President Robert Mugabe is due to arrive in South Africa on Tuesday afternoon, Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner, three days after his spokesperson suggested he would “soon bow out”.
The 91-year-old leader will arrive at 15:00 on board an Air Zimbabwe plane. He will be accompanied by business leaders, government ministers and his wife Grace, who has recently been ill.
This is the first state visit Mugabe has paid to South Africa since 1994.
An official statement from the SA department of international relations said the visit will focus on “bilateral and economic co-operation” as well as “regional and continental matters”.
Zimbabwe is still a major market for South African-produced goods. Critics, including some cabinet ministers, insist this is to the detriment of local industry. Zimbabwe’s ageing factories haven’t been able to recapitalise and they struggle to compete with their more efficient competitors in South Africa.
A number of agreements – including the binational commission agreement – will be signed, which aims to “elevate the bilateral relations between the two countries”.
In 2014, South Africa’s exports to Zimbabwe amounted to R24.8bn, while Zimbabwe’s exports to South Africa reached R2bn, Clayson Monyela, the SA’s spokesperson for SA’s department of international relations and cooperation said.