Zimbabwe’s long-serving ruler, President Robert Mugabe, is set to visit South Africa for the first time in 21 years. His mission is to seek funds greatly needed to save his country’s crumbling economy.

Mugabe’s relationship with the Jacob Zuma-led South Africa government has been largely sour, due mostly to the spat of criticism levied against his longevity in government. On several occasions, South African government officials have attributed the country’s economic meltdown to Mugabe’s extended stay in power. Over three million Zimbabweans are living in South Africa right now as economic or political refugees after fleeing the country in recent years.

In 2013, Mugabe insulted the then Zuma’s International Relations Adviser Lindiwe Zulu calling her a “street woman” after she questioned Zimbabwe readiness to hold free and fair elections that year. The 91 year old veteran later apologized for his utterances. Zulu is now South Africa’s Small Business Development Minister.

Economic analysts say the future of Zimbabweans looks bleak as the country’s economy is set to decline in 2015 due to rigid economic policies. They also say the nation’s five year economic blue print – the Zimbabwe Agenda for Social and Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET) – is unlikely to turn around the economy as current policies such as the black economic empowerment program discourage foreign direct investment. In the face of this, Mugabe has sought to pocket his pride in a bid to attract some funds needed to stimulate economic growth.

South Africa on the other hand, seems willing to offer a listening ear. Addressing journalists shortly after Mugabe landed in Pretoria on Tuesday, the country’s International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said numerous topics on trade and business would be discussed with Mugabe and his delegation during the two day visit. “The focus is largely on the consolidation of our bilateral ties, political and economic,” said Nkoana Mashabane. She added that the business delegations from the two countries would meet to “remove all blockages from trade and economic relations”.

By George Mpofu

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