Angola hails Zuma visit as start of new era in ties

Angola’s president hailed a visit by his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma on Thursday as the start of a new era to improve the once strained relationship between South Africa and the continent’s biggest oil producer.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, closer to Zuma than to former South African president Thabo Mbeki, said Angola needed more qualified labour from South Africa, which in turn could help rebuild infrastructure destroyed by Angola’s 27-year civil war that ended in 2002 and tap into its oil and mining industry.

“We want to create a strategic partnership between our two countries,” Dos Santos said in a speech to his government and 11 South African ministers as he sat next to Zuma.

Zuma arrived in Angola for his two-day trip late on Wednesday, with a delegation of more than 150 South African businessmen. Pretoria billed the trip as the biggest business delegation to take part in a state visit abroad since the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994.

“We believe we have not yet tapped into the real potential of bilateral relations between the two countries in all spheres, economic, social and political,” Zuma said.

The two countries signed six accords ranging from trade to aviation.

In the 1980s, Angola supported the African National Congress (ANC) in its fight against apartheid, but relations worsened after Mbeki became president in 1999. South Africa supported rebels from the main opposition Unita party during part of its almost three decade long civil war against the Angolan government.

For decades, South Africa has been sidelined while lucrative Angolan offshore oil contracts were awarded to United States and European oil companies, while Chinese, Brazilian and Portuguese firms have rebuilt roads, bridges and dams destroyed by the war.

South Africa has little oil and relies on coal for most of its energy needs.

Angola had its first trade surplus with South Africa in 2007.
Almost 90% of the $1,5-billion Angolan exports were petroleum products, according to South African figures.

Both leaders, who met privately after their speeches, said they would also discuss ways to bolster cooperation and peacekeeping efforts in Africa through the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

“We are ready to create a renewed dynamic between Angola and South Africa that ... will allow the SADC to become an engine of development for our sub-region and also for the rest of Africa,” said Dos Santos.

Zuma said Angola and South Africa, which have two of the biggest military forces in Africa, would discuss peacekeeping efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and assess progress in the Zimbabwean unity government.—Reuters

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