence in 1990.
Having achieved her Independence 10 years earlier, Zimbabwe supported Namibia’s liberation struggle.
On attaining independence, both countries inherited skewed land ownership structures that favoured whites. Whereas Zimbabwe has largely addressed the imbalances, Namibia hasn’t.
President Mugabe and his Namibian counterpart at that time, Cde Sam Nujoma, were instrumental in developing close political relations between their countries. The ties have evolved over the years to the economic and social.
Events of this week have served to highlight that close relationship. Ministers from both governments held the Eighth Session of the Zimbabwe-Namibia Joint Permanent Commission in Harare from Monday to Wednesday to discuss a range of subjects of mutual interest. Today, Namibia President Hage Geingob is in Bulawayo to officially open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, the second Namibian president to do so after Cde Nujoma performed the honours on May 1, 1991.
We welcome President Geingob to his home away from home. We extend the same welcome to the big entourage of Namibian exhibitors who arrived in Bulawayo for the ZITF ahead of their president.
We laud the efforts to further strengthen Zimbabwe-Namibia relations in the context of the joint permanent commission and hope that agreed programmes of co-operation are speedily implemented for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries. Broad areas identified for co-operation include trade, agriculture, rural development, mining, energy, and transport and information technology and so on.
“We have had significant performance in some areas, moderate in others and no performance at all in others,” commented co-chairperson of the joint permanent commission, Ambassador Joey Bimha while officially opening the eighth session on Monday.
“Progress has been registered in the sectors of trade, energy, broadcasting and human capital development. In the energy sector, we commend our two countries’ power utilities for the effective and efficient implementation of power purchase agreements they signed in April 2015. Co-operation in the broadcasting sector is progressing well.”
At the end of the session on Wednesday the two countries signed three memoranda of understanding in areas of women, gender and community development, health and sport development.
It is our sincere hope that the agreements in the three fields will be executed as soon as possible.
On women and gender, we note that both countries are already doing a lot to open up opportunities for women in politics. Namibia, like Zimbabwe is promoting the 50/50 strategy for political representation where they are saying men and women must equally share positions. They also have a commitment for the so-called “zebra” where if, for example a minister is a man, his deputy must be a woman and vice versa. That country also has a female Prime Minister.
Zimbabwe is also working to enhance female presence in political office. We have the women’s quota in Parliament that was implemented in accordance with the 2013 constitution. As a result, women now hold about 30 percent of seats in parliament, up from around 12 percent that the old first-past-the-post electoral system tended to yield in previous parliaments.
We hope that our two governments will continue discussions around not only political representation but also advancing the status of women economically and socially.
There is a lot that they can share in terms of health from training, employment, provision of medical equipment, drugs, and facilities etcetera. We note that there are many Zimbabwean nurses, doctors, pharmacists and so on already working in Namibia. This is an important area where Namibia can help since our country had by January this year, around 4 000 unemployed nurses. Some of them can be seconded to Namibian health facilities under the proposed policy of export of skilled labour. But such exports can only be done if there are vacant posts or critical skills gaps in Namibia like the situation in the engineering and legal fields where some Zimbabweans are already serving.
In turn, Namibians can benefit from Zimbabwe’s training programmes which are excellent and world-class. This would entail the enrolment of student nurses, doctors and other health professionals at local institutions. On graduating that can return home to serve their country.
In sport, there are many areas both countries can co-operate among them training of athletes, officials and administrators, exchange programmes of the same and so on.
But as we indicated earlier, Zimbabwe-Namibia relations are broad and more effort should be put in consolidating the good work done so far while progress is quickened in areas of co-operation that are lagging behind.