Pretoria – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba has dismissed suggestions that his high-level delegation here on a state visit would ask for money from President Jacob Zuma.
Speaking on the sidelines of the official welcoming ceremony at the Union Buildings on Wednesday morning, Charamba said the Zimbabwean leader and members of his cabinet were here to seek partnerships and not hand-outs.
There has been media speculation that Zimbabwe was struggling to fund the upcoming SADC extraordinary summit it is due to host later this month, and would be seeking assistance from South Africa.
“We are a bit unhappy that we are being portrayed as coming here with a begging bowl asking for money,” said Charamba.
“The South African government knows that we are a viable state which is in fact a strong trading partner.
“So really we are talking about a viable state seeking a partnership with South Africa, not some kind of financial assistance,” he said.
“This idea of trying to be better than your neighbour is exactly what the Westerners want to see, which is us bickering about who is exploited better than the other.
“Why should we be bickering about who is a better servant, and which servant gets to sit at the master’s table?
“That is a handed-down perception of an African country, which is historically wretched. We need to outgrow that,” said Charamba.
According to Charamba, Zimbabwe was already making a significant contribution to the South African economy, and would be looking to increase this in return for South Africa also investing in Zimbabwe.
“Remember there was a time when we were the strongest trading partner with South Africa. The basis of that still remains, principally in mining.
“The drivers of that special relationship still remain. Can you imagine what South Africa’s mining industry would be like without the input of Zimbabwe?” he asked.
Charamba said one of the key issues they would be focussing on would be regulating the movement of skilled labour from Zimbabwe to South Africa, and providing a good consular service for them.
“We have quite a sizable population of Zimbabweans who are here (South Africa), not as refugees but as skilled workers who are imparting vital skills to the South African economy.
“We, therefore, need to provide a good consular service framework for the movement of labour,” he said.
South Africa and Zimbabwe are expected to sign several economic agreements on Wednesday afternoon.