Zimbabwe, Zambia Seek to Strengthen Bilateral Relations

Zambia and Zimbabwe seek strong diplomatic and bilateral relations following an official state visit by newly elected Zambian President Edgar Lungu to the neighboring Southern African country, according to the Zambian presidential press secretary, Amos Chanda.

He says Lungu thanked Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for his support and advice during the transitional period in Zambia after the January 20 presidential by-election.

Mugabe urged the then-presidential contestants Lungu, from the ruling Patriotic Front and main challenger Hakainde Hichilema from the opposition UPND to ensure their supporters do not engage in acts of violence that could threaten the country’s peace and stability or undermine the credibility of the vote.

Lungu made a day’s trip to Zimbabwe on Friday, where he paid a courtesy call on Mugabe who is the current chairman of regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as the chairman of the African Union (AU).

Chanda said the two leaders agreed to strengthen the existing economic bond between Harare and Lusaka. He says Zimbabwe officials were appreciative of Zambia’s help to raise funds for some government projects after Harare came under international sanctions.

“The most important part of the bilateral consultations [was] that President Mugabe called in his minister of finance Patrick Chinamasa who explained that they were grateful to Zambia …That Zimbabwe is riding on the back of Zambia in terms of raising international finance for the project… [And] that the bilateral cooperation has enabled Zimbabwe to raise money internationally when Zimbabwe was having difficulties.”

He says President Mugabe promised his government’s commitment to construct a railway that will link Zimbabwe and Zambia. Chanda said the new line would boost business, which he said will improve the economies of both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“So what Zambia will do is to get a rail line from Kafuwe to go and join the rail line [that Zimbabwe will build,” said Chanda. “This is going to boost the existing trade that will improve bilateral trade relations between Zambia and Zimbabwe and the countries further south including South Africa.”

Some critics say the trip to Zimbabwe is a waste of taxpayers’ money contending that it is unlikely to benefit Zambian citizens.

Chanda disagreed saying Lungu’s trip to Zimbabwe to improve bilateral relations will go a long way toward boosting the faltering economy, which would improve the living conditions of the people.