Monday 18 December 2023


The agreement between President Mnangagwa and President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana to allow passport-free travel between Zimbabwe and its western neighbour is a trade masterstroke, a political and trade expert has said.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr Prolific Mataruse, who specialises in politics and international trade, said the agreement came at a great time when African countries were pushing for the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

AfCFTA aims to create a single and liberalised market for goods and services and aiding movement of goods and services across the continent without restrictions.

On the Zimbabwean side, Cabinet has since directed the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage to develop terms allowing for passport-free travel between Zimbabwe and Botswana for their citizens.

The directive follows last week’s agreement between President Mnangagwa and President Masisi to allow their citizens to travel with just identity documents.

Dr Mataruse said if successfully operationalised, the agreement will benefit both countries.

“Freedom of movement amongst Africans is the cornerstone of Pan-African citizenship, integration and trade in goods and services,” he said. “The two Presidents have contributed towards breaking the logjam in the movement of persons on the continent.

“Zimbabwe and Botswana have become the latest with the innovative arrangement on the continent by promoting passport-openness and travel document solutions in pursuit of the 2018 Free Movement Protocol and the 1991 Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community.

“This is a masterstroke by the two Presidents, especially at a time African countries are pushing to boost intra-African trade, and this will not only benefit conglomerates, but it will allow even small-scale businesses to export.”

Dr Mataruse said sceptics from both sides were misinformed if they thought the arrangement will lead to an influx of either Zimbabweans or Batswana into either country.

Using national identity cards was faster and beneficial to those exporting goods such as agricultural produce.

Even when using national identity cards, there are likely to be deadlines for travellers to return to their countries after finishing their businesses.

The agreement between Zimbabwe and Botswana is yet another milestone achievement by the Second Republic in its engagement and re-engagement policy, which has aided the country’s economic diplomacy thrust.

The National Development Strategy 1 mid-term review also noted the strides by Government in its foreign policy thrust.

“International relations improved significantly during the first half of NDS 1 as evidenced by high number of re-engagement meetings held, the number of high level visits and engagements achieved, the high number of bi-national and joint commissions convened, as well as increased foreign direct investment inflows,” reads the review.

In an address to the nation after a Cabinet meeting last week, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere noted the positives associated with the passport-free travel regime.

“They (the Presidents) have agreed in principle and in terms of policy direction to allow for a free movement dispensation by using identity documents,” said Dr Muswere.

“But, also what is of importance is that we are one people, the people of Zimbabwe and the people of Botswana given the historical background that before these were just colonial borders brought about during the scramble for Africa.”

Dr Muswere said this inhibited trade and the free movement between Botswana and Zimbabwe. Herald


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