Namibia “A Very Dependable Ally … in Times of Need and Trouble”

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By Viola Zimunya WINDHOEK Relations between Namibia and Zimbabwe were already firmly established by the time Ambassador Stanislaus Chigwedere arrived to head the Zimbabwean Mission in Namibia. Now, as he looks back four years later, he feels a sense ‘of fulfilment’ about his tour of duty, mainly because he has been able to contribute to the deepening of these relations, as well as to expand the scope of cooperation between the two countries. In an exit interview with New Era on Tuesday, Ambassador Chigwedere said he did not feel he was leaving any unfinished business behind, because “… we have accomplished what we set out to do”. And what exactly has his office accomplished since his arrival in the country in 2002? Firstly, there was the need to identify and establish joint programmes that would benefit the people of Zimbabwe and Namibia. The scope of trade between the two countries was expanded, which saw an increase in commodities coming into Namibia from Zimbabwe, and from Namibia to Zimbabwe. Trade is not just at the informal level; it is serious trade where, for example, almost 20 percent of the sugar in Namibian shops comes from Zimbabwe, he said. On the other hand, Zimbabwe has also increased its imports of Namibian products, which include agro chemicals, beverages, salt and fish. Apart from widening the scope of trade, the high level of political relations between Zimbabwe and Namibia was maintained. Zimbabwe has found Namibia to be “a very dependable ally who has stood by us in times of need and trouble.” More importantly, Chigwedere said, Zimbabwe has been able to make a mark in its provision of professional experts, both to the government and to the private sector either at the request of the government of Namibia, or private companies or, in some cases, through individual initiatives. “The experts have come, and they are making a contribution to the national economy,” he said. In its contribution to raising the skills base of Namibia, the Zimbabwean government has availed training programmes for teachers in science, agriculture and mathematics, rather than part with their own teachers. Chigwedere calls this a mammoth programme, one of the biggest in the history of any country training its own human resources. The end of next year will see 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 Namibian teachers having received training in Zimbabwe, whom Chigwedere sees as future ambassadors for Zimbabwe, but they will also make a contribution to the development of the country. Training has also been extended to other areas. The first batch of five students joined the University of Zimbabwe Medical School to train as doctors in August this year. Also, 36 young Namibians are receiving training in Hospitality and Tourism at a college in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. A programme for training pilots has also been set up. “The scope is increasing all the time,” he said, adding that this was a practical example of South-to-South cooperation. “With our limited resources, we have been able to do all these things. And we have done them well,” he enthused. While he sees the relations at political party level as excellent, he thinks there is scope for more work on “people-to-people” cooperation, and he specifically mentions cooperation between the women and youth of Namibia and Zimbabwe. So far, it has been possible to pursue that at a cultural level, to the extent that Namibia’s cultural group, Ndilimane, is now a household name in Zimbabwe. It has also been possible to bring in Zimbabwean musicians to perform in Namibia. Namibian and Zimbabwean women and youth could cooperate on economic projects, where they could exchange ideas and skills. But he leaves any talk of new programmes “to the new ambassador”, who should map out their own programmes and projects and take full ownership of them. Asked what challenges he had faced during his stay, Chigwedere could only cite the demands of his office besides those challenges associated with working with two different governments, where one has to try to convince both sides about projects. To him, the government of Namibia was very helpful and cooperative. And what is the road ahead for Namibia and Zimbabwe? “I can only see it deepen,” he said, adding that the Namibian government is very clear about its position as far as Zimbabwe is concerned. Chigwedere would not be drawn into discussing his next assignment. He leaves the country at the end of December.