Johannesburg - Government officials suggest it is unlikely that the cordial relationship between South Africa and Mozambique would suffer major harm after a shooting incident last week left two Mozambican police officers dead.
The shooting on Sunday has been attributed to South African soldiers, but a preliminary report is expected to be released this week following investigations by both countries.
The countries share a long political history and their governments have stated “the incident would not cause a diplomat brawl”.
The relationship is also set to survive the thorny issue of cross-border crime and the illegal movement of people across the porous border in Manguzi, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
The governments of both countries have over the years moved quickly to resolve their issues using established diplomatic channels.
According to SANDF spokesperson Brigadier Mafi Mgobhozi, a preliminary report had been finalised and would be issued once both parties were satisfied with the findings.
“Because we felt that issuing a report alone would give a one-sided version of what happened, we decided to send a high-level delegation to Mozambique to work on a joint report with our Mozambican counterparts,” Mgobhozi said.
Underscoring the importance of the relationship between the countries, the Border Taxi Association met this week to quell tensions. Kenneth Mlambo, chairperson of the association which draws members from both countries, said the meeting was to “ensure the incident was not hijacked by xenophobes of both countries and damage the warm relationship”.
When cross-border crime put a strain on the relationship between 2015 and 2017, then-president Jacob Zuma met his Mozambican counterpart, President Felipe Nyusi, to iron out the issues and the relationship remained strong.
Zuma, who has strong personal ties to Mozambique after spending years in Maputo as the chief representative of the ANC between 1977 and 1986, emphasised to residents of Manguzi during a Freedom Day celebration on April 27, 2017, the importance of the relationship between the two countries.
“We are happy that the people have raised this matter with us so that it can be attended to without impacting negatively on the warm and fraternal relations between the people of Mozambique and the people of South Africa,” Zuma said.
Shortly after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambican liberation movement Frelimo, which is now the governing party, began providing support to the ANC.
That prompted the apartheid government to launch cross-border raids that left many members of both Umkhonto we Sizwe and Mozambicans dead.
As a result, a monument in Matola - where 17 ANC operatives and Mozambicans died in a 1980 apartheid army raid on safe houses - was erected to remind people of both countries of the ties between them.
In Mbuzini, Mpumalanga, the Samora Machel monument, erected in honour of the late former Mozambican president, serves as another reminder of both countries’ struggle histories. At the opening of the monument in 1999, former president Nelson Mandela said: “The monument, in particular, attests to the bonds between Mozambique and South Africa.”
Mandela took the relationship between the two countries further by marrying Graca Machel, the widow of former president of that country, Samora Machel.
Diplomatic relations post-1994 drew the two countries even closer economically and gave birth to projects like the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative and a joint fight against malaria.
The wall between game reserves was taken down to allow free movement of the animals at Tembe Elephant Park in order to promote wildlife tourism.